An ear for music

Teachers discovered Crutcher’s talent in junior high school

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Print this page by Robert Powell
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Photo courtesy University of Richmond

Ronald Crutcher’s career as a cellist, music professor and college administrator began when a music teacher at his junior high school in Cincinnati tested all of the students on their sense of pitch.

The test revealed Crutcher had an excellent sense of pitch, he recalled in a Richmond Times-Dispatch column on the value of a liberal arts education. The teacher then gave him the choice of any instrument to play.

“I chose the cello,” Crutcher said in the column. “I could, in retrospect, conjure some artful, far-seeing reason for this choice, but the truth is that at the time, I was 14 years old and self-conscious about my body, and I reasoned that I could hide easily behind a cello.”

But he couldn’t hide his talent. Just eight months later, he played two movements of a Bach suite at a state music teachers competition. In the audience was Elizabeth Potteiger, a music professor at Miami University of Ohio.

She invited him to attend a music camp at the university. After the camp, she offered to provide Crutcher free lessons on Saturdays if he could find a way to travel each week from Cincinnati to the university in Oxford, Ohio, 35 miles away.

For three years, he made the trip to the university, a three-hour roundtrip on two different bus lines. But the effort paid off. At 17, he won the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Young Artist Competition.  He attended Miami University of Ohio on a merit scholarship and graduated as a member of the academic honor society Phi Beta Kappa. Crutcher went on to study at Yale where he earned a master’s degree and the first doctoral degree in musical arts awarded to a cellist by the university.
A music professor for many years, he moved into administration while at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in the 1980s.

Crutcher returned to Miami University of Ohio as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs in 1999 before becoming president of Wheaton College in Norton, Mass., in 2004.

He is a former member of his hometown Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and performed with several other orchestras. Since 1980, he has been a member of The Klemperer Trio.

Crutcher will perform in a solo recital in the Richmond Symphony’s summer series on July 7.

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