Cecil Isaac, former music professor and symphony conductor, passed away in Bellingham, Washington on May 30, 2021 at the age of 90. He was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on October 30, 1930 to Cecil Isaac, Sr. and Marie (Whelan) Isaac and grew up in Connersville, Indiana. He was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate from Oberlin College and the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. After service as a United States Army bandsman during the Korean conflict, Cecil attended Columbia University. He was named a Ditson Fellow at Columbia and was co-director of Columbia’s Collegium Musicum before graduating with two degrees.
Cecil was a Professor Emeritus of Music at Austin College in Sherman, Texas. He joined its faculty in 1962 and for the next thirty-two years directed the college’s instrumental ensembles, taught a wide range of courses in music history and literature, and provided studio instruction in brass instruments. Under his leadership the wind ensembles of the college toured annually throughout Texas, to the East Coast, and to the Upper Midwest. His student brass ensemble was especially active, frequently invited to represent Austin College at regional and national church conferences.
Professor Isaac was the founding conductor of the Sherman Symphony, a college-community orchestra serving the North Texas Area. He directed the Symphony from 1966 until resigning his post in 1992. Under his leadership, the Sherman Symphony came to play a central role in the musical life of the college and the community. In 1987 he was appointed Visiting Scholar in Music at Harvard University.
Before retirement Cecil traveled the country looking for the perfect place to spend his golden years. He chose Bellingham as the base from which to explore the west coast, from Seattle to Vancouver, which he did with relish. For several years, he gave ‘the story behind the music’ talks before Whatcom Symphony concerts, retiring from that task in 2007.
Not particularly religious, Cecil described his own version of heaven as conducting a perpetual rehearsal for a good Haydn or Mozart symphony, continually getting better and better.
His friends wish to thank the lovely caregivers at Mount Baker Care Center where Cecil spent his final weeks.
Although no services are planned, a gathering of friends will be held at a future date. Burial will be in the family plot in Connersville, Indiana.