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Dr. Steve Larson, associate professor of music theory at the University of Oregon, lost his battle with brain cancer on June 7, 2011. He was surrounded by family and friends at his home and supported via thoughts and messages by the greater community of friends, current and former students, and colleagues.

Larson held the endowed Robert M. Trotter Chair at the School of Music and Dance, where he taught undergraduate courses in basic musicianship and graduate seminars on a variety of topics. He led THEME, a group of faculty and graduate students interested in music research, and was also a member of the UO Institute of Cognitive and Decision Sciences.

Larson earned two degrees from the University of Oregon: a B.A. in music from the Honors College, and an M.A. in music theory. He also had a Ph.D. in music theory from the University of Michigan, where his dissertation, “Schenkerian Analysis of Modern Jazz,” was supported by a Rackham Fellowship and was nominated for an Outstanding Dissertation Award. He also taught at the University of Washington (1994–96) and Temple University (1987–92).

Larson’s publications, presentations, performances, and recordings reflected his interests in music theory, performance and analysis, cognitive science, and jazz. His articles appeared in leading journals of music theory and in other journals, and he contributed material to a number of books, including The New Grove Dictionary of American Music and The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz.

A sought-after speaker, Larson made dozens of presentations to universities throughout the United States and to scholarly conferences in Europe and North America. His recordings include a jazz compact disc titled Portfolio, to which he contributed compositions, arrangements, and piano improvisations. As a countertenor, he performed with various early-music ensembles, including Ars Musica. As a jazz pianist, Larson performed as a soloist and as a member of a number of groups, including the Jazz Piano Collective and The Steve Larson Trio.


Dr. Larson gave one of his last conference presentations as an invited speaker for the First International Conference on Analytical Approaches to World Music (February 2010, University of Massachusetts Amherst).