Remembering Dean Witten

Mate Witten addresses the audience during the memorial concert for his late father, Dean Witten. - Arts & Entertainment Editor/Tara Lonsdorf

On Sunday September 9th, 2018 the Rowan University College of Performing Arts and the Department of Music held a memorial scholarship concert in memory of beloved music professor, Dean Witten, who passed on March 16th of this year. Over 50 students, alumni, and friends of Professor Witten performed pieces that he either championed or inspired by his musical taste. Special performances by Professor Dan Armstrong of Penn State, Anthony Orlando formerly of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and many more helped create a what Professor Matthew Witten, son of Dean Witten, called a “musical celebration of his life and legacy”.

The Dean Witten Memorial Scholarship Concert served as a jubilous celebration and remembrance of Professor Witten’s 38 years-long teaching career at Rowan University. Over nearly 4 decades, he had influenced countless students. Many of these students have gone on to attend graduate school, perform as nationally and internationally renowned artists, and hold positions as professors themselves. As President Houshmand emphasized, Professor Witten was a “modern teacher” that “help[ed] as a professor, but taught as a friend”. During his time at Rowan, his passion for both music and teaching enriched not only the Department of Music, but also the lives of his students.

In addition to his impactful teaching career here at Rowan, Professor Witten boasted an impressive and successful professional music career. From playing in the San Antonio Symphony in Texas in the 1970s, to performing alongside Frank Sinatra for close to a decade, Dean Witten had a bountiful career as a percussionist. He had performed on Broadway, recorded with Celine Dion and Harry Connick Jr., and traveled the world alongside the likes of Sammy Davis Jr. and Tony Bennett, just to name a few of the seemingly endless list of celebrities he has traveled the world with.

Throughout his time as both a performer and educator, Dean Witten had made many friends, all of which are sure to miss him. The outpouring of support at the memorial concert serves as a testament to his character and legacy. As stated by Dr. Rick Dammers, Dean of the College of Performing Arts, Dean Witten’s “work as an educator will continue to resonate for years to come”.

In a lasting way to honor his memory, the room in which Professor Witten inspired countless students, Wilson 154, has been dedicated as the Witten Percussion Studio.  In memory of Professor Witten, the proceeds from the event will be used to establish a scholarship for percussionists that will be endowed in perpetuity. To donate, you can go online to Rowan Office of Advancement website.

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