John Maloy was a prince among men. A towering figure, over six feet tall and handsome as the devil, John, professor emeritus of voice at the Eastman School, was beloved by his colleagues and generations of students.
His natural elegance and dignity informed everything he did. Chair of the voice department from 1977 to 2002, John had a keen intellect and a sharp wit that combined to keep us—his faculty—on our toes. It was John to whom we turned for advice and guidance, whether about repertoire for students (his knowledge was voluminous) or matters of professional and personal concern. He inspired a kind of trust that we never questioned; what was discussed with Maloy stayed with Maloy. His integrity shaped the policies still in place defining faculty deportment and our sense of mission. The notion of service was innate in John, and he nurtured a work ethic that puts the students’ best interest first and personal credit last.
Before coming to Eastman in 1966, John Maloy had an illustrious career in opera and concert in Germany and Switzerland, during which he gave hundreds of performances, many broadcast over German and Austrian radio. Recent colleagues never heard John sing professionally, but when fellow Iowans could get a rousing “Iowa Corn Song” out of him at parties, the lustrous voice was still present.
His love of the German language and lieder became an enormous part of his teaching. John offered classes in lyric diction and private coaching to students from every studio—not just his own. The highest standard in performance set by Eastman’s prestigious Kneisel German Lieder competition comes directly from John. We will feel him with us every spring when that event fills Kilbourn Hall.
Never one to call attention to himself, John had a list of students that makes clear his gifts. The famous ones—Renee Fleming ’83E (MM), Anthony Dean Griffey ’01E (MM), Nicole Cabell ’01E—are known to many of us. But John was every bit as proud of every student he had. While he appreciated the greatest talents, and knew how to magnify their strengths, he had a magical touch with singers of all levels. His students’ recitals could be counted on to demonstrate the best in language and musicianship and the power of the human heart in song.
John died in January at the age of 81. While illness haunted his final years, he never lost the perceptive spark in his eyes, or his humor. A man of great character, John was self-effacing and quiet. His legacy has many voices, and his influence on our profession will endure.
Webber is a professor of voice at the Eastman School of Music.