Leaving on a good note

By Gus Bode

When Robert Weiss came to SIUC, he was met with a challenge.

The School of Music – the trombonist’s home turf – was plagued by dated facilities.

Nearly 29 years later, the school is housed in arguably one of the finest buildings on campus.


Weiss – who plans to retire from his position as director of the School of Music in May – cites the renovation of Altgeld Hall as one of his proudest achievements.

Altgeld, the oldest building on campus, underwent an $11 million renovation from July 2002 to October 2004.

“That was a huge operation, but something people had been talking about for decades,” Weiss said. “Getting that accomplished was really major.”

Weiss, a 57-year-old Quincy native, began at the School of Music in 1978 as a trombone instructor. He steadily climbed up the ranks until he was named the school’s director in 1994.

He said he would continue to teach trombone at SIUC until he retires in May because he loves the experience.

“It’s been an exciting thing for me as a musician to be involved in something so diverse musically, not just in a classroom but also in a performance stage and a library and other research facilities having an opportunity to do things I never would have been able to do,” Weiss said.

He said he would continue to live in the Carbondale area working as the music director at First United Methodist Church and take some time for travel, musical arranging and performing.


Jered Montgomery, a sophomore from Mulkeytown studying trumpet performance, has been close to Weiss since first meeting him at an SIUC music camp in 1998. He described Weiss as an excellent mentor.

“He’s a machine,” Montgomery said. “He gets up early every morning, and he warms up on the trombone, and then he goes to his job here on campus and does all the administrative stuff, teaches lessons and then at night goes to church rehearsals. That’s just unheard of for a guy to do all those things and do them well – which he does.”

Montgomery said he is constantly surprised by Weiss – especially when he saw the director perform with the Chicago Chamber Orchestra during the summer.

“He was swinging with some of the best trombonists in the state,” he said. “That just proves that no matter how old you get, you can still be on top of your game and be getting better.”

Professor Eric Mandat shared similar sentiments.

“Dr. Weiss has been an ideal combination of advocate for the school and calm, completely honest leadership of the highest integrity,” Mandat said. “We will sorely miss him.”

Mandat is also leading a seven-member committee composed of School of Music faculty and staff to find Weiss’ replacement.

“The School of Music is looking for a dynamic leader who will help move the School of Music to another level through more visibility in the state and help guide our various teaching and research and outreach programs,” Mandat said.

The committee held interviews with three finalists for the position over the past week, he said. The committee will make its recommendation to Interim Dean of the College of Liberal Arts Alan Vaux sometime this week.

Mandat would not discuss the names or positions of the candidates but said they hold varied faculty and administrative positions at other universities.

“Each candidate brings a great background and set of skills,” Mandat said. “We were very pleased with all three of them, and it’s mostly looking for the person that fits our specific needs.”

Weiss said the fact that the candidates come from other universities is a good thing.

“It’s especially gratifying to see them bring in an outside director because I think having some different viewpoints, ideas and experiences will be helpful,” he said. “I’ve been here for almost 29 years, and I think it’s time to have a little different leadership to help make some new things happen.”

Sean McGahan can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 259 or [email protected].