Linda Shaver-Gleason, 1983-2020
Thursday, April 23, 2020
Linda Shaver-Gleason, public musicologist, died on January 14, 2020, in hospice care at Serenity House in Santa Barbara, California. At the age of 36, she was, as she put it, “assassinated by cancer.” She is survived by her husband, Chris, and her six-year-old son, Linus.
Shaver-Gleason was born in Winfield, Illinois, on June 22, 1983. She started studying the viola at age nine and completed a bachelor’s degree from Roosevelt University and a master’s degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara, both in viola performance. While in graduate school, she recognized that she had a gift for writing and inquiry and continued graduate studies in musicology at UCSB. Her dissertation, “English Reception of Felix Mendelssohn as Told Through British Music Histories,” earned her a PhD in 2016.
Over the course of her brief career, Shaver-Gleason was an active scholar. She was a member of the American Musicological Society and the North American British Music Studies Association (NABMSA). She presented papers on Mendelssohn reception and historiography at a number of national and international conferences, including the AMS Annual meetings in 2013 and 2015. The Journal of the American Viola Society published two articles by Shaver-Gleason: "Ritter's Viola Alta: The Viola's Nineteenth-Century Identity Crisis" (2005) and "Felix Mendelssohn: Violist" (2011).
A stage-four breast cancer diagnosis in 2015 inspired Shaver-Gleason to direct her musicological activities toward a largely public audience. Her blog, Not Another Music History Cliché, had a wide and devoted readership and she was a strong presence on social media platforms, such as Twitter. She also wrote program notes, gave pre-concert lectures, and contributed to the blogs Musicology Now and The Avid Listener.
Although she didn’t teach in an academic setting, her work was unrelentingly pedagogical. She persistently challenged musical myths and falsehoods and brought to light issues of prestige and privilege in the classical music world. Shaver-Gleason’s last academic presentation was at the conference Music and Musicology in the Age of Post-Truth at University College Dublin. Her paper “When #Times Up for Musical Gods: The James Levine Scandal" argued that the sacralization of the arts and the deification of the artist have created a culture in classical music susceptible to abuses of power.
In July 2019, Shaver-Gleason signed a contract with Clemson University Press to publish a collection of essays. With the press’s support, a team of scholars is preparing to finish her book. Drawing on the content of her blog, the book addresses musical clichés, snobbery, scientistic thinking, and the many myths that surround classical music composers and pieces.
For many, Shaver-Gleason’s work as a public musicologist is exemplary. While fiercely attacking false narratives, she was nonetheless collegial and generous with the musicians and fans who perpetuated those myths. She created a devoted community of scholars, musicians, and fans through her social media presence. Recognizing her lasting influence, the NABMSA has created a memorial prize for emerging scholars and public musicologists in Shaver-Gleason’s honor.