Irwin Shainman

Irwin Shainman 1921 - 2012Williams College Music Educator WILLIAMSTOWN Irwin Shainman, 91, Williams College professor of music emeritus and a co-founder and former president of the Williamstown Theater Festival, died early Sunday morning (July 8) at his Baxter Road home adjoining the College campus. Born in New York City June 27, 1921, son of Samuel and Gussie Pollack Shainman, he was raised and attended schools in the Bronx and Queens. He was named New York Philharmonic scholar for 1934-35. He had already begun his musical career, playing the bugle for his Boy Scout Troop, the trumpet in a variety of school bands and studying privately in the city. After graduating in 1938 from Newton High School in Elmhurst, L.I., and two years of playing professionally in a number of bands, he entered Pomona College in Claremont, Calif., receiving his BA in 1943. He earned his MA from Columbia University in New York in 1948 and was awarded the Premier Prix from the Paris Conservatory of Music in 1950. He entered the Army in 1942 and earned two Purple Hearts and the Combat Infantry Badge for action in the European Theater. He was discharged in 1945 with the rank of corporal. In August of 1948 he married Bernice Cohen of New York and a month later joined the Williams music faculty. He served as Dean of the Faculty, 1972-73; department chairman, 1971-73; co-coordinator of performing arts, 1973-76; and curator of the Paul Whiteman Collection, 1948-91. He was named the Class of 1955 Professor of Music, an endowed position, in 1980. He was also the director of the Williams College Band, Brass Ensemble and Woodwind Quintet. He retired from Williams in 1991, at which time the College named the instrumental rehearsal hall in Bernhard Music Center in his honor and established the Shainman Student Instrument Fund to enable students to play instruments often not individually owned. From 1950 until 1965 Shainman was the conductor and music director of the Berkshire Community Symphony Orchestra. In 1993 he was invited to conduct the Boston Pops Orchestra in Boston's Symphony Hall during a special Bicentennial Concert marking the 200th anniversary of the College. In 1955 Shainman was among a group from the College who created the Williamstown Summer Theater. He served as its first business manager and treasurer and, as it evolved into the Williamstown Theater Festival, as a member of its Board of Trustees. He was president of the WTF board from 1972 through 1975, and is a trustee emeritus. He contributed many articles to professional journals and was, for many years, a regular music columnist and reviewer for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield. He is the author of "The Changeover from the Natural to the Valve Trumpet," Columbia University Press, 1948, and "Avoiding Cultural Default and Other Essays," Peter Lang Publishing, 1991. For 15 years, Shainman conducted a winter lecture series at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., while audiences grew from 35 to 250. He was also a popular speaker for Williams at regional alumni association meetings across the country. During the last 14 years he has led 10 trips for the Williams Alumni Travel office, mainly in Russia and Eastern Europe. Robert Behr, director of the office, says that many alumni have a standing order for participation in any trip, anywhere, led by the popular professor. Shainman's teaching extended to UMass Extension courses in 1952-55; and Mass State College (now Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts) in 1957. He worked with the Bennington (Vt.) College Composers' Conference and Chamber Music Center. He was a consultant for the College Entrance Examination Board, 1969-75, and a member of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center education committee in 1967 and 1968. He was a former board member and past president of Pittsfield's South Mountain Association. He was first trumpet of the Albany (N.Y.) Symphony Orchestra from 1960 through 1965 and the Vermont Symphony from 1954 through 1958. He was a member of the merit aid panel of the Massachusetts Arts Council in 1984. Shainman received the Danforth Foundation Teachers' Award in 1957-58. He had been a member of the American Musicological Society, the College Music Association, and the Music Critics' Association. An avid golfer, Shainman was a 50-year member of Williamstown's Taconic Golf Course and a founding member of the Monday night B and G Golf League, competing until earlier this summer. He is survived by his wife, Bernice, a daughter, Joan Zegras and her husband, Peter, of Williamstown and Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.; and a son, Jack Shainman and his partner, Carlos Vega, of New York City and Stuyvesant, N.Y. MEMORIAL NOTICE: Private burial services Tuesday in the Williams College Cemetery will be followed at a date to be announced by a celebration of his life. Memorial contributions may be made to the Shainman Instrumental Fund through the Williams College Music Department, to the Williamstown Theater Festival, or to VNA-Hospice of Northern Berkshire in care of FLYNN & DAGNOLI-MONTAGNA HOME FOR FUNERALS CENTRAL CHAPEL, 74 Marshall St. North Adams, MA 01247. To send a card, gifts, flowers or a message please visit

This obituary was originally published in the North Adams Transcript.

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Flynn & Dagnoli-Montagna Home for Funerals-Central Chapel
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Published online on July 10, 2012 courtesy of North Adams Transcript.