Longtime Iowa music school director Voxman dies at 99

UI's music building named for Voxman in 1995

Himie Voxman works with clarinet student Elizabeth Ehly of Iowa City in September 2002 at his home in Iowa City. Voxman,
Himie Voxman works with clarinet student Elizabeth Ehly of Iowa City in September 2002 at his home in Iowa City. Voxman, former head of the University of Iowa School of Music and a world-renowned clarinetist, died Tuesday at age 99. (Gazette file photo)

Long after he retired from the University of Iowa School of Music, Himie Voxman continued to attend most faculty recitals and to teach private music lessons and play in the community band well into his 90s because it's what he loved, friends and former colleagues said Tuesday.

UI Emeritus Professor Voxman, director of the School of Music from 1954 to 1980, was well-known and respected among music educators nationally. The UI's Voxman Music Building, destroyed in the 2008 flood and in the planning stages to be rebuilt downtown, was named for him in 1995.

Voxman died at the age of 99 Tuesday at Oaknoll Retirement Residence in Iowa City.

"He was just such a delightful person. He would get this little twinkle in his eye when he would talk," said Peter Alexander, director of UI art center relations from 1987 to 2008. "It was impossible not to like him."

Voxman, a native of Centerville, earned his bachelor's degree at the UI in chemical engineering in 1933. But he paid for his education by teaching clarinet lessons to high school students, and received his master's of arts degree in 1934, UI officials said. He taught music at Iowa City High before joining the UI School of Music faculty in the late 1930s.

He was known to clarinetists and other musicians worldwide through his numerous compilations and editions for wind instruments and bibliographies of wind instrument literature, UI officials said. Voxman wrote hundreds of instruction method books used to teach music around the world.

Alexander remembers in elementary and junior high school playing from the Rubank Advanced Band Method written by Voxman. Even though Voxman retired from the UI in 1980 and Alexander joined the staff in 1987, working closely with School of Music, he made it a point to get to know Voxman.

"I considered it one of the great honors of my life to get to know him," Alexander said. "He was one of the truly great music educators to several generations of wind players and clarinetists."

Eugene Rousseau, now a senior lecturer in saxophone at the University of Minnesota School of Music, came to the UI in 1957 to earn his doctoral degree under Voxman. Rousseau at the time was a 25-year-old music instructor at Luther College in Decorah and knew Voxman through his reputation as a music educator. Rousseau last saw Voxman in May, when Rousseau performed at the Englert in Iowa City. Rousseau's wife often sent Voxman her homemade granola, cookies or chocolate.

"He was my major teacher, mentor and later dear friend," Rousseau said. "He made a great impression on me. I consider myself fortunate to have known Himie Voxman."

Rousseau studied clarinet under Voxman, but played the saxophone and other wind instruments as well. Voxman helped Rousseau earn a Fulbright grant to study in France in 1960-61, and later in the 1960s suggested Voxman apply for a saxophone faculty job at the famed Indiana University School of Music.

"He had a fine manner. He was always soft-spoken, truly earned the respect of students and colleagues, he was a man who always thought before he spoke, who said what he meant and meant what he said," Rousseau said. "He always was dedicated to music and music education."

It was under Voxman's leadership that the School of Music received a Rockefeller grant to establish the Center for New Music, UI officials said. Voxman, who received a lifetime achievement award from the International Clarinet Association in 2000, held many positions of honor and distinction and won many awards during his career.Memorial services through the UI will be announced at a later date.

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