Joseph E. Fields, associate professor, music administrator and orchestra director at Marywood University since 2005, died Friday, July 4, 2008, in Scranton, Pa. He was 53. The cause of death was a sepsis infection which brought on acute renal failure.
Dr. Fields was the music director and principal conductor of the Dance Theatre of Harlem from 1998 through 2004 and conducted the company's many tours both here and abroad including the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Orchestra, the Royal Birmingham Sinfonia at Sadler Well's, London, the Shanghai Broadcast Symphony, the Victoria State Orchestra, Melbourne, Australia, and the Dance Theater of Harlem Orchestra at the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center and at City Center for the Performing Arts. Dr. Fields created additional music, arrangements and orchestrations of music for the company, most notably the company's 2003 production of Mercer and Arlan's St. Louis Woman for which he wrote a tango that became a signature piece of the ballet and was performed at the International Ballet Festival in Paris in 2005.
Joseph Fields was born on Jan. 3, 1955, in Miami, Okla. He graduated summa cum laude in 1977 from the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music where he also received his master's degree in 1979, studying under David Bar-Illan. He received a Doctor of Musical Arts (Piano Performance) from the Manhattan School of Music in 1985. His doctoral thesis examined Samuel Barber's Sonata for Piano in E-Flat Minor, Op 26.
Dr. Fields was also the executive director of the Brooklyn Music School from 1997 to 1998. From 1986 to 1997, he taught piano at the music school of the Lighthouse Inc. and was appointed director of the music school in 1995.
Dr. Fields was the first place winner in the Memphis Young Artists Competition and was a recipient of the Brahmshaus Scholarship from the Brahmsgesellschaft in Baden-Baden, Germany, where he gave an all Brahm's piano recital at the Weinbrennersaal of the Kurhaus.
Dr. Fields continued an active schedule of solo piano and chamber music concerts throughout his career. He gave solo piano concerts at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, the Harvard Club and Lincoln Center Walter Bruno Auditorium. With the Dance Theatre of Harlem, he performed concerto and duo-piano compositions at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He performed chamber music concerts at the Roerich Museum, Barge Music Inc. Symphony Hall, Memphis, Tenn., and the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C.
At Marywood University, Dr. Fields was striven to instill professionalism and the quality of performance repertoire, expanding the number of performances (two full orchestra concerts per year) with challenging repertoire including the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major (with Dr. Fields as both piano soloist and conductor), Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E-minor and the Brahm's “Alto Rhapsody,” featuring a male chorus made up of men from Marywood's Campus Choir and Chamber Singers in collaboration with a large men's chorus from the Wyoming Seminary in Wilkes-Barre.
Also at Marywood, Dr. Fields continued to compose and perform including his “Kyrie” for five-voice choir and song cycles based on poems by e.e. cummings. One of the songs, “I Am A Little Church,” was performed at the opening dedication of Marywood's new Schwartz Chapel.
Dr. Fields is survived by his domestic partner, Ron Melichar; his parents, Buddy and Betty; his brother, David and his wife Connie of Miami, Okla.; a brother, Daniel and his wife Terri of Tulsa, Okla.; a sister, Sara of Tulsa, Okla., and many nieces and nephews.
Memorial services are planned in the fall at both Marywood University and at St. Michaels Church, 99th and Amsterdam in New York City.
The funeral services will be at All Saints' Episcopal Church, 225 B St. NW, Miami, Okla., on Friday, July 11, at 11 a.m. followed by internment at the Fields Cemetery at Grove, Okla.
The family will receive friends Thursday from 6 to 7 p.m. at Paul Thomas Funeral Home in Miami, Okla.
The family suggests donations to Dr. Joseph E. Fields Scholarship in care of Paul Thomas Funeral Home.