In Memory

Peter A. Michalove (Michalove)

Peter A. Michalove (Michalove)

Peter Alan Michalove

It was Sharon’s idea that I write this obituary. Therefore, I think I’ll dispense with michalovethe fiction of the third person. I was born March 22, 1951 in Greensboro, NC. My father was Philip Michalove, originally from Asheville, NC. He was born March 12, 1897, or 1898, or 1899, depending on who you believe. He always told us he was born in 1899. But some 30 years ago, the Michaloves had a big to-do and family reunion. That involved creating a family tree, and correlating it with census records. That family tree said he was born in 1897. When we went back to Greensboro in 2009, we visited his grave, which gave his birth year as 1898. So you can take your pick.

When I was ten years old, I had a life-changing experience. My Uncle Joe came back from a business trip, and he brought me a present. It was a little plastic recorder, but everyone in the family called it a flute. This was my first exposure to music, and the beginning of much more to come. I decided I wanted to play the flute. Alas, a real, orchestral flute didn't look anything like my plastic recorder. But if this was a flute, then I would take it.

It didn’t take long for me to start writing music for the flute and, eventually, other instruments. I got books from the public library on harmony, orchestration, and, eventually, counterpoint. Most students hated music theory, but I loved it.

For four summers I attended the Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro. I studied flute and, for the first time, formally, theory and composition.

At the age of 13, I wrote a piece for band, and our junior high band director agreed to have the high-school band play it. By this time it was 1965, and I was 14. I had found my calling. I was going to be a composer.

I went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. My composition teacher there was Roger Hannay. In his theory class, I quickly acquired a reputation as the guy who knew the standard repertoire. But I entered college completely ignorant of 20th-century music. Every week when I went into my composition lesson, Roger (as I eventually came to call him) would sit down at the piano and play some important 20th-century piece of music. When I looked at him blankly, he would say, “You don't know Petrushka? Get thee to the music library and learn it!”

Then my lesson would begin. And after my lesson, I went to the music library and got the LP and the score of the piece from which he had played an excerpt for me, and I listened to it until I had learned it.

After getting my bachelors at Chapel Hill, I went to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor for my masters. Alas, the whole experience was a disaster. The éminence grise there was Ross Lee Finney. Finney and I didn't hit it off well (understatement), and things only went downhill from there. Eventually, it became clear that this was not the place for me, and my


for the doctoral program was rejected.

I applied to the University of Illinois for my doctorate, and was accepted. I was not happy about moving to Champaign-Urbana, but there turned out to be good reasons to be happy about the move.

I had two excellent teachers in Salvatore Martirano and Ben Johnston. These were perhaps the first (and last) teachers who saw me as an adult and treated me like one. Sal Martirano once said to me, “You’re an adult. You know what you’re doing. What more can I tell you?”

The other important event here was that I met Sharon. We never really dated. We simply began doing things together, and that was that. Within six weeks we were engaged. And after nine months, we were married. For the most part, it really went that smoothly.

But when I finished music school, I didn’t get a job. I spent most of a 30-year career doing administrative work here. I wrote music sporadically, but there hardly seemed any reason to write to an audience that wasn’t there. As I once said to a player, “You’re a performer. Would you be happy playing in a practice room all day?” He got the point.

In 2004 I discovered a free on-line music notation software program. From there I began writing, and I didn’t stop until quite recently. I retired in 2006, and that’s when I began composing in earnest. Roger Hannay died in 2006, and I learned of his death in 2007. I wanted to write something in his memory and, in the end, I wrote a string quartet, a medium that I had developed a deep love for. And with that, I was off.

In 2008 I was diagnosed with an extremely aggressive case of prostate cancer.  By some time in 2013, I simply didn’t have the stamina to compose any more. So for the past six months or so, I’ve had a life without composition, which at one time I couldn’t imagine.

What that left me with was Sharon, the love of my life. Sharon gave me a reason to continue living, until even that stopped working.

For those wishing to make a donation, the Prostate Cancer Foundation can be found at or to the University of Illinois Foundation, designated on the check in memory of Peter Michalove and sent to the attention of Jeff Fehrenbacher.

Heath and Vaughn Funeral Home, 201 N. Elm, Champaign, is assisting the family with arrangements.

Condolences may be offered online at


Peter Michalove taught me a tremendous amount about grace, music, kindness, art, dignity, compassion, and gratitude. I met him when I came to work at the University of Illinois in 2001, but did not really get to know him until after he retired. He invited me to a concert of his compositions, and we started having lunch on a regular basis after that. These lunches became an enormous treat for me, something I really looked forward to. I knew that I would leave a conversation with Peter feeling happy, peaceful, and enriched. As we traveled around Champaign-Urbana in pursuit of the Perfect Lunch Foods, Peter and I traveled through our lives, in narrative...discussing everything from his passion for (and precision about) composition to my children's interests. We never ran out of things to say. It is very hard to know I will not listen to Peter's voice again, but I remember his words. And I can and will listen to his music, and try to keep some of his boundless capacity for kindness alive.

Laurie Johnson
Dept. of Germanic Languages and Literatures
University of Illinois

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12/17/13 10:22 PM #1    

Ronald D. Herndon (Herndon)

I remember Peter from High School. I had one or two classes with him, but didn't really know him well. His life in the field of music (his passion) speaks volumes to me of his love of Universal sound. I wish I had known him better........................sometimes we learn the beauty of a quiet soul too late.


12/18/13 10:55 AM #2    

Lynn Moore (Gordon)

I really appreciated the musicianship that exuded Peter's life......he was such a gifted musician.  God certainly anointed him with such talent.  I've also enjoyed renewing our friendship at all our class reunions.....enjoying especially getting to meet the "love of his life".  We'll miss you, Peter, at our future reunions.  With love, Lynn Moore Gordon 

04/05/14 03:30 AM #3    

Rie Davis (Osborne)

Peter and I sat together in the flute section all through Kiser and Grimsley, friendly competitors in flute. But he was the first composer I met of our generation and I was amazed at his ability even in high school. I remember him letting me play a solo flute piece he wrote called "Ramifications." We didn't stay in touch after high school but I was glad to learn that he went on to study composition at good schools.  He was a gentleman and a terrific musician.

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