John Douglas, Boyer professor, dies at 54

Music Director and Conductor of Temple University Opera Theater John Douglas, a professor at the university for more than 20 years, passed away this July.

John Douglas, an associate professor in the Department of Voice and Opera and a faculty member in the Boyer College of Music and Dance for more than 20 years, died of melanoma July 12.

He was 54 and served as music director and conductor of Temple University Opera Theater. Born in Morgantown, W.V., Douglas lived a life dedicated to music.

Douglas graduated from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in music in 1977. Douglas went on to receive a master’s degree in piano performance two years later at Bowling Green State University.

Douglas enjoyed enormous success in his life. In 1989, he became a part of Temple’s faculty where he brought the opera program to national recognition and garnered four prominent National Opera Awards. He was later awarded the Temple University Faculty Award for Creative Achievement in 2006.

Jamie Johnson, producer of opera for Boyer College, said he worked closely with Douglas. Johnson said the professor took the most pride in having set up one of the only opera-coaching programs in the country, which was a success.

“During [Douglas’] tenure at Temple, he conducted over 50 opera productions for Temple University Opera Theater, coached both singers and accompanists in opera repertoire, spent endless hours in meetings with various faculty committees, and more than anything else, he had a passion for teaching both diction and opera elements to young singers via his classes and master classes,” Johnson said, adding that the professor will be missed by both his students and colleagues.

Despite all of his work in Boyer, Douglas’ achievements were not confined to just Temple.

Before coming to the university, he served on the faculty of the Boston and New England conservatories.

Douglas also held positions with Chautauqua Opera, Ash Lawn Opera Festival and Central City Opera Company, among several others.

Since 2003, Douglas spent his summers directing the studio artists program at the Lake George Opera in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Douglas was also a talented pianist and performed with several prominent opera singers, including Denyce Graves, Victoria Livengood and David Holloway.

Esther Kang, who graduated from Temple in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance, attended the Studio Artists Program at the Lake George Opera that summer with Douglas.

Kang said the program was a life-changing experience and credited Douglas’ influence as her inspiration to continue opera at a time when she said she was ready to give up.

She is now going to Cincinnati, where she will pursue her master’s degree at a school the professor pushed her to audition at.

“John Douglas was like an uncle to me and many others, and I will never forget the huge impact that he has had on my life,” Kang said. “Without John Douglas, I can honestly say that I would not be here continuing my quest to become a professional opera singer.”

Patricia Vigil, who is working on her doctorate of musical arts at Temple, also expressed gratitude toward the professor.

She first met Douglas in 1989 when she was a studio artist with the Central City Opera Association’s summer festival, where he was a coach. Vigil had the opportunity to work with him again years later when she attended Temple to work on a professional studies certificate in opera.

Vigil said she’s learned a lot from Douglas throughout the years.
“From him, I learned to play up my strengths as a performer [and] musician, while working on my weaknesses,” Vigil said. “He taught me how to learn music in a more thorough and efficient way.”

Vigil said that although she will miss the professor greatly, she is comforted by the knowledge that his wisdom will live on through his students.

Douglas, who lived in Elkin Parks, Pa., is survived by his wife, Melissa, his two children, Matthew and Willa Rose, his sister, Sara, and his parents, John and Marilyn.

Lena Van can be reached at lena.van@temple.edu.

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