McGill, Montreal, News

McGill and Montreal mourn the loss of Eleanor Stubley

On Aug. 14, Montreal police reported that they had found the body of Eleanor Stubley, associate professor and associate dean (Graduate Studies) of the McGill Schulich School of Music, in the southwest borough of Montreal. Stubley had been missing since Aug. 7. While police have not disclosed many details of the case to the public, no foul-play is suspected.

Eleanor Stubley earned her Ph.D. at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign before coming to McGill to teach music history and musicology in 1988. Stubley, who suffered from multiple sclerosis, joined the McGill faculty as a university lecturer and became an associate professor in 1993. Nearly two decades later, in 2006, Stubley was appointed as director of graduate studies for the School of Music.

Teaching primarily graduate students, Stubley was known for her creativity in interpreting music and developing theories on performance and philosophical topics in music.

One of Stubley’s main focuses in her academic career was what she called “the musical experience of body and place.” Her own research and work largely embodied the idea of how music and the body are intertwined.

As both a musician and a scholar, Stubley created music and words. Over the years, she wrote more than 20 research papers on musical performance. In her most recent multimedia project, “Moving Words/Moving Hands,” Stubley centered on the duality of her own hands and their ability to create profound thoughts and musical notes, though the project was left unfinished due to her passing.

“Using the hands of an architect, dancer, painter, sculptor, cartographer, and interpreter for the deaf as lenses through which to understand the embodied knowing of my own, I develop an account of musical expression as transformative act which recognizes the infinite possibilities of the hand and music in all of its variety,” Stubley wrote of the project in her curriculum vitae.

Stubley’s dedication and creativity touched the lives of many of her colleagues, including Assistant Professor of Early Music Lena Weman, who worked alongside Stubley in the School of Music and grew to know her well. In an email to The McGill Tribune, Weman wrote fondly of Stubley as a professional genius.

“Eleanor Stubley was one of the most exciting, challenging and intellectual persons that I have ever met in my entire professional life,” Weman wrote. “Working closely together with her was always a great challenge. Her demands were always the highest but at the same time, she always accepted when things went wrong [….] Her passion for musical performance as well as caring for all students was her driving force.”

Stubley’s musical and scholarly influence extended far beyond the Roddick Gates. From 1998 to 2014, Stubley served as the Musical Director for the Yellow Door Choir, a Montreal-based group focused on bringing music into the local community and donating proceeds of their performances to local charitable organizations.

Dianne Urhammer, a member of the Yellow Door Choir, was constantly inspired by Stubley’s ambition and love for music.

“She was very ambitious and very talented, musically,” Urhammer said. “She never missed rehearsal. [The choir is] still trying to get used to the idea that she is gone.”

Canadian film director Donald Winkler worked with Stubley on “The Pines of Emily Carr,” a film adaptation of Jean Coulthard’s original composition. In an email to The McGill Tribune, Winkler recalled Stubley’s passion and determination.

“[‘The Pines of Emily Carr’] was not a simple project, combining as it did musical performance, simultaneous narration, and complex visual effects,” Winkler wrote. “All through, [Stubley] maintained her poise and her sense of humour, and in the end I was proud of what we achieved, and grateful to her for having provided the opportunity.”

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