October 21, 2015

Marice Stith, Professor Emeritus of Music, Dies at 89

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Prof. Emeritus Marice Stith, music, died on Oct. 7, 26 years after he retired from a distinguished career as a Cornell professor and band director. He was 89.

During his time on the Hill, Stith was a professor of performance and the director of the Big Red Marching Band. He taught courses in brass instruments, electronic music and recording technology, according to a University press release. Following his death, the band took to Facebook to honor Stith’s legacy as “an important part of Big Red Band history.”

“[The New Cornell Fight Song], which you composed, still lives on, as well as all the memories you created,” the group wrote.



During his 23 years at Cornell, Stith recorded around 20 music department concerts a year and worked with the Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band to produce more than 40 long-playing records, according to the release. In these records, Stith often chose to showcase new music from Cornell alumni. Stith last conducted the Wind Ensemble at Carnegie Hall in May 1989, according to his obituary.

As a show musician, Stith also played alongside Sammy Davis, Jr., Liberace, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Jr. and Nat King Cole, among others, according to his obituary.

Though Stith has lived in Ithaca for many years, he was born in in Johnstown, Ohio, and launched his career in  Syracuse University’s music department at the age of 28, according to his obituary. Originally serving the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra as a charter member of the trumpet section, Stih would later become the first coordinator of music for the West Genesee Central Schools, before arriving at Cornell in 1966.

In the early 70s, Prof. Emeritus Malcolm Bilson, music, worked with Stith to record two contemporary sonatas.

“He was a warm and generous friend, and I miss him,” Bilson said.

Stith died at Cayuga Medical Center after a long illness. He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Shirlee Longwell Stith; his four children and their spouses; 12 grandchildren; five great grandchildren and many close friends.