Peter Alan Michalove
It was Sharon’s idea that I write an obituary. Therefore, I think I’ll dispense with the fiction of the third person. I was born March 22, 1951 in Greensboro, NC. My father was Philip Michalove, originally from Asheville, NC. He was born March 12, 1897, or 1898, or 1899, depending on who you believe. He always told us he was born in 1899. But some 30 years ago, the Michaloves had a big to-do and family reunion. That involved creating a family tree, and correlating it with census records. That family tree said he was born in 1897. When we went back to Greensboro in 2009, we visited his grave, which gave his birth year as 1898. So you can take your pick.
When I was ten years old, I had a life-changing experience. My Uncle Joe came back from a business trip, and he brought me a present. It was a little plastic recorder, but everyone in the family called it a flute. This was my first exposure to music, and the beginning of much more to come. I decided I wanted to play the flute. Alas, a real, orchestral flute didn't look anything like my plastic recorder. But if this was a flute, then I would take it.
It didn’t take long for me to start writing music for the flute and, eventually, other instruments. I got books from the public library on harmony, orchestration, and, eventually, counterpoint. Most students hated music theory, but I loved it.
For four summers I attended the Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro. I studied flute and, for the first time, formally, theory and composition.
At the age of 13, I wrote a piece for band, and our junior high band director agreed to have the high-school band play it. By this time it was 1965, and I was 14. I had found my calling. I was going to be a composer.
I went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. My composition teacher there was Roger Hannay. In his theory class, I quickly acquired a reputation as the guy who knew the standard repertoire. But I entered college completely ignorant of 20th-century music. Every week when I went into my composition lesson, Roger (as I eventually came to call him) would sit down at the piano and play some important 20th-century piece of music. When I looked at him blankly, he would say, “You don't know Petrushka? Get thee to the music library and learn it!”
Then my lesson would begin. And after my lesson, I went to the music library and got the LP and the score of the piece from which he had played an excerpt for me, and I listened to it until I had learned it.
After getting my bachelors at Chapel Hill, I went to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor for my masters. Alas, the whole experience was a disaster. The éminence grise there was Ross Lee Finney. Finney and I didn't hit it off well (understatement), and things only went downhill from there. Eventually, it became clear that this was not the place for me, and my application for the doctoral program was rejected.
I applied to the University of Illinois for my doctorate, and was accepted. I was not happy about moving to Champaign-Urbana, but there turned out to be good reasons to be happy about the move.
I had two excellent teachers in Salvatore Martirano and Ben Johnston. These were perhaps the first (and last) teachers who saw me as an adult and treated me like one. Sal Martirano once said to me, “You’re an adult. You know what you’re doing. What more can I tell you?”
The other important event here was that I met Sharon. We never really dated. We simply began doing things together, and that was that. Within six weeks we were engaged. And after nine months, we were married. For the most part, it really went that smoothly.
But when I finished music school, I didn’t get a job. I spent most of a 30-year career doing administrative work here. I wrote music sporadically, but there hardly seemed any reason to write to an audience that wasn’t there. As I once said to a player, “You’re a performer. Would you be happy playing in a practice room all day?” He got the point.
In 2004 I discovered a free on-line music notation software program. From there I began writing, and I didn’t stop until quite recently. I retired in 2006, and that’s when I began composing in earnest. Roger Hannay died in 2006, and I learned of his death in 2007. I wanted to write something in his memory and, in the end, I wrote a string quartet, a medium that I had developed a deep love for. And with that, I was off.
In 2008 I was diagnosed with an extremely aggressive case of prostate cancer. By some time in 2013, I simply didn’t have the stamina to compose any more. So for the past six months or so, I’ve had a life without composition, which at one time I couldn’t imagine.
What that left me with was Sharon, the love of my life. Sharon gave me a reason to continue living, until even that stopped working.
For those wishing to make a donation, the Prostate Cancer Foundation can be found at http://www.pcf.org or to the University of Illinois Foundation, designated on the check in memory of Peter Michalove and sent to the attention of Jeff Fehrenbacher.
Heath and Vaughn Funeral Home, 201 N. Elm, Champaign, is assisting the family with arrangements.
Condolences may be offered online at www.HeathandVaughn.com.
Peter Michalove taught me a tremendous amount about grace, music, kindness, art, dignity, compassion, and gratitude. I met him when I came to work at the University of Illinois in 2001, but did not really get to know him until after he retired. He invited me to a concert of his compositions, and we started having lunch on a regular basis after that. These lunches became an enormous treat for me, something I really looked forward to. I knew that I would leave a conversation with Peter feeling happy, peaceful, and enriched. As we traveled around Champaign-Urbana in pursuit of the Perfect Lunch Foods, Peter and I traveled through our lives, in narrative...discussing everything from his passion for (and precision about) composition to my children's interests. We never ran out of things to say. It is very hard to know I will not listen to Peter's voice again, but I remember his words. And I can and will listen to his music, and try to keep some of his boundless capacity for kindness alive.
Dept. of Germanic Languages and Literatures
University of Illinois
Sorry to learn about the passing of your beloved husband, Peter.
Please take care!
Mu-chin and CC Cheng
It is with great sadness that I received the news of Peter’s death. He was such a kind and gifted person; I will miss him. But it was so good that after his retirement from the drudgery of administrative work he finally had time to do what he loved best: teach and compose; his memory will live on not only in the memory of his friends and those closest to him but also in his music. In hindsight I regret that I have not taken any of his OLLI courses; by all accounts they were a great success. But I will continue listening to his music, especially on February 3, 2014 at his memorial concert.
My thoughts are with you, Sharon, at this difficult time.
I am so sorry about Peter.
I know his death was not unexpected, but even when one thinks one is prepared it is still very hard to suffer a loss.
Please accept my condolences.
You and Peter have had a terrific life together, Sharon. This is the best that one can ever hope for. Many years growing together and then after retirement a whole new life and adventure with traveling and so much music shared with Olli friends and performed for the general public. Keep these memories in the forefront as the years pass.
You have been so much on my mind and my heart since I heard of Peter's passing. I am so thankful to have had time with you both at Grimsley reunions these past years. I have so many memories of Peter growing up since we were in school together beginning in elementary school. I vividly remember him at his desk drawing pictures of fighter planes with guns in combat when we were at Sternberger Elementary. I have no idea why I remember that about him and it seems so contradictory to the gentle giant of a man that he became. Please accept my deep condolences as I know you have lost the love of your life but I hope that you feel his presence strongly with you in the music and other things about his life that he left behind, not to mention all the sweet memories you have. I hope you will continue to be a part of our Grimsley group as you are indeed a part of us now!!
Blessings and love,