In Memoriam: Robert J. Werner

September 8, 2022

Robert J. Werner, President of NASM from 1988 to 1991, passed away on Wednesday, August 31, 2022, in Roanoke, Virginia. He held Baccalaureate, Masters, and Doctoral degrees from Northwestern University and major academic positions at the University of Arizona and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where he served as Dean and led a large scale building program. He was a director of the Contemporary Music Project funded by the Ford Foundation and operated primarily by MENC that began in the early sixties intending to broaden attention to and generate improvements in school music education, and included promotion of certain pedagogical ideas for general use labeled Comprehensive Musicianship.

In these and other endeavors, Robert Werner proved himself knowledgeable, witty, nurturing, and realistic. He loved organization, and organizations, appreciated their powers to aid large scale accomplishment, his permanent first purpose along with helping individual musicians and teachers succeed. He supported and often held leadership roles in numerous music organizations, including the International Society for Music Education, and the College Music Society. If musicians were estranged or not connected, he brought them together. If they were cooperating, he strengthened the bond.

His NASM presidency coincided with a comprehensive review of the Association’s undergraduate standards in music, and saw a melding of the Commission on Undergraduate Studies and Commission on Graduate Studies into the Commission on Accreditation. A special committee Werner appointed addressed the future of the profession and oversaw publications supporting local action planning and further development of community education programs. A Sourcebook on Futures Planning, The Assessment of Undergraduate Programs in Music, and Community Education and Music Programs in Higher Education were three of the most important results. NASM also cooperated with other three arts accreditors in studying the health of performing and visual art students and recommending fundamental policy development frameworks for the arts at the elementary and secondary levels.

Every NASM president has commitments to high quality and service to the membership. Each wants music students to obtain the best possible education. Each pursues these commitments through his or her own personality in extensive consultation with members, officers, and staff.  In these regards, Robert Werner had his own special and unforgettable way of being dependably generous and fair, thoughtfully gracious and far-seeing, insistently encouraging and cooperative, respectfully attentive and honoring. He served NASM and its institutional members and their representatives in many capacities. He visited, served on committees, commissions, and the board, spoke at annual meetings, advocated for music study in national contexts, and remained welcoming and available to help anyone who asked. He was a grand gentleman of the organizational world devoted to music; his values, a powerful and lasting example of what service to others can mean at its best. His legacies will continue to influence those who knew him; their effects will be felt by generations to come. NASM is thankful and grateful that Robert Werner came its way and stayed and contributed so long and so mightily.

Robert Werner’s obituary is available online. The Werner family may be reached through Robert Werner’s son, Mark Werner, MD.