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Week of 18 April 2003· Vol. VI, No. 29

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CFA prof was devoted scholar, teacher, musician
John Daverio found drowned in Charles River

By David J. Craig

A month after John Daverio mysteriously disappeared after leaving the College of Fine Arts on a Sunday evening, the celebrated musicologist and teacher was discovered Monday, April 14, drowned in the chilly Charles River. BU and Boston police say they will continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding Daverio’s death, although there is no evidence of foul play.

Daverio (CFA’75,’76, GRS’83), a professor of music known for his sense of humor and gentle, friendly nature, had taught at BU since 1979. He was chairman of the CFA school of music musicology department and of the CAS and GRS department of music. The discovery of his body shocked faculty, students, and staff at CFA, where many people had been holding out hope for a positive resolution to his disappearance.

“This is overwhelmingly devastating,” says Phyllis Hoffman, a CFA associate music professor, and a colleague and friend for nearly 25 years. “Every life is precious, but the loss of John is of such enormity because some of us here truly feel that he was a genius.”

John Daverio. Photo by Fred Sway.

John Daverio. Photo by Fred Sway.  

An internationally recognized expert on the Romantic composer Robert Schumann, he was the author of Robert Schumann: Herald of a New Poetic Age (Oxford University Press, 1997), and most recently Crossing Paths: Schubert, Schumann, and Brahms (Oxford University Press, 2002). He also wrote scores of articles and book reviews on musicology, and traveled regularly for speaking engagements at universities and orchestras. He won several major awards, including the American Musicological Society’s Alfred Einstein prize for scholarly writing in musicology in 1988.

Daverio also earned a reputation as a devoted and inspiring teacher: in 1997, he won a Metcalf Award for Excellence in Teaching, one of the University’s highest honors for professors. “Students adored him,” says Hoffman. “His teaching evaluations were consistently extraordinary in their praise of him, describing the quality of his preparation, his knowledge, his sense of humor, and his humanity. He was accessible to students and he would really go the distance to ensure their success.”

Hoffman says that Daverio, who studied violin at BU in the 1970s and still performed regularly, also personified an important mission of collegiate fine arts training: the integration of scholarly and artistic pursuits. “While John is known primarily as a scholar,” she says, “he also was a remarkable role model because of his ability as a musician, which is rare among musicologists.”

Daverio was observed by a security camera leaving the front exit of the main CFA building at 8:39 p.m. on Sunday, March 16. He had left his wallet and briefcase in his office and carried only a white bag that police believe contained a book.

At an April 15 news conference, spokesmen for the BU and Boston police departments said that their joint investigation of Daverio’s disappearance has produced little useful information, but that evidence suggests his death was likely an accident or a suicide. His body, found floating by a crew team in the vicinity of the DeWolfe Boathouse on Monday, was identified by the state medical examiner the next day using dental records. An autopsy determined that the cause of death was drowning.

At the news conference, CFA Dean ad interim Walt Meissner referred to Daverio as a “learned, thoughtful, and kind gentleman, who cared deeply about his students, his colleagues, and his work. All of us at the College of Fine Arts are struggling with this loss, and our hearts go out to John’s family at this difficult time.”

Maria Clodes Jaguaribe (CFA’76), a CFA associate professor of music and a pianist who performed sonatas in public with Daverio about once a year for the past 10 years, says she will miss most the fun evenings she shared with her longtime friend, dining and catching a movie or chatting about literature. “He was a wonderful, sensitive man,” she says. “He used to draw little cartoons of me to make me laugh. We hadn’t performed together in about year because he was so busy. But we still spoke every week, and we were just talking about starting to perform again.”

In a recent interview, reflecting on his experience as a 15-year-old at BU’s Tanglewood Institute, Daverio offered the University’s aspiring musicians the following advice: “Take advantage not of most opportunities, but every opportunity. Soak it all in. . . . You are in the middle of this incredible environment, which is so special and it exists for only a limited period of time; it’s not always going to be there. Value it.”

Daverio, who was 48 years old, is survived by his parents. A memorial service and tribute will be held in early May. Details will be published in next week’s issue of the B.U. Bridge.


18 April 2003
Boston University
Office of University Relations