Amherst Magazine

College Row

Lucius R. Weathersby

Organist and composer Lucius R. Weathersby, one of four New Orleans-area faculty who had come to teach at Amherst after Hurricane Katrina, died suddenly in Springfield, Mass., on March 17. He was 37 years old.

Weathersby was an assistant professor of music and African world studies at Dillard University in New Orleans, where he had earned his B.A. degree. As a composer, he was widely praised for his versatility and his ability to communicate with audiences. His work, which included pieces for organ, chamber ensemble and chamber orchestra, was performed nationally and featured on two CDs: a 2001 CD of music for piano and flute by African and African-American composers, and Albany Records’ 2000 CD of “Spiritual Fantasy Organ Works by African and African-American Composers.” Shortly before his death, he had completed a CD to benefit the musicians affected by Hurricane Katrina.

A frequent lecturer on topics including Afro-American music, keyboard techniques and the music of the Baroque, Weathersby also performed frequently at concerts across the United States and abroad.

As a conductor, Weathersby led numerous orchestral and vocal ensembles, serving at various times as musical conductor for ensembles in Phoenix and Iowa. In 1993 he was a guest conductor at the International Dvorák Festival, and in 1997 he was appointed conductor for the San Marcos Symphony. He also served as music director at the South Congregational Church in Springfield, Mass., and at churches in Louisiana, Iowa and Arizona.

As a visiting artist at Amherst, Weathersby lectured in classes and taught organ lessons. He also performed in Johnson Chapel in November, in a concert featuring music by African-American composers and Amherst College composers Eric Sawyer and Richard Beaudoin.

Bob Rosengard ’61, a champion of lesser-known contemporary music and host of the radio program “Monday Afternoon Classics with Gandalf,” eulogized Weathersby at a Springfield, Mass., memorial service as “a young man of great energy, great talent and great promise. Everyone in the audience [at an April 2005 performance] knew they were listening to something special when his piece was played, and they responded with the kind of applause reserved for the very best composers.”

Rosengard went on to recall a 2005 interview in which he asked Weathersby to discuss the relationship between composition and performance. Weathersby’s response, Rosengard recalled, was “I feel that if you are not able to transmit to an audience a certain idea that you’re trying to get across, then [that idea] is dead. Why create if you cannot transmit? The purpose of creation is to share, and I make sure that whatever I can create... I share with others. That’s the whole purpose.”

After receiving his B.A. from Dillard, Weathersby earned an M.Mus. degree at the University of Northern Iowa, then studied at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and earned a Ph.D. degree at the Union Institute in Cincinnati.

Besides his parents, Curtis and Melba Richardson of Dallas, he is survived by a 6-year-old son, Lucius Weathersby of New Orleans; one brother, LeVar Richardson of Dallas; and his favorite aunts, Bobby Hollins and Gloria Thomas, both of Many, La.

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