Remembering Faculty Emeritus Robert Cogan '03 Hon. DM

Cogan, a music theorist, composer, and educator, was a member of NEC's Composition and Music Theory faculty for nearly 60 years—including many years as Chair of Graduate Music Theory—and his legacy will continue for many years to come.

The NEC community mourns the loss of Faculty Emeritus Robert Cogan, who passed away peacefully in his home on Thursday, August 19 at the age of 91.

Robert Cogan and Pozzi Escot
Cogan with wife Pozzi Escot

Over the course of nearly a century, Bob influenced countless students' lives through his unique and groundbreaking work marrying music and science. Born in Detroit, Michigan in 1930, Bob was introduced to jazz as a young boy, at the famed Paradise Theater. This led to his lifelong passion of music exploration, writing, and scholarship. He received his Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from the University of Michigan, his Master of Fine Arts degree from Princeton University, and a 2003 Honorary Doctor of Music Degree from NEC. In 1958, Bob studied in Hamburg, Germany, where he met and married his wife of 61 years, composer Pozzi Escot. They settled in Cambridge, and Bob, as well as Pozzi, began their esteemed careers at NEC.

Bob had the distinct achievement of a nearly 60-year tenure on NEC's Composition and Music Theory faculty, including many years as the Chair of Graduate Music Theory. He was vital to the development of the DMA program, and annually led one of the DMA Music Theory Seminars for decades. NEC celebrated his incredible contributions to the institution with an Honorary Doctorate in 2003, and he was in the first class of Faculty Emeriti in 2019. He and Pozzi presented an annual Jordan Hall recital which included music not only written by the two of them, but other pieces which complemented the program.

Faculty member Robert Cogan teaching

Bob was truly a unique thinker and scholar, and his work has had profound impact on the field, recognized at the international level. He was a sought-after lecturer, which enabled his family to travel the world extensively throughout his career. Bob's compositions are performed by musicians world-wide, and he wrote and published six books on music theory, two of which were collaborations with his wife.

NEC President Andrea Kalyn shared about Bob:

I was fortunate to benefit from Bob's deep experience and perspective even after his retirement, and so appreciated his clear commitment to our work and to his students and colleagues. Bob's legacy at NEC is resounding, as is the impact that he has had on generations of students, several of whom are now members of our faculty.

One of these NEC faculty members and former students of Bob's is Katarina Miljkovic, chair of the Music Theory department, who shared:

Robert Cogan was a teacher who had life-long impact on his students. His research, rooted in cutting-edge technology, opened the door to a whole world of possibilities for seamlessly crossing the boundaries between music, other arts, and sciences. His extraordinary lectures provoked expansive questions from students and instilled a lasting passion for seeking the answers. Bob will be remembered as a brilliant thinker, a composer who threaded sounds through silence and utterances, and a groundbreaking researcher who uncovered the secrets and beauty of music through its visual imprints. I am indebted to Bob for his dedication to teaching and sharing his vision of the future of music and music research. My mission is to carry on his legacy and pass it to new generations of NEC students.

An event in Bob's honor at NEC is being planned for Spring 2022.

Bob is survived by Pozzi; his daughter Kali; his granddaughter Annaka; his brother Richard; Richard's wife, Carolyn; and their family.

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