Roberta Schlosser, associate professor emerita of music, dies

Roberta Schlosser, 94, associate professor emerita of music, died Jan. 6, 2013, at Lourdes Hospital. She earned her bachelor’s degree in voice pedagogy, her master’s degree in music literature and her PhD in theory and interdisciplinary music education from the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester. She joined the Binghamton faculty in 1963 and was a founder of Binghamton’s vocal program, teaching voice, vocal literature, theory and opera until her retirement in 1987.

“When we recruited her, she was the first studio person we had aside from a chairman who was also a pianist,” said Harry Lincoln, professor emeritus of music. “She was a very competent and talented person in the department. She had a PhD in music theory, so she not only taught voice, she taught music theory. It was very interesting to have a person with that coupled background.”

Lincoln considered her a skilled voice teacher who “had the long-range interests of the students as her main concern. There is a tendency oftentimes to push a student too fast in voice, and she was very careful about that,” he said.

Schlosser was among the team of faculty who hired David Clatworthy in 1971. Now professor emeritus of music, he remembers Schlosser as diminutive in stature, but strong and organized. “She was very committed to her students and to their outcomes and their vocal growth,” he said. “She was a force, a very dedicated teacher.” Though she was not a performer, she studied voice and “was a pedagogue who knew a great deal about singing methods,”  Clatworthy said.

“She was an amazing lady and very determined to get things done her way,” he added. “I give her all the credit. When we decided, in about 1977 or 1978, to have the collaborative program with the Tri Cities Opera, she was one of the founding faculty members who saw that put together.”

Lincoln recalled Schlosser’s skill in evaluating the potential of a voice in a student. “I say the voice is the hardest instrument to teach, and I say voice is difficult to teach because the instrument is inside the person,” he said. “She handled our voice area for years before we had a second person.”

She also was very kind, Lincoln said. “At one point, my daughter had a talent for a particular kind of singing and I asked Roberta if she would listen and evaluate her. Rather than just spending 20 minutes with my daughter, she gave her about three lessons to get a feel of the potential she had.”

“Back in 1984, the rule was that faculty had to retire at 70. Roberta Schlosser was in no way ready or willing to retire; she did so reluctantly; her work was her life,” said Mary Burgess, associate professor of voice, who was hired to replace Schlosser. “Despite her feelings about retirement, Roberta didn’t take it out on me; she took me under her wing as her new project and made sure I learned everything she felt I should know.

“Roberta taught me how the University works; she taught me about credits and teaching loads; she taught me how to get the job done in a liberal arts setting rather than the conservatory setting, which was my background,” Burgess said. “She was a genius at organization, and I followed her methods for years, until computers changed the way we all do things. She stayed on as a Bartle professor for five years, and in that time I learned so much from her.”

Burgess continued to turn to Schlosser for help and advice after Schlosser retired.

“She went right to the heart of any matter and was very succinct in her analysis of any situation, and she was right on target every time,” Burgess said. “I so appreciated her unfiltered remarks! What a clear head she had. There was no nonsense about Professor Schlosser, that’s for sure!”