Longtime Music Prof Walter Collins Dies At Age 71 In Hyannis Port, Mass.

Published: July 1, 1997

Walter S. “Wally” Collins, professor emeritus of music and a former associate dean of the College of Music at the University of Colorado at Boulder, died June 30 of a brain aneurysm in Hyannis Port, Mass. He was 71.

Collins and his wife, Jenny Kate, of Boulder, were vacationing in Cape Cod last week when the aneurysm occurred. He was admitted to Cape Cod Hospital on June 25 and never regained consciousness.

Collins taught choral music and musicology at CU’s College of Music from 1971 until his retirement in 1988 and also was associate dean for graduate studies in music during that period. He remained active in the music college through the spring 1996 semester.

Collins was known to a generation of CU-Boulder graduates as the commencement marshal for the annual event from 1974 to 1988, in which he led thousands of graduates in the commencement procession before they received their diplomas.

“Wally was a wonderful man, very personable and gregarious and very well liked by the students and faculty alike,” said Robert Fink, dean emeritus of the music college.

“He had a number of interests from choral music to birding,” Fink recalled. “I worked very closely with him over the years and enjoyed every minute of it.”

An avid birder and Internet devotee, Collins subscribed to a mailing list for birders and was close to being included among an elite group, with his wife, who had found and identified 700 bird species in the United States and Canada.

His experience using the Internet for birding led Collins to start a mailing list in 1993 devoted to choral music scholarship, discussion, news and information exchange.

He was a charter member of the Board of Directors of the International Federation for Choral Music and was secretary-general and vice president of the seven-million-member federation. He also was past president of both the College Music Society and of the American Choral Directors Association and persuaded the Association to provide network access to the group’s national headquarters in Oklahoma.

Prior to joining the CU-Boulder faculty, Collins taught at the University of Minnesota, Auburn University and Oakland University in Rochester, Mich.

In 1960 he became the founding chairman of the music department at Oakland and in 1964 began the Meadow Brook Festival featuring the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in summer residence on the Oakland campus. He was the founding dean of the Meadow Brook School of Music, an academic adjunct to the summer festival, whose faculty included Isaac Stern, Robert Shaw, Eugene Istomin, Leonard Rose, William Vennard and Roger Wagner.

Collins studied with Paul Hindemith, Hans David, Robert Shaw, Leo Schrade and several other noted musicians. He was honored by the Yale School of Music Alumni Association in 1980 for his “distinguished contribution to the field of music” and was described as a “multifaceted person: an outstanding choral director, editor, musicologist and administrator.”

Collins frequently served as an adjudicator and clinician at choral festivals, published numerous articles on choral music and co-authored three books including “Thomas Weelkes: Collected Anthems,” for Musica Britannica, volume 23, “Choral Music Conducting: A Symposium,” and “Five Centuries of Choral Music.”

A native of Connecticut, Collins received two bachelor’s degrees from Yale University and a master’s and doctorate from the University of Michigan. He attended Oxford University as a Fulbright scholar in 1957-58.

Collins’ survivors include his wife, Jenny Kate, a son, Neil, of Lafayette, and daughters Martha and Mayly.

Funeral arrangements and a memorial service are pending.