Vincent McDermott Memorial Concert
Date: 7:30pm PDT March 17, 2018 Location: Agnes Flanagan Chapel
Agnes Flanagan Chapel
Vince McDermott, professor emeritus of music, died February 11, 2016, while on a visit in North Sumatra, Indonesia. He was 82.
McDermott, an accomplished composer who worked in many genres, was a new music pioneer whose compositions included pathbreaking work that employed both classical European and Asian musical forms and instrumentation. His compositions included works for orchestra, chamber ensembles, voice and chorus, solo instruments, and Javanese gamelan. He also composed operas, two of which—The King of Bali and Mata Hari—were premiered on campus.
McDermott earned his Ph.D. in music composition, music history, and aesthetics at the University of Pennsylvania in 1966. Before coming to Lewis & Clark in 1977, he taught for a year at the Hampton Institute in Virginia, then for 10 years at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music in Milwaukee.
During his two decades at Lewis & Clark, McDermott pioneered the teaching and performance of world music. He developed courses on the music of East and Southeast Asia and the music of India, Africa, and the Middle East. He also instituted or supervised performance classes in African marimba; Ghanaian drumming, singing, and dance; Indian sitar, tabla, and vina; Japanese koto and shamisen; and Javanese gamelan.
Thanks to McDermott—and the generosity of donor Loraine Fenwick—the college acquired the Venerable Showers of Beauty gamelan, a magnificent set of Javanese instruments that dates back to around 1880. This gamelan was the first of its kind in the Northwest and about the 10th gamelan to arrive in the United States.
“Vincent changed my life in the most surprising and unexpected way after introducing me to gamelan when I was 18 or 19 in a world music class,” remembers Mindy Johnston B.A. ’97, who now teaches gamelan at Lewis & Clark and Portland State University and directs the Venerable Showers of Beauty gamelan ensemble. “His influence on my life sent me running with open arms down a path I couldn’t have imagined… . He has touched the lives of countless individuals around the world, particularly through his love of gamelan.”
In 1998, after his retirement from Lewis & Clark, McDermott taught at the College of William & Mary, where his then-wife, Sophia Serghi B.A. ’94, a noted composer herself, serves on the faculty.
From 2002 to 2003, McDermott was a Fulbright Senior Scholar at the Institut Seni Indonesia in Yogyakarta. Since that time, he had made his life in Indonesia with his wife, Sary Sinaga, also known as Ipeh, and their son, Shaun. He enjoyed a full and busy “retirement” as a composer and performer. In 2013, he published a well-received book, Imagi-Nation: Membuat Musik Biasa Jadi Luar Biasa, about his experiences as a teacher, mentor, and composer of music in Indonesia.