U Professor brought music to students’ lives

by Patrick Hayes

Sharp. Insightful. Vibrant. Committed. Dedicated. Full of life. Unparalleled. University music professor Claire McCoy was all of these.
As a dedicated teacher and researcher, McCoy’s passion and commitment was felt in every sphere at the School of Music and beyond.
McCoy died last Friday of liver cancer. She was 45.
Her work strengthened the music teacher industry. She also helped guide students and filled them with her sense of passion for music.
At the University, McCoy somehow managed to maintain an aggressive research schedule and teach a full class load every term, and yet she stayed committed to her number one priority: her students.
“Students here are the people who are the most devastated by (her death),” said School of Music director Jeffrey Kimpton.
To say she was an inspiration to her students would put it mildly, said fellow music professor Paul Haack.
McCoy stayed in close contact with her students and served as a mentor, developing personal relationships that lasted beyond graduation.
“She had high standards, high expectations, but at the same time there was a personal commitment to (students) and their work and their success that was quite unique,” Kimpton said.
Students described her enthusiasm, love and commitment as unparalleled, said Haack.
Her influence at the University will carry on through her students, he added.
McCoy was born and educated in Iowa. She received her bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Iowa.
Before joining the University of Minnesota in 1992, she taught at public schools in Iowa and Virginia and at Ohio State University.
Upon arrival, McCoy began working closely with her University colleagues, developing relationships that lasted throughout her career here.
McCoy played a integral role in developing the U2U program in 1996 — a collaboration between the School of Music, the department of theater and dance and the Minneapolis and St. Paul public schools.
The program put together interactive musical dance pieces of classical performances.
Students would take music for the program and choreograph their own movements, helping to fuel their creative spirits.
The program went beyond instruction and helped students understand the meaning and reason behind the moves, Kimpton said.
It helped hundreds of young children understand they too can do the same thing, he added.
McCoy’s research at the University led to the publication of “Sound Ways of Knowing.” The text was used as a guide to help prepare future high school music teachers.
She also served as president of the Minnesota Music Teachers Association from 1997 to 1999 and was a member of the National Council for Research in Music Education.
And her diligent work ethic led to the inclusion of the arts in the Profile of Learning — a set of academic standards for Minnesota high schools.
“She was the most visible person here in music education in the state and nationally. She was the heart and core of the program,” Haack said.
“She will be extremely hard to replace and we will miss her.”

Patrick Hayes welcomes comments at [email protected]