Dr. Gerald Thomas Gray
Dr. Gerald Thomas Gray, age 51 of Fredonia, New York, passed peacefully away on October 15th, surrounded by those who loved him.
Born September 15, 1966 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Gerald was a Son of the South. Deeply influenced by the Southern Baptist Hymns of his youth, he developed a passion for music which would come to define much of his life. Even as a boy, he saw music as a way to heal and minister to those in need. He would play his guitar and sing for everyone from Sunday school children to the mentally disabled. He was determined to make a life in music.
His father wanted him to become a country music singer, but Gerald’s interests were in classical music, specifically choral music. He spent his formative years under the tutelage of the great choral conductors of our time at Austin Peay State University, Eastman School of Music and the University of Iowa, where he received the degree of Doctor of Musical Arts in Choral Conducting. He was greatly influenced by the dean of American choral conductors, Robert Shaw, under whose baton Gerald sang, recorded and toured as a principal member of the Robert Shaw Festival Singers. He would come to amass over twenty-five years of conducting all levels from fully professional choirs, collegiate choirs, elementary school and church choirs. Gerald saw them all as musical equals, and each as deserving of the power of music as the other.
Gerald excelled as a professional singer, and was a frequent guest soloist with premier orchestras throughout the United States and Europe. A YouTube video of Gerald in a performance of Orff’s Carmina Burana (2007, UC Davis) has archived over 17 million views. His music making afforded him a particular fluency in the musical language of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It was the music of Johann Sebastian Bach which guided him more than any other.
He moved to Boston in the late 1990s and became a valued member of its renowned musical community. He taught at the Walnut Hill School in Natick, Massachusetts and met and later married his wife, the singer and pianist Shinobu Takagi, who was also on the music faculty.
In 2002, they settled in Fredonia, New York, where Gerald was hired as a professor of voice at SUNY Fredonia. He devoted himself to the position, guiding young singers who went on to be awarded assistantships at major conservatories throughout the country. His graduates have gone on to win awards at the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and currently work in professional opera houses throughout the United States and Europe.
Gerald later became the Director of Choral Activities at the University and established the Fredonia Chamber Choir, a highly select 24-voice ensemble comprised of the top singers from Fredonia’s large undergraduate and graduate vocal program. He taught and supervised graduate students in choral conducting and literature, prepared choruses for numerous major works and has established an annual holiday concert performing Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, Advent and Christmas Cantatas and Handel’s Messiah with international players and soloists. As a guest conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic, he oversaw acclaimed performances of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion in collaboration with Holy Trinity Church in 2016.
Even with such impressive achievements, the love of his family and his friends was as important to Gerald as any other aspect of his life. He stayed true to his upbringing through his final days. He had an appetite for food, conversation and laughter which was infectious. His cooking and his dinner parties were legendary, and he was never happier than when he was in his kitchen, surrounded by his family and friends, preparing a meal. To Gerald, moments like this were a reminder of what life is about. It was during conversations around Gerald and Shinobu’s dinner table that his friends would frequently discover aspects of his life that they had not known before; that he was also an amateur pilot, a self-taught expert in the design and restoration of arts-and- crafts architectural style and many other surprises. Gerald was impressed by hard work and accountability and he despised hypocrisy. He loved a good argument. He was a delight.
Gerald leaves his wife, Shinobu Takagi of Fredonia, whom he loved dearly, and his mother, Patsy Jeanette Gray Donegan of Dickson, Tennessee, to whom he was completely devoted. He also leaves his step-sister, Lee Ann Orgain of Clarksville, Tennessee, Mother-In-Law Sonoe Takagi and Brother-In-Law Masato Takagi, both of Osaka, Japan, as well as countless friends and students who are better for having known him.
He was predeceased by his father William Thomas Gray, his brother Timothy Dale Gray, his grand parents Thomas Alvin and Lettie Gray and James Carlen and Julia Catherine Sisco, as well as his father-in-law Hiroshi Takagi.
Arrangements are being managed by Erie County Cremation Service, and his memorial page can be found on their website: www.eriecountycremations ervice.com
There will be a concert in his memory in Fredonia on Sunday, November 26. Further details will be available at a later date.
In lieu of flowers or gifts, please honor Gerald’s life by contributing generously to the Gerald Gray Choral Scholarship Fund in honor of his work at Fredonia. To give online, please go to:
Then choose the School of Music, and choose “Dr. Gerald Gray Choral Scholarship Fund.”
Gerald’s friends and family wish to offer a special thank you to Chautauqua Hospice and Palliative Care.
Gerald said that life had taught him that music is love, God is love and our relationships are love. It follows then, that all is love. His legacy is alive and among us when we are good and kind to one another, and when we make music with love as our intention.