University of Pittsburgh

“We Have Made Music”

John Goldsmith with Choir Seniors
John Goldsmith (second row, left) with Heinz Chapel Choir Seniors during their recent Balkans tour

This spring John Goldsmith brought his storied career as Heinz Chapel Choir Director and musicianship lecturer to an inspiring close. On a balmy Sunday afternoon, current faculty and students, University leadership, and many alumni of Heinz Chapel Choir flooded into Heinz Chapel to see Goldsmith lead the choir one last time. Once the chapel was full to overflowing, attendees walked across to Alumni Hall Auditorium where they enjoyed a live video stream of the concert. When the final notes of the performance evaporated into the air of the Chapel, audience members leapt to their feet to honor another stellar performance by the choir and the legacy of excellence Goldsmith will leave behind.

John Goldsmith closeupAfter the concert, the Department of Music and invited guests fèted Goldsmith at the Pittsburgh Athletic Association. Department Chair Andrew Weintraub spoke of how consistently music majors praised Goldsmith’s teaching, and Dietrich School Dean N. John Cooper praised him for his musical contributions throughout his career at Pitt. Professor Emeritus Don Franklin recounted their highly acclaimed collaboration on the Bach and Baroque series where Goldsmith coached the chorus and performed with his crystal clear counter tenor. Finally, Elaine Goldsmith, John’s wife (an accomplished singer and choral director in her own right) presented a video montage of farewell messages from far-flung choir alumni. 

For all the celebrations though, Goldsmith was still not quite finished. The Monday after graduation, he and Heinz Chapel Choir set out for a tour of the Balkans that took them to cities in Bulgaria, Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania, and Croatia. Pictures coming back from the trip seemed to indicate that choir members were at least as concerned with having one last photo taken with “J.G.” as with performing and taking in the gorgeous scenery around them.

goldsmtih reception

While Goldsmith is probably best known in the community for his role with Heinz Chapel Choir, he has taught musicianship and advised undergraduate music majors throughout his time with the music department. His tireless efforts instilling in his students what he calls “tonal memory” are evident to anyone around the Music Building during exam periods when a gentle hum takes over the hallways — the sound of musicianship students quietly solfege-singing to themselves as they await their individual exams.

Fittingly, Goldsmith’s students, past and present, honored him with a needlepoint piece (including the names of all the choir members he directed) that had this simple inscription: “We have made music.” It is a reference to the title of a collection of essays by Theodore M. “Pop” Finney, founder of the Heinz Chapel Choir, still read at each annual choir retreat. Those who have had the privilege of knowing and working with John understand just how much value he places on the achievement of making music together.

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