Music Teacher was an Inspiration to All
Maag, Furman's longtime professor of cello, lost a dignified battle
with cancer last week. A memorial service at the Daniel Chapel
overflowed with family, friends, students and colleagues. They gathered
to celebrate his gifts of love, music and encouragement.
Maag was a gentleman and a gentle man. A rare combination of strength
of purpose, power of concentration, and self-discipline buoyed by grace
and charm, he was remarkably sensitive and attentive to others. A
radiant, generous man, he loved to laugh; his smile was infectious; his
friendship cherished. He won the love and respect of all who knew him.
had been professor of music at Furman since 1964, where he taught cello
and music education. He was also a 37-year veteran of the Greenville
Symphony Orchestra. Over his career, he served as principal cello in the
Greenville, Colorado Springs, Austin, and San Antonio symphonies. He
taught very young cello students using the Suzuki method and introduced
Suzuki Talent Education to South Carolina.
Born in Arkansas City,
Kansas, Maag received a bachelor of arts from the University of Kansas
and master of music and doctor of musical arts degrees from the
University of Texas, where he began his teaching career in the
internationally renowned Texas String Project. He served as a national
leader of the American Strings Teachers Association, and in 1999, he was
inducted into the South Carolina Music Educators Hall of Fame.
flamboyant nor eccentric, Dick Maag was an unpretentious member of a
profession notorious for its prima donnas. He helped puncture our
solemnities. Dick never pontificated; he was as eager to listen as to
speak. He displayed the rare ability to discuss and debate without
irritating others. His refreshing candor was the expression of a soul
who did not wish to wound anyone but felt compelled to speak the truth
as he saw it. So apt was he to offer a fresh idea or insight, to speak
some disarming or crystallizing word, that we still feel the impulse to
seek his advice.
Dick Maag manifested an almost holy concern for
music and a wholehearted devotion to teaching. From the beginning, he
knew what his calling was, and what he believed informed his teaching.
As a Christian Scientist, he cherished God's healing power, and his
abiding faith made him a healing presence among his students and
colleagues. He helped his students realize that the study of music was
something exalted, a precious privilege for which they should always be
thankful. In mediating between a work of music and the young people
eager to perform it, he played the role of an inviting guide. He
encouraged students, teased them, entertained them, laughed and cried
What most inspired Dick Maag was the achievement of
others. He was as supportive of students and colleagues as he was
talented in his own right. When a student mastered a difficult piece,
his cheeks would flush, and his eyes would sparkle with satisfaction.
often fail to appreciate the value and rarity of simple encouragement.
For his many students over the years, Dr. Maag was much more than an
instructor. He was an adviser about life itself, a confidant, a friend
and an advocate. Nor did the relationship end with the awarding of a
degree. Over the years, he helped former students nurture their careers
and families while bolstering them to sustain a lifelong commitment to
A recent survey reports that Americans fear cancer more
than anything. Yet over the last four months, Dick Maag bore his fatal
illness with stoical good cheer. There was nothing grim or desperate
about his final days. Serenity enveloped him.
Great musicians and
teachers never truly die; their influence echoes through their music
and their students. We will remember Dick Maag as much for the person he
was no less than for all that he achieved.