Remembering Niel Sir: An Inspired Composer and Beloved Educator
The University of New Hampshire community honors the remarkable life and legacy of Niel Sir, a gifted composer, passionate educator, and influential mentor. Niel was known for his striking personality, deeply considered opinions, and humorous side that revealed itself in his enjoyment of silly jokes. His honesty, resolute commitment to his beliefs, and dedication to rigorous thinking made him a respected colleague and friend.
The musical compositions of Niel were profoundly noteworthy, characterized by a meticulous and deliberate approach to both planning and execution. He paid great attention to every detail and frequently asked his colleagues for guidance on how to notate specific elements of his music. Niel's diverse interests encompassed not only music, but also French literature, as well as appreciation for the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and various local galleries.
Niel received his BA from the University of Chicago at the age of nineteen and went on to earn his MA from the University of California, Berkeley, where he studied with Andrew Imbrie. His thirst for knowledge led him to Paris, where he spent seven years studying with Max Deutsch, Arnold Schoenberg's confidant. Niel's pedagogy was so efficacious that it was detailed in "A Conversation with Max Deutsch," which appeared in Perspectives of New Music in 1972.
As a teacher, he left a lasting impact on his students and colleagues at UNH, imparting lessons that extended beyond the classroom and showed everyone what it meant to be a true artist. Many of his students went on to study with leading composers like Martin Boykan and Seymour Shifrin at Brandeis University. His later works, such as the String Quartet, Night Episode, and Quintet, display his exceptional talent, creativity, and love of music. Niel retired and moved to Jamaica Plain, MA, where he continued to compose, leaving behind works that demonstrate his exceptional talent and devotion to the art of music.
Niel's profound impact on the musical works of his contemporaries extended throughout his career, beginning with his formative years at the University of Chicago and continuing through his later works in Jamaica Plain, MA. Notably, Niel's influence was not limited to the classroom. His unwavering dedication to his craft and beliefs served as a source of inspiration for numerous individuals, including both students and colleagues. The lasting influence of Niel's compositions, teachings, and mentoring will continue to serve as a catalyst for the creative and intellectual pursuits of generations to come.
Kurylo, Corey. "Remembering Niel Sir: An Inspired Composer and Beloved Educator."
Judith Pfaff. "Niel Sir." Photograph. 1985.