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Nunc dimittis: James McCray, Robert Rhoads, James Wyly

April 16, 2024
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James Elwin McCray

James Elwin McCray, music professor and administrator, choral conductor, and composer, died March 3 at his home in Fort Collins, Colorado, following a period of declining health. He was born February 27, 1938, in Kankakee, Illinois, and received degrees from Illinois Wesleyan University, Bloomington, and Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. He earned a Ph.D. degree in music from the University of Iowa, Iowa City. Before arriving in Fort Collins, he was a member of the music faculty of the University of South Florida, Tampa, and chairman of the music departments at Longwood College, Farmville, Virginia, and St. Mary’s College, South Bend, Indiana. From 1978 until 1988 he was chairman of the department of music, theatre, and dance at Colorado State University, Fort Collins, from which he retired as Professor Emeritus of Music.

McCray composed and published over one hundred choral compositions that were sung by vocal ensembles in public schools, churches, and universities—many of them commissioned by these organizations. He received professor of the year awards from the honor societies of two universities, was awarded the Mellon Prize for distinguished contributions to scholarship, and was recognized for excellence in teaching by the Colorado State Alumni Board. An active church musician, he served Protestant and Catholic churches for decades. Additionally, he conducted Laudamus, a civic choral ensemble, and authored three books and numerous professional articles. From November 1976 through December 2016, he wrote a monthly column for The Diapason, “Music for Voices and Organ,” reviewing new choral music and reintroducing other anthems appropriate throughout the liturgical year.

As a university administrator, McCray was a leader who planned for the future and found innovative solutions to the changing climate of higher education. He was a strong and vigorous advocate for his departments and worked to broaden his departments’ reputation. A particular asset of his leadership and community building was his continuing success at hosting distinguished musicians, scholars, and composers from around the country to interact with students and frequent, gracious entertaining of the Fort Collins choral community at his home.

James Elwin McCray is survived by his wife, Joanne Campbell, and his children by his previous wife, Chris: son Matthew McCray of Los Angeles and daughter Kelly McCray of Tampa; and step-children Emily Lefler of San Diego, Bradley Lefler of Los Angeles, and predeceased by his stepson, Scott Lefler. A celebration of life was held April 6 in Fort Collins. Memorial gifts should be directed to the future James E. McCray Music Scholarship, which the family hopes to eventually endow to support conducting students in the CSU Department of Music. Checks should be made payable to the Colorado State University Foundation, Post Office Box 1870, Fort Collins, Colorado 80522, or made online at advancing.colostate.edu/give.

Robert D. Rhoads

Robert D. Rhoads, 88, retired vice president and technical director of Schoenstein & Co., Benicia, California, died February 10 in Sonoma, California. Born in Burbank, California, his family moved to a farm in Sunnyside, Washington. Rhoads attended Simpson College in Washington and assisted in relocating the college to San Francisco. Part of that project was installing two campus pipe organs. In San Francisco he earned an AA in electrical engineering from Cogswell College while working on installation and maintenance of industrial boilers.

In 1960 he started Robert D. Rhoads Pipe Organ Service. The following year he became an M. P. Möller representative, selling, installing, and servicing organs in the Northern California area. In 1970 he returned to Simpson College as head of maintenance and engineer of their radio station. When offered an opportunity to plan and install radio studio equipment and transmitters throughout the country, he became chief engineer of Family Radio, a national religious network.

After completing the radio broadcasting project in 1974, Rhoads again entered the organ business. He purchased a building and set up an organ shop, employing two full-time people besides his wife, Dolores. During the “pizza organ” craze, the firm renovated and installed many Wurlitzer organs.

In 1978 Rhoads Pipe Organ Service was purchased by Schoenstein & Co. Robert Rhoads became factory manager, and Dolores Rhoads manager of tuning service. Robert Rhoads was responsible for developing and refining the designs of nearly every component of the Schoenstein electric-pneumatic action system. He coordinated the engineering, production, and installation of all new organs as well as major rebuilding jobs. Some of his notable projects at Schoenstein were organs at St. Paul’s Parish, Washington, D.C., and First-Plymouth Congregational Church, Lincoln, Nebraska. He also supervised the restoration of the Mormon Tabernacle organ in Salt Lake City, Utah, and accomplished installing the façade of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Conference Center organ in Salt Lake City while the building was under construction.

In 1996 Rhoads was named vice president and technical director of Schoenstein & Co. In April 2003 he retired after 24 years of service. Robert D. Rhoads is survived by his wife Dolores, two children, and seven grandchildren.

James Wyly

James Wyly died October 15, 2023, in Oaxaca, Mexico. He was born November 15, 1937, in Kansas City, Missouri, and was educated in public schools. He graduated in 1959 from Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts, where he majored in English and studied organ at nearby Smith College with Henry Mishkin. He then enrolled in the new Doctor of Musical Arts degree program at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, earning his degree in 1964. From 1961 through 1963 he was supported by the Fulbright Commission for his research and dissertation on historic pipe organs of Spain, living in Madrid. He was prepared to teach organ, harpsichord, music theory, and music history.

Wyly taught on the music faculty of Elmhurst College, Elmhurst, Illinois, from 1964 to 1968. Then he served on the music faculty of Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa, from 1968 to 1976, where he also taught in a humanities program based in classical literature.

In Chicago he met and married Mary Gae Porter, who served as a librarian at Grinnell and later at Chicago’s Newberry Library. From 1977 through 1985 James Wyly devoted himself to the study of clinical psychology and the analytical psychology of Carl Jung. He earned his PsyD degree from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology in 1981 and his diploma in analytical psychology from Chicago’s Jung Institute. He maintained a private practice in Chicago from 1981 until 2003, also serving on the staff of Fourth Presbyterian Church’s Replogle Counseling Center. He was an active teacher in the training programs of the Jung Institute until 1997.

In the 1990s Wyly worked with several groups of psychologists in Mexico City, people who wanted to study Jungian psychology and become analysts. He taught classes and provided clinical supervision for candidates.

In 2000 Wyly met paintings conservator Helen Oh, who taught painting at the Palette and Chisel Academy in Chicago, and he studied with her until 2003, learning 17th-century techniques. James and Mary Wyly moved to Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2003, first living in a 17th-century house of the late painter Rodolfo Morales. In 2008 they moved into the house of architect Guillermo de la Cajiga, where he pursued his passion in the studio of his dreams. At the same time a group of musicians gathered around him to learn and perform music of the Baroque era. The Wylys hosted two or three concerts a year until 2023.

In 2010 James Wyly was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Treatment provided by two young physicians using alternative medicine delayed symptoms until the summer of 2023 when they cured the leukemia but could not reverse the anemia that followed. Mary, these doctors, and a loyal circle of friends cared for him until he died peacefully in his bed.

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