Harold Aks, emeritus member of the Sarah Lawrence faculty, who taught music and directed the College's chorus and chamber choir from 1954-1992, died on June 30. 2000.
Aks taught music theory, choral conducting, music history, choral and symphonic analysis, and vocal chamber music at Sarah Lawrence, a small, academically rigorous liberal arts college known for its integration of the creative and performing arts into the curriculum. As director of the Sarah Lawrence European Chorus, Aks took groups of students on performing tours of Europe and the Middle East, appearing at many of the major European festivals.
"Harold Aks was a central figure in the history of the College," said Barbara Kaplan, Dean of the College. "His talent and ability were legendary, bringing international attention to the College's chorus and chamber choir, and earning the love and respect of generations of students over the years."
As a choral director and teacher Aks attempted to dispel the myth that children could be tone deaf. "We have young children who do not reproduce sounds well being told not to sing," he said in an interview in 1963, offering advice on how to improve a child's ability to sing. "This is like telling a child who is nearsighted not to look, or a child who hasn't learned reading yet not to read."
During his career he conducted and lectured at the Mannes College of Music, the Juilliard School, Mills College, the Walden School and the new Lincoln School. He was conductor of the chorus and lecturer at the Dalton School for fifty years as well as conductor of the Dalton Alumni Chorus. Aks was also musical director and chief lecturer of the St. Moritz International Choir Festival for 16 years and served as guest conductor with symphony orchestras in the United States and Europe. He had conducted the New York Interracial Fellowship chorale for many years.
Aks was a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music in New York and studied composition with Wallingford Riegger, choral conducting with Robert Shaw and orchestral conducting with Pierre Monteux.