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AFS Review: In Memoriam

Rick Gagné (1961-2014)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Jesse A. Fivecoate

By Thomas A. McKean — 

Rick Gagné – Ethnomusicologist, Gravestone Scholar, and Musician – died at home in Clinton, MS, on May 28, 2014. 

Rick grew up on the campus of Lawrence Academy, graduated from Dartmouth College, and completed a PhD at Indiana in 2004, inspired, in particular, by Henry Glassie and Warren Roberts.

Music Rick was an accomplished tin whistle, tenor banjo, and cittern player who played in several bands, starting with DunCreagan at Dartmouth and later Reel to Reel in Bloomington, Indiana, where he started the Irish music session. He took part in sessions from New England to Mississippi for over 30 years and composed around 100 tunes, some of them now widely played. He was also an ethnomusicologist who wrote the definitive professional biography of Ralph Rinzler, founder of the Smithsonian’s Folklife Festival.

Gravestones For 30 years, Rick meticulously documented the work of colonial New England gravestone carvers and explored its place in American history and culture. In his last months he was completing an article describing the verses on these stones as the earliest examples of American oral literature.

Teaching In 2006 Rick joined the English Department at Tougaloo College, where he was a demanding, dedicated, and encouraging teacher. In his final weeks he spent many hours commenting on student papers, and was delighted when one of his advisees won the college prize for best senior thesis.

Rick’s deepest satisfaction in life was found within his family. He was a loving son and brother, an enthusiastic uncle, and a devoted husband, who relished fatherhood and rejoiced in his children.


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