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School to honor USF music legend

The University of South Florida’s School of Music will host a memorial concert to honor the late professor Robert Helps on Sunday at 2 p.m. in Theatre 1.

Helps was an internationally recognized pianist, composer and friend to many important figures of 20th century music, including composers Roger Sessions and Aaron Copland. Helps was a member of the School of Music faculty at USF from 1985 until his death in November 2001.

At the concert, music from Helps’ favorite composers and associates, as well as his own compositions, will be performed by former students and friends. A few chosen speakers will elaborate on Helps’ life and the contributions he made to USF and to the music world.

The concert for Helps was assembled by a number of faculty and friends at USF. William Hayden, associate director for the School of Music, said the concert has been widely publicized, and he expects a significant turnout. Hayden, who performed in recitals with Helps, said they spoke often over the years because their offices were adjacent.

“Robert was well-known for his personal warmth, and he was a wonderful conversationalist,” Hayden said.

Hayden said Helps was involved with supporting the students and that he always attended student recitals.

“He was a human being first and a composer second,” he said.

Music professor Hilton Jones had a difficult time expressing the way he felt about Helps.

“Bob was one of my very best friends for a long time.” Jones said.

Robert McCormick, also a professor, said when Helps first applied for a position at USF, six Pulitzer Prize winners sent in letters of recommendation for him at his request.

“Robert was a world-class human being, and he had a substantial influence on this university. Out of everyone here on the faculty, I would say he was my best friend,” McCormick said. “Well, we would all say that he was our best friend.”