I lost a very good friend a few weeks ago, Dr. Roger Doyle. Roger was not only my choral directing mentor and an enormous influence on my musical life, but to my life in general. I don't think my experience as one of his students was unusual when I say that he was perhaps closer to being a father figure to me than my own father.
Roger died from ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. Over a period of three or four years, Roger gradually lost motor control of his body, all while his mind continued to function. For a man who lived for conversation and whose career required fine motor control of his body (especially his hands), this must have been hellish, although I never heard him complain ever.
He was 72 years old. My own father died at 75 and it felt as though it was his "time" to go, but Roger still had a lot to say and do with his life.
With my mother also in her final days (and much of the last six months she has not been "with" us), it seems to me that all of the people who were my authority figures have gone. There are still many friends who I look up to and treasure their opinions and talents, but these two people were the last of this group from my formative years.
For those who don't know who Roger was, this article was published in the Oregonian today. I have heard it is hard to find online, so I have put a scan of the file in my DropBox public folder, and you are welcome to read it. My apologies for the quality, I was not the person who scanned it. So you know, I performed with Roger with the University Singers at U of Portland, Choral Arts Ensemble of Portland, the Balladeers (a group I now direct, at Roger's request), and I also performed two of the G&S shows at Mock's Crest back when the company was first formed. I met my wife in the University Singers, and asked her out on our first date while putting away music. I acted as Roger's assistant with the University Singers at the Master's level, and also performed the Missa Solemnis, prominently mentioned in the article under his direction.
Roger was also a friend. We roomed together in Sydney, Australia, when we attended the World Choral Music Symposium in 1996. When I was at U Colorado, Boulder and struggling to understand a radically different academic environment than I'd been in at U of Portland getting my Master's degree, Roger was an anchor to sanity when he came out for the ACDA convention in San Diego, where I was performing with the UC undergrad choir as a ringer. We enjoyed meals together on many occasions, and I did a lot of tech support for him for over 20 years, both in his home and occasionally for his work. When the daughter I gave up for adoption contacted us, Roger was one of the first people we told.
I've even been told I look quite a bit like him, but then overweight white guys with shaved heads and glasses tend to look like each other I guess.
Please keep Roger's widow, Kay, and all of Roger's many many students in your thoughts and prayers.