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August 9, 1932 - March 13, 2021
Peacefully, at Hospice Simcoe in Barrie, March 13th, 2021 at the age of 88. Beloved husband of Beverly (Bond). Loving father of Nik (Kasia) and Dan (Caitlyn) and cherished grandfather of Avery, Emma Rose and Alexander.
A musicologist and Professor Emeritus at York University, Austin was an educator at heart, devoted to the arts in public education and the minds of young and old. His life was a living example of lifelong learning, guided by spiritual examination, authenticity, and the the creative self.
George Austin Elliott Clarkson, musicologist was born Aug 9 1932, 5th of 7 children in London, England to George Elliott Clarkson and Alice Helene Mannaberg. Predeceased by his brothers and sister: John M.E. Clarkson, Max B.E Clarkson, Lillian de Arias. William M.E. Clarkson, Geoffrey P.E. Clarkson, Stephen H. E. Clarkson.
The family came to Canada on the Empress of Britain and were naturalized in 1940. Austin’s early education was at Upper Canada College and St. Andrew’s College. He returned home to Primrose Hill for weekends and summers to help on the family farm.
He spent his undergraduate years at the University of Toronto (B.A. Science, 1953). There he was captain of the soccer team and a friend of Glenn Gould with whom he attended the South Rosedale Shakespeare Reading Society. While studying science, Austin continued with his passion for music having private lessons from Oskar Morawetz and Richard Johnston (harmony and composition) and from Greta Kraus and Alberto Guerrero (piano).
Austin then moved to the Eastman School of Music in Rochester in 1955 to pursue his music studies. (1955). After which, he was offered a position in Saskatoon, at the University of Saskatchewan where he taught for 3 years.
Committed to the study of musicology, he moved to New York to attend Columbia University where he embarked on the life changing study of contemporary music, working under the composer Stefan Wolpe. It was at Columbia, that he met his beloved Beverly, wife of 58 years. They married in 1962, starting a family shortly thereafter.
Austin continued his studies at Columbia and, in 1965, became the founding editor and contributor of a new musicology journal, Current Musicology. The journal is still flourishing. In 2005, he contributed to its 40th issue with a piece entitled, “Structures of Fantasy and Fantasies of Structure”: Engaging the Aesthetic Self.”
Graduating from Columbia, he completed his Ph. D. degree and in 1967 the family moved to New Haven, Connecticut, where Austin pursued his career as a professor of music history at Yale University. His special interests enlivened the curriculum for five years. He was invited to become the American Musicology Society delegate to the American Council of the Arts in Education. This experience inspired Austin’s lifelong commitment to educating youth and maintaining a strong connection between arts and education.
In 1972, choosing to move to a young, dynamic university, Austin and his family settled in Toronto, Canada, where he took the position of chairman of the music department at York University. In 1981 when the Stefan Wolpe Society was founded in New York, Austin was named chairperson and he contributed a life’s work to the editing, publishing and restoring of Wolpe’s musical works, writings and correspondence. The Foundation continues with this work today. Pursuing his interests, Austin taught courses on Canadian Music, with emphasis on indigenous music and that of the 20th century. An invitation to join the board of the Toronto-based New Music Concerts, led to his 20-year term as president.
Throughout his personal and professional journey, Austin was deeply moved by Jungian analytic psychology. This dedication prompted him to develop ways of being that would activate the creative imagination and build authenticity of self. These experiences led to the formation of the Milkweed Collective in which people from many walks of life embraced the arts through movement, visual art, song and storytelling. His exercises in activating the creative imagination married well with his commitment to arts in education. In 2002 he created the Exploring Creativity in Depth (ECiD) program which continued to develop over two decades providing programs to thousands of young students led by artist-teachers exploring their creative potential through visioning exercises, exploratory art, authentic works and sharing their experiences in small groups.
Austin presented his research and findings from ECiD to many audiences. His report, My Mind a Beautiful Thing: Imagination, Art, and Creativity in Elementary Education (2011), was shared from Canada to the U. S. A. to Great Britain and South America. Austin’s summative message was that creativity is an integral component of the self and that exploring structures of the creative imagination is crucial to cognitive and psycho-social development and therefore an essential element of education. He took an early retirement from York to devote his energies to the ECiD, to the ongoing work on Wolpe and to writing.
In 2017, Austin and Beverly moved to Barrie, Ontario, where they were invited to present a workshop based on the ECID program in response to the Call to Action #83 of the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report. Austin established a program in elementary schools in Simcoe County based on the principles of ECiD. Profoundly affected by the findings of the Commission, the couple introduced elementary school children to personal work with the imagination and, with the assistance of the Indigenous Studies Program at Georgian College, also conveyed information on the history and cultural traditions of First Nations People. Over three years, they trained three cohorts of facilitators – settlers as well as indigenous – to carry the work forward.
A celebration of life is to follow. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Hospice Simcoe or the Barrie Native Friendship Centre. Messages of condolence may be forwarded to the family through www.adamsfuneralhome.ca