Edwin C. Robertson

Published 1:26 pm Thursday, October 19, 2023

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Known and loved for his extraordinary musical gifts and his gentle good humor, Edwin C. Robertson died on Saturday, October 14, 2023, at the age of 84, in Alpharetta, Georgia.

In his music and his approach to others, Ed combined a warmth and humility with a deep intelligence, and instilled a love of music among generations of his students at the University of Montevallo. He was born in Richmond, Virginia, and showed his musical talent early on, singing in a pop group and playing bluegrass mandolin. But it was at the University of Richmond, singing Bach in the choir, where Ed discovered his deep love of serious music. He spent two years in the military, working in the Pentagon by day and by night going to a studio on a nearby college campus to play piano and compose.

Ed studied music at the University of Virginia and at Southern Baptist Seminary, where he met Ruth, the love of his life and his spouse for 46 years until her death in 2015. After earning his doctorate at Florida State, Ed began teaching composition and music theory at Montevallo, where he established a music technology lab and became a beloved member of the faculty. His students called him “Dr. Rob”—though he was just fine being called “Mr. Ed” – and many said his teaching changed their lives. They spoke of how he listened with an uncommon empathy and was generous with praise and encouragement; in 2004, Ed was named Alabama Professor of the Year. In his 34 years of teaching and well into his retirement, he never stopped composing, writing works – for choir, solo voice, piano, cello and more – that have been performed around the world, including at Carnegie Hall. He composed musicals and an opera; set the poetry of Conrad Aiken, Sidney Lanier and Sara Teasdale to music; wrote experimental works inspired by John Cage and choral music that has been sung by countless school choirs in multiple countries. Ed could be just as excited discussing Igor Stravinsky or Stephen Sondheim, and he loved playing jazz standards on the piano, whether onstage in concert or at home, with Ruth singing along from the kitchen. He wrote numerous pieces for his children, Renee Corley and Cam, and flew kites with his grandchildren, Finley, Campbell, Henry, Ruth and Susannah.

A funeral service will be held at 11 am on Saturday, November 4, 2023 at University Baptist Church in Montevallo, with visitation starting at the church at 10 am. He will be laid to rest at Montevallo City Cemetery. Memorial contributions can be made to Meals on Wheels America, where he volunteered for years, by mail at P.O. Box 791568, Baltimore, MD 21279 -1568.

Listen to some Bach tonight.

Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at www.rockcofuneralmontevallo.com for the Robertson family.