April 2, 2014

‘Consummate musician,’ WSU instructor Thomas Grubb dies at age 62

For years, Thomas S. Grubb was an accompanist for Wichita’s stars and celebrities.

For years, Thomas S. Grubb was an accompanist for Wichita’s stars and celebrities.

He was a constant presence at Music Theatre of Wichita and Wichita State University Opera and helped coach countless students on their way to musical careers.

On Monday, when Mr. Grubb did not show up for a lesson, his friends feared the worst.

“He had been ill for a very long time,” said friend Marie King, director of Opera and Music Theatre at WSU. “But when he didn’t come to the lesson, we started calling. His church was concerned to the point they checked his apartment. I asked my husband to also check on him. My husband was there when police were there.”

Mr. Grubb, a WSU instructor in Opera and Music Theatre Studies, died Monday. He was 62.

A memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 7404 E. Killarney Place.

“He is going to be sorely missed as one of the great talents in Wichita,” said Harold Webb, director of music at Plymouth Congregational Church.

“I had the privilege of working with him for 19 years as a church organist. We have been friends longer than that. He is truly one of the absolute talents of Wichita,” Webb said.

Mr. Grubb was born on May 6, 1951, in Wichita.

According to his WSU profile, he received his piano performance degrees from WSU. He was a specialist on the piano, harpsichord and organ and accompanied performers such as Samuel Ramey, Karla Burns and Robert Shaw.

He taught classes in oratorio, cantata and voice literature, King said. He had been involved with WSU Opera Theatre for 37 years.

Wayne Bryan, who came to Wichita in 1986 to work with Music Theatre of Wichita, remembers Mr. Grubb as “a soft-spoken, sweet soul.”

“He was supportive of the process of putting on a musical in eight days,” Bryan said. “He was a very quick musician, a very good sight reader and good in all styles of music.”

Linda Starkey, a WSU associate professor and chairwoman of the school of performing arts, described Mr. Grubb as a “funny, incredibly brilliant writer.”

“Kids adored him because of his really funny sense of humor and his generosity in giving away his knowledge,” Starkey said.

King said that although Mr. Grubb was private and lived alone, “he lived for music.”

“I’ve never known anyone else who devoted so much of their time to living in the world of music – and not just a particular genre,” she said. “He had so much profound knowledge of styles, ornamentation, performance practices. He was a consummate musician.”

The upcoming performances of “Die Fledermaus” at WSU April 10-13 at Miller Hall will be dedicated to his memory.

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