In Memoriam: Jon O. Carlson (1942-2013)
Date: January 13, 2014
Location: Florida, USA
Jon O. Carlson, age 71, Jacksonville, FL, entered into life eternal after a valiant battle with cancer, on November 1st at his home.
Jon was born on January 19, 1942 in Harrisburg, PA to Joel and Faithe Carlson. He attended Allison Elementary School, Edison Junior High, John Harris High in Harrisburg, PA and Messiah Academy in Grantham, PA. Following his preparatory training, he attended Messiah College and received the Bachelor of Music degree from Westminster Choir College, Princeton, NJ in 1963. In 1964 he received the Master of Music degree from Westminster Choir College. In 1974 he received the Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) degree in Choral Music from the University of Illinois at Urbana, IL.
While a student at Messiah College 1959-1962 he was Organist and Choir Director of St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church, New Kingston, PA and Mt. Zion Lutheran Church of Allen, PA. In the summer of 1963 he served as Organist of Temple Ohev Sholom of Harrisburg, PA. From 1962-1964 he was Organist and Choir Director at Derry Street Evangelical United Brethren Church of Harrisburg, PA. From 1964-1966 he was the full time Organist and Director of Music at Covenant United Presbyterian Church, Butler, PA, and prepared the 100 voices of the Butler Symphony Chorus for performances with the Butler Symphony. From 1967-1969 he was Activities Coordinator at Prairie View Community Mental Health Center in Newton, KS. He also served as Organist at First Presbyterian Church in the summer of 1967; Organist and Director of Music of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church from 1967-1968; and guest conducted the Eden Choral Society in a performance of A German Requiem by Brahms in March of 1968.
While a student working on his DMA degree at the University of Illinois, he was Organist and Director of Music of Emmanuel Memorial Episcopal Church, Champaign, IL from August 1969 to July 1971.
In 1971 he accepted a position as Assistant Professor and Director of Music at Alaska Methodist University (AMU) in Anchorage, AK, where he remained until 1975. While at AMU, he coordinated with theatre Professor Frank Brink, and notated, harmonized, arranged, and conducted an original musical about the history of Alaska called “Song of the Great Land.” The musical was a national finalist (top 10 out of 130) in the American College Theater Festival in Washington, DC in 1973. Brink and Carlson were both honored by the Alaskan State Legislature and Governor. During this period he also served as Music Coordinator and Director of Youth and Chancel Choirs of First Presbyterian Church of Anchorage, AK. He was the Founder and Music Director of the Anchorage Chamber Singers, and a guest conductor of the Anchorage Community Chorus.
From 1975-1978 he was Assistant Professor and Director of Music at Indiana State University Evansville (now University of Southern Indiana), Evansville, IN. In 1977 the Mid America Singers under his direction performed “An Elizabethan Christmas Celebration” for the Evansville PBS Station. The show was picked up by the PBS network and shown on 278 network stations. It was then repeated for the next four years on the PBS network. During this period he formed and established the Evansville Philharmonic Chorus, which performed with the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra. He also served as Organist-Director of First Presbyterian Church of Evansville, IN. In 1977 he led Evansville’s first “Messiah Sing-In.”
In 1978, he was appointed to the music faculty at Jacksonville University where he was Director of Choral Activities, Professor of Music and remained until retirement in April of 2010. His choirs represented Jacksonville throughout the state, the Southeast, and in a performance tour to England. In 1995 he founded the Intercollegiate Choral Festival at Jacksonville University. In the spring of 2011 he was appointed Professor Emeritus of Jacksonville University.
Beyond his work at the university, Dr. Carlson made significant contributions in the Jacksonville community. He conducted a community chamber choir- the St. Johns Art Singers- for five years, and was instrumental in the 1994 founding of the Jacksonville Children’s Chorus.
He served as Organist/Director of Music at Lakewood Presbyterian Church from 1978 to 1983, and Director of Music of Southside United Methodist Church (SUMC) from 1983 to 2011. At SUMC he directed the Chancel Choir, Chancel Bell Ringers and coordinated the music schedule.
Dr. Carlson also served as Chorus Director of the Jacksonville Symphony Chorus (JSC) from 2001 to 2011. He prepared the JSC for performances with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra of Haydn’s Creation, Handel’s Messiah, Verdi’s Requiem and Four Sacred Pieces, Haydn’s The Creation, Mozart’s Grand Mass in C, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, Rogers and Hammerstein’s Showcase Concert, Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, Walton’s Henry V: A Shakespearean Scenario, Vaughan Williams’ A Sea Symphony, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, and Mozart’s Requiem. In May of 2003 he conducted the JSC in a performance of Duruflé’s Requiem. He prepared the chorus to perform Orff’s Carmina Burana for the first commercial recording of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra. He prepared the chorus for the grand opera productions of Bizet’s Carmen, Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Barber of Sevillle, Puccini’s La Bohème and Madama Butterfly, Verdi’s La Traviata, Puccini’s Turandot, Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte and Donizetti’s L'elisir d'amore (The Elixir of Love).
He used choral music as a tool for breaking down racial barriers, for enrichment with retired persons, for enrichment with those incarcerated in prisons, for spiritual enhancement and to help bridge religious divisions through performances at community worship services and the Interfaith Council services, and to help raise money to feed the poor in his leadership through the United Community Outreach Program. In addition, he planned choral festivals that have united the high school choirs and the four college choirs of Jacksonville.
He was a lifetime member of the American Choral Directors Association; President of the American Choral Directors Association of Alaska 1974-1975; Chair of College Repertoire and Standards for the Southern Division; member of the American Guild of Organists; College Music Society; Music Educators National Conference; Florida Vocal Association; The Fellowship of United Methodists in Worship, Music and other Arts; Pi Kappa Lambda; and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia.
He is survived by his beloved wife of 49 years, Anita; daughters, Heather Johnson of Jacksonville, FL, Jennifer Trovillion of Silver Spring, MD; grandchildren, Ross and Faithe Johnson of Jacksonville, Maeve and Lucy Trovillion of Silver Spring, MD; brother, Dr. Robert Carlson of Overland Park, KS; nephew, Dr. Steve Carlson of Palo Alto, CA, nieces, Chris Ashby of Independence, MO, and Beth Carlson of Stockbridge, MA; sons-in-law, C. William Johnson of Jacksonville, and Aaron Trovillion of Silver Spring, MD; and many cousins. His parents, grandparents and many aunts and uncles predeceased Jon.
Jon enjoyed his choral work and interaction with singers in the community, birding, bird photography, collecting recipes and cookbooks, relaxing at his cabin in Pennsylvania, reading, bicycling, traveling (especially by train), watching his grandchildren, attending classical music concerts, listening to all kinds of music, and reading the newspaper every day.
Memorials may be made to the Liles Memorial Music Fund at Southside United Methodist Church, the Choral Music Scholarship Fund at Jacksonville University, the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, or the Dr. Jon O. Carlson Memorial Scholarship Fund with the Jacksonville Children’s Chorus.