Dear <<First Name>>,

We send you this message from Bard College President Leon Botstein about the death of Luis Garcia-Renart, longtime professor of music and musician extraordinaire. Luis was also an LLI presenter and conductor of the Bard Community Chorus, in which several LLI members sang. We join with the entire Bard community in mourning his passing:

It is with deep sadness and regret that I announce to the Bard community the death, this morning, of my close friend and esteemed colleague, Luis Garcia-Renart. Luis turned 84 this past June, a month ago. He taught at Bard continuously since 1962. Last year was his 58th year of uninterrupted service as a teacher.

Luis was a true natural in all things musical. He was possessed of a fabulous ear. He communicated in his playing, conducting, and teaching the full measure of music’s power. He had an infectious belief in the power of music, in all its forms, and music’s capacity to communicate. His command of music was consummate.

Luis began his career as a brilliant, prize-winning virtuoso ʼcellist. Although acclaimed around the world and honored with many prizes and medals, Luis chose the vocation of teaching. He succeeded Emil Hauser, the venerable founder of the Budapest String Quartet, at Bard in 1962. He, like Hauser before him, became the primary teacher of instrumental music at the college. Hauser had been a colleague of Pablo Casals, the great Catalan cellist and humanist. Luis was a beloved protégé of Casals, arguably the greatest cellist in modern history, and the foremost exponent of Casals’ approach to music making.

Luis was born to a proud Catalan and Spanish family that was fiercely loyal to the Republic of Spain. With the fall of the Republic, Luis’s family took refuge in Mexico, the nation that uniquely opened its doors to refugees from the Republic of Spain in the 1930s. He was brought up in Mexico and remained for his entire life a staunch Mexican patriot. He was also a fierce advocate of the Catalan language. Like his sister Marta, a distinguished pianist who survives him, Luis showed extraordinary aptitude as a child. Luis’s father sent him, as a boy, to Pablo Casals, who supervised his training as a musician. After years of studying with Casals, Luis went to Soviet Russia to study with Mstislav Rostropovich, who remembered him—the “Spanish one”—with admiration and affection. Along the way Luis also became a fantastic guitarist. And he was a fabulous linguist and avid stamp collector.

Despite his talent and accomplishments as an instrumentalist, Luis was never comfortable with the values and demands of an international concert career. As he and his students discovered, Luis was born to teach. He loved teaching. At Bard, he was as generous with a beginner as he was with an advanced student. He turned no one away and believed in the potential of every student. He was the finest chamber music coach I have ever observed and the most gifted counselor on the complex subject of string playing. Luis taught everything in Bard’s music curriculum. In every lesson and in every class the intensity of emotion and beauty of form in all manner of musics were never absent.

During his many years in the Hudson Valley, Luis served as principal ʼcellist in the Hudson Valley Philharmonic and played countless concerts as a soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician. He also taught for many years at Vassar College, alongside his Bard appointment. Luis turned to conducting in the 1970s and was acting music director of the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, conductor of the Cappella Festiva, the first Bard Community Chorus, the Bard College Orchestra, and the Woodstock Chamber Orchestra. Among the most memorable of his concerts was an unannounced midnight performance of Mexican songs, here at Bard, with Luis playing the guitar and singing.

In his last decade and a half Luis became an essential part of the founding faculty of Bard’s Conservatory of Music, primarily as a coach. Musicians, not only string players, but instrumentalists of all types and singers went to perform for him, seeking his advice and counsel. The conservatory students experienced in Luis’s final years as a teacher not only his love of music, but his striving for expressive commitment and perfection so that no note and musical phrase fails to reach the heart and soul of the listener. Countless musicians, many of great distinction, owe a deep debt to Luis’s instruction. The list of professionals whom he influenced is astonishing. To that list we must add generations of Bard students, musicians and non-musicians alike. Luis instilled the love of music as an essential form of life. An extraordinary belief in music and a unique link to the great 20th-century traditions of performance were sparked and sustained by Luis’s teaching. And he loved Bard and was grateful to it.

Luis Garcia-Renart is survived by his sister and his children—Marcel, Isel, Evan, Julian, and AnaIsabel. His daughter, Kati Garcia-Renart ’89, who teaches dance at Simon’s Rock, and his former wife, Prudence Garcia-Renart ’65, lovingly cared for Luis during his final illness these past months

I speak for the entire Bard community, including many generations of colleagues and alumni/ae, when I extend to his family our heartfelt condolences. The funeral and interment will be private. Luis’s ashes will be buried in the Bard College Cemetery. A memorial will take place at a date in the future when the making of music in real time and real space, unimpeded by fear or danger—the experience to which Luis Garcia-Renart’s life was devoted—can be resumed.

Leon Botstein
President, Bard College
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