Eldon R. Obrecht


Eldon R. Obrecht, 90, died Monday, March 7, 2011, at Oaknoll Retirement Residence in Iowa City, Iowa.

Eldon was born June 9, 1920, in Rolfe, Iowa; son of William Obrecht and Harriet (ne: Petronek) Obrecht. He was an accomplished music educator, performer, composer, author, musician, and most of all a loving husband and father.

From an early age Eldon chose a life that embraced music. His first music lessons were given by the pianist who supplied background music for the silent films at his father’s movie house, the Ritz Theater, a Mrs. LaChance. In 1933, the superintendent of schools in Rolfe decided that the school needed an orchestra. Eldon Obrecht was chosen to play double bass, a single instrument, which he shared with another student.

After winning high school music competitions in Iowa, his father built a special box to carry the bass on top of the car and the whole family drove to Cleveland, Ohio for the National Music Contest, where he received a “Superior” rating. In this way he attracted the attention of the University of Iowa’s music department head and was just 16 when he went on to college in Iowa City.

He met Maxine Schlanbusch, a lyric soprano who shared his passion for music. At the time they were both graduate assistants at the University of Iowa. In 1943, she and Eldon were married. They had four daughters, musicians all.

Shortly after marriage Eldon served in the U.S. Navy during WWII. After returning home, he lived briefly in Boston studying double bass with Ludwig Juht. He auditioned and was accepted into the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington D.C. He was subsequently invited back to the University of Iowa to pursue his doctoral degree and join the faculty. Symphony in C was his doctoral thesis. This piece was performed by the University Orchestra on April 19, 1950. The soprano part in two movements, settings of poems by Shelley, was performed by Maxine.

Eldon will be remembered by many musicians and non-musicians as the persuasive and quietly charismatic teacher of the Music Appreciation Classes that were for 20 years broadcast live from the classroom on WSUI radio. During his tenure at the University of Iowa, he taught double bass, music theory, composition, and music appreciation. He collaborated with a colleague, Tom Turner, in writing a book on musical form and analysis. As a composer he wrote three symphonies, a concerto, and many other works. He launched many students into careers, not all of which ended in music. He was always known for his cheerful attitude, a gentle and inspiring man.

Eldon’s family includes his daughters, Nancy Jephcote of Martha’s Vineyard, Celia Obrecht of Bellingham, Wash., Julia Hardie of Waco, Texas, and Martha Spangler of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; their husbands and families including 10 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his brother, Robert Obrecht, of Redding, Conn., his nieces and nephew Caroline, Suzanne, and Bill, and their families.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Maxine, his parents, and a brother, Arthur Erwin Obrecht.

A memorial service will be held 1:30 pm on Saturday, April 2, 2011, at the Gay & Ciha Funeral Home in Iowa City.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Eldon Obrecht Fund at the University of Iowa School of Music, which will be used to fund a scholarship in his name. Contributions may be sent to the University of Iowa Foundation, c/o Eldon Obrecht Fund, P.O. Box 4550, Iowa City, IA 52244. Online condolences may be sent to Eldon’s family through the web at gayandciha.com.