David Boe dead at 84

July 8, 2020
David Boe
David Boe

David Stephen Boe died April 28, 2020, in Chicago, Illinois. Since 2012, he and his wife, Sigrid North Boe, had lived at a Chicago retirement community, where they moved to be near family.

David Boe was born in Duluth, Minnesota, and spent most of his early years in Eau Claire and Menomonie, Wisconsin. His father was a Lutheran pastor, and his mother was a singer and choral conductor. Boe received his Bachelor of Arts degree magna cum laude from St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota, in 1958, and his Master of Music degree in organ performance from Syracuse University in 1960, studying under Arthur Poister. He received a J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship for additional study with Helmut Walcha at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik, Frankfurt, Germany. It was while Boe was studying with Walcha at the Dreikönigskirche that he met one of the pastor’s daughters, Sigrid North, who became his wife. They were married by Sigrid’s father, Pastor Paulus North, on July 23, 1961; Walcha, a friend of the North family, served as organist. When the Boes returned to the United States, he taught organ for one year at the University of Georgia (1961–1962).

In 1962, David Boe joined the organ and harpsichord faculty of Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Oberlin, Ohio. He also became director of music at First Lutheran Church, Lorain, Ohio. He returned to Europe in 1968 while on sabbatical to study with Gustav Leonhardt and to conduct research on historical instruments in the Netherlands and northern Germany. Under Boe’s leadership, in 1970, First Lutheran Church, Lorain, awarded a contract to John Brombaugh for a new organ to be built according to historical principles. This landmark instrument and the church were destroyed by fire in 2014. Boe served the church until his retirement on Pentecost Sunday, 2002.

David Boe was appointed the ninth dean of Oberlin Conservatory in 1976 after having served as acting dean from 1974 to 1975. He later served as interim dean on several occasions. In the 1980s, he served as vice president of the American Organ Academy; completed a four-year term as national president of the American honor society in music, Pi Kappa Lambda; and was secretary of the National Association of Schools of Music, chairing music accreditation teams or serving as a consultant to music programs at over thirty-five institutions. He later served as trustee for the Westfield Center for many years.

As a performer, Boe was represented by WindWerk Artists and concertized in the United States and Europe. He recorded on the Gasparo and Veritas labels, and he appeared on the nationally televised program The Wind at One’s Fingertips. During his 1991 sabbatical, he served as visiting professor of organ for the spring semester at Florida State University, Tallahassee, and as visiting professor of organ at the University of Notre Dame during the fall semester.

David Boe played an important part in establishing the organ collection at Oberlin, including the installation of John Brombaugh Opus 25 (1981), a meantone organ in Fairchild Chapel, and C. B. Fisk, Inc., Opus 116 (2001) in Finney Chapel, built in the style of Cavaillé-Coll. Upon his retirement, he donated his residence organ, a one-manual, six-stop Brombaugh organ, to Oberlin, where it was installed in the front of Fairchild Chapel. He served as consultant for the 2004 organ built by Halbert Gober for First Church (UCC) in Oberlin and performed on the dedicatory recital.

As a 70th birthday gift in 2006, four of Boe’s former students commissioned a new two-manual and pedal clavichord built in Göteborg, Sweden, by Joel Speerstra, a former Boe student at Oberlin. For Boe’s 75th birthday in 2011, two alumni honored both David and Sigrid Boe with the purchase of the two-manual and pedal organ originally built for SUNY, Purchase, New York, by the Bozeman-Gibson Organ Company in the style of Gottfried Silbermann. In 2011, Boe’s undergraduate alma mater, St. Olaf College, awarded him its Alumni Achievement Award. At that time, St. Olaf recorded a video at the Boe residence in Oberlin that is available online: https://www.stolaf.edu/multimedia/play/?p=28 (the interview begins at 29:20).

David S. Boe is survived by his wife Sigrid; their son Stephen and his wife Joo; their son Eric and his wife Lisa; their four granddaughters Sydney, Haley, Alexis, and Olivia; and his two sisters, Judith Boe and Carol Brann.


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