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Robert Pettitt

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PETTITT, Robert September 23, 1922 - September 2, 2010. Robert was born to George A. and Edith Pettitt in Attleboro, Massachusetts. He died at Villa Capri in Santa Rosa, CA, at age 87. He was predeceased by his brother, George, Jr. and his sister-in-law, Louise. After graduation from high school, Robert worked briefly in a jewelry factory, then entered the U. S. Army, serving from 1942 to 1946 in the European-African-Middle-Eastern Theater Campaign and the American Theater Campaign. He received the Good Conduct Medal and the Victory Medal. The passage of the G. I. Bill of Rights allowed him to enter Boston University where he found his true calling: music. He received a B. Music and a M. Music from Boston University, where he was Sarah Caldwell's assistant in the Opera Department from 1950-1952. He was an instructor of organ at the Boston Conservatory of Music 1957-62, and assistant organist and choir director at Wheaton College 1958-60. At Emerson College in Boston, where he received an A. M. (Honorary) and a Litt. D. (Honorary), he was the Chairman of the Music Department from 1960-1973. While on sabbatical in San Francisco to study the violin, he was so impressed by the rich musical life there that he retired early from Emerson College and in 1973 moved to the city of his dreams to become a self-employed music director, vocal coach, accompanist, and organist. His accomplishments on both coasts were prodigious. In Massachusetts he was the assistant conductor and accompanist for Boston's Chorus pro Musica, and choir director of the Canterbury Choir at Trinity Church, Boston, and of church choirs in Lynn, North Attleboro, Peabody, and Melrose. He was the summer organist and choir director at Old South Church, Emmanuel Church, and Church of the Advent. On Unicorn Records he accompanied on piano the tenor Maxim Karolik's Russian Art Songs. In the San Francisco Bay Area he was Music Director of Alice Taylor's Oakland Opera 1973-mid 1980's, and Music Director of Bel Canto Opera Singers 1976-1979. For years he prepared the music and was the pianist for opera and musical comedy productions at the Manhattan Playhouse in Palo Alto. He was the organist at the First Church, Scientist San Rafael 1976-2002. He played piano in the St. Francis Hotel's Compass Rose lounge, and after-hours he accompanied myriad opera singers in the legendary Corner Grocery Bar in San Francisco's Castro district. Robert's students often became friends for life. He corresponded with them, visited them all over the world, and encouraged them in their careers. They in turn loved him for his compassion, brilliance, and verbal pyrotechnics. A private celebration of his life will be held in San Francisco. Donations in his memory may be made to the non-profit Community Music Center, 544 Capp St., San Francisco, CA 94110.

Published in The Boston Globe on Sept. 12, 2010
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