Nathaniel Edward Cammack Jr. (1930 - 2018)

  • "Ever present, supportive, and firm in his own quiet way to..."
    - Alan Kays
  • "Thank you, Uncle Nathan, for being such a loving uncle to..."
    - Greg Cammack
  • "A fine musician, conductor, and human being. I have..."
    - Sonja Johnson
  • "May your hearts soon be filled with wonderful memories of..."
    - Psalm 147:3
  • "I had a great time being in Mr Cammack's orchestra classes..."
    - Jane Holmes Martin

Nathan E. Cammack, a career violist for the Eugene Symphony, pioneer of the music and performing arts program at Lane Community College and pillar of the music community in Eugene, Oregon, died on Monday, September 24th at the age of 87, from complications following a stroke.

Nathan was born in Seattle, Wash., on December 1, 1930, to Sadie Irene (Knudsen) and Nathan Cammack, Sr. From a very early age, he knew that he would devote his life to music. He grew up in Bremerton with his younger brother, Donald M. Cammack, who also became a music educator and music store owner. Nathan credited his mother as a key influence behind his accomplishments in music and in life. She inspired his early musical study, taking him to private lessons in Seattle first for violin, then for piano. Nathan also studied viola, trumpet, French horn, and bassoon, in addition to saxophone and the accordion.

Nathan always spoke fondly of the music instructors who had inspired him. During his high school years, he played violin in the Seattle Youth Symphony. He attended Eastern Washington College of Education in Cheney, Wash., and played trumpet during this time in the 560th Air Force Reserve Band. While in the Air Force, he also conducted the choir and band for the weekly television all-service entertainment series March On in Seattle. Nathan received his Master's Degree in Performing Music from the University of Washington. Here, he was accepted into the university's prestigious conducting program and studied under Dr. Stanley Chapel, who had also taught Leonard Bernstein at Tanglewood.

Nathan's career as a music educator enriched the lives and helped inspire the careers of countless students. After receiving his Master's, Nathan and his wife, accomplished pianist and music teacher Marilyn Cammack, traveled to Aga?a, Guam, where he spent two years teaching high school vocal music. As director of the South Eugene High School Orchestra, he helped the music program grow from seven students to approximately eighty; several of whom went on to join the Seattle Symphony. It was here that Nathan first worked with theater pioneer Ed Ragazzino and visionary art director David Sherman, a trio who would go on to accomplish great things.

Nathan served as the conductor of the Eugene Junior Symphony for many years, and remained a President Emeritus on the Eugene-Springfield Youth Orchestra's Board of Directors for the duration of his life. In his time as conductor, the orchestra swelled to more than one hundred high school-aged student musicians. As part of the Eugene Junior Symphony Association, Nathan added the Junior Strings, which included fifty middle school-aged players. The EJS gained national renown under his leadership.

In 1978, Nathan was invited to join the music department at Lane Community College. Together with Ed Ragozzino and David Sherman, Nathan helped establish the LCC Performing Arts Department. He also created the Lane Chamber Orchestra, which was popular with LCC students and specialized in playing Baroque music.

In addition to his teaching career, Nathan was a member of several professional music ensembles. After retiring from teaching, Nathan continued in the Eugene Symphony as a violist. In his decades with the Eugene Symphony, he shared the stage with luminaries such as Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Sir James Galway and soprano Renee Fleming. In the early years of his career, Nathan played with the Spokane and Tacoma Symphonies. He was also a founding member of the Oregon Mozart Players.

His friends and family remember him as a passionate musician, dedicated teacher and true Renaissance man. Nathan's nature photography was shown in galleries in conjunction with the Emerald Photographic Society, of which he was a member. He was also an avid cook, carpenter and collector of rare seashells.

Former student Mark Nygaard says, "Nathan was a significant influence on me as a teacher in that he didn't play favorites, he was patient and positive with every student, and encouraging to all."

Scott Freck, Executive Director of Eugene Symphony, adds: "Nathan was a member of our viola section for many years until his retirement in 2013, and served as a guest conductor for a large portion of our 1968/69 season. He was also a beloved music educator in the area, and was an avidly supportive donor and concert-goer since his retirement."

Richard Long, a longtime friend and fellow musician from the Eugene Orchestra, says, "Many will remember the informal chamber music readings at Nathan's house on Wednesday evenings, when musicians would gather to enjoy the joy of making music. Nathan was a gentle and influential music educator who inspired hundreds of musicians, young and old."

Nathan is survived by Marilyn Cammack, his wife of more than 60 years, nephew Gregory Cammack and his family, of Woodland Hills, Calif., and nephew Jeffrey Cammack and his family, of Vancouver, Wash. A private memorial will be held at a later date for friends and family.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Eugene Symphony.

Arrangements entrusted to West Lawn Memorial Funeral Home. Please access the obituary and you are invited to sign the guestbook at

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Published in Eugene Register-Guard on Nov. 4, 2018
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