USF School of Music professor Robert Helps, who was known throughout the world as a composer and pianist, died of cancer on Nov. 24. He was 73 years old.
Christopher Doane, who is the director for the School of Music, said Helps was an unassuming man who was intense about his work.
“It’s a huge loss not only for the School of Music, but for (music internationally),” Doane said. “(Helps) was a world-renowned figure.”
Doane said Helps first came to USF as a visiting professor in 1980. Helps joined the faculty full time in 1985. In addition to his teaching duties, Helps composed and toured.
Doane said Helps was highly respected and always worked with the best interest of the university in mind.
“(Helps) was very popular with the faculty and the students,” he said. “He was extremely easy to work with because his goals were the same all of us shared.”
Before coming to USF, Helps was the professor of piano at several prestigious universities including Princeton and Stanford. He gained international recognition as a solo and chamber music performer and for his compositions. He received several awards and recorded for such labels as Columbia and Victor. Helps worked with several internationally famous performers including such stars as soprano Bethany Beardslee and pianist Aaron Copland.
Doane said having a person who was internationally respected was a great benefit for music at USF.
“He was a fine teacher,” Doane said. “It was only recently that he gained the fame locally that he had internationally.”
Helps composed piano concertos that have been performed by such groups as the Oakland Symphony and the Manhattan Conservatory. Helps’s most recent compositions included a 1992 organ solo, called “The Altered Landscape” and “Shall We Dance,” a 1994 piano solo. Doane said Helps performed for the final time internationally in Berlin last summer.
Doane said Helps will be remembered for his extensive abilities as both a performer and a composer.
“As a performer you want to leave a legacy of recordings, and Bob has certainly done that,” he said. “As a composer you have a legacy of music (for as long as) it is continued to be played.”
Doane said even with international fame, Helps remained humble and was a great benefit to his students and fellow faculty members. He said the death of Helps will be felt not only at USF, but throughout the music world.
“(Helps) loved performing and he loved his colleagues,” Doane said. “He is a major loss.”
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