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Former Conservatory of Music Choral Conductor William Denning

Former Conservatory of Music Choral Conductor William Denning passed away June 23. There will be a service honoring his life and contributions in Morris Chapel on Aug. 6.

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Former Conservatory choral director William Dehning passed away at age 74

Jun 27, 2017

Former Conservatory of Music choral director William John Dehning, 74, passed away peacefully in Ishpeming, Michigan, on June 23, 2017. There will be a memorial service in Morris Chapel at 4 p.m. on Aug. 6. The Conservatory of Music also plans to dedicate its fall choral concert in his honor. More information will be forthcoming.

Dehning came to Pacific in 1972 after two years at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, where he founded the Marquette Choral Society. During his tenure at Pacific, the choral program became widely known as a destination for music educators and performers. He conducted student choruses that performed with the Stockton, Sacramento and San Francisco symphonies and was an invited conductor for the California All-State Choir.

He was a frequent lecturer at professional conferences, and a guest conductor and musical clinician throughout the United States and abroad. His choral group was chosen in 1983 as the sole representative of the United States at the International Choral Competition in Spittal, Austria, where the Pacific Repertory Chorus placed 3rd overall. Many of his pupils have gone on to distinguished careers, both as educators and practitioners. He was honored in 1991 with Pacific's Distinguished Faculty Award in recognition of his teaching, scholarship and professional achievements.

Dehning left Pacific in 1992 to accept the position of chair of Choral and Sacred Music Department at the University of Southern California (USC) where he achieved national and international recognition as a choral conductor. He retired from teaching in 2007, but remained active in the profession as guest conductor, clinician and consultant for as long as he was able.    

A Minnesota native, he moved to California at age 13. He originally studied engineering at UCLA before discovering he was meant to be a musician and finished his undergraduate degree in music education. He later pursued graduate study in choral conducting at USC, completing his MM and DMA in Sacred Music with highest honors.  

He is the author of Chorus Confidential: Decoding the Secrets of the Choral Art [2003] and A Matter of Choice: Interpreting Choral Music [2012]. Dehning is a past president and founding officer of the National Collegiate Choral Organization and was an active member of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), including former president of the California ACDA. Dehning also formed a semi-professional chamber chorus called the California Choral Company (1985-1995), largely made up of Pacific alumni, that attained a recognition in both the United States and Europe. 

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