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Robert Bailey, Faculty Member for 26 Years, 75


Beloved teacher, renowned musicologist, and dear friend and colleague, faculty member Robert Bailey died on July 6 in Naples, Fla., where he spent summers and vacations. He was 75. Although many of us knew that he was battling cancer, we believed (or wanted to believe) that he would conquer it with the same spirit and energy that he exuded throughout his life. When we last saw him at the end of May, he was happily outfitted in his Florida attire of madras jacket and sneakers, looking forward to getting away to the place that he loved. We had no idea that he would not return to us in the fall.

Robert Bailey

Robert Bailey

(Photo by Juilliard Archives)


Born in Flint, Mich. (and proud of his Midwest heritage), Bailey did his undergraduate work at Dartmouth, and received his Ph.D. from Princeton. The title of his doctoral thesis was The Genesis of Tristan and Isolde and a Study of Wagner’s Sketches and Drafts for the First Act. His extensive knowledge of this subject was later revealed in his 1985 Norton Critical Score, Richard Wagner: Prelude and Transfiguration From Tristan and Isolde. Most everyone who studies this work in a music history class is assigned his score as a guide. 

A practicing musician who always emphasized performance as the foundation for musicological study, Bailey had studied piano with Friedrich Wuehrer at the Staat-liche Hochschule für Music in Munich and with Edward Steuermann (Juilliard faculty 1948-64). In meetings he often reminded us that “music analysis is the marriage of history and theory.”

Prior to joining Juilliard’s faculty, in 1986, Bailey taught at Princeton, Yale, the Eastman School of Music, the University of California at Berkeley, and New York University. When word of his passing reached the American Musicological Society listserv, there were numerous tributes from his former colleagues and students. Scholar and Eastman professor Kim Kowalke wrote, “Those of us who had the privilege of studying with Bob Bailey will never forget those brilliant lectures, illustrated at the keyboard entirely ‘by ear’ and on the board with his famous ‘Bailey-grams.’ I’ve never taught a class that wasn’t informed by his example and never thought the same way about a piece of tonal music.” Juilliard students who were privileged to take his Wagner, 19th-Century Piano Music and Song, or From Mahler to Weill classes have similar stories.

Bailey was a dedicated member of the Doctoral Governance Committee. He rarely missed a meeting (even when undergoing medical treatment), and always enlightened our discussions with his unique wit and his wise perspective.  

In 2008 Bailey donated his extraordinary library of books and CD recordings to Juilliard. Among the former are many rare sources on 19th-century history and theory; among the latter were many jazz recordings, which was another of his personal passions. 

The Juilliard community was privileged to have Bailey as a teacher, friend, and colleague. We will miss him dearly.

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