Our hearts go out to the friends, family, colleagues, and Brothers of Dr. Philip Autry, who passed away this morning after battling a rare form of cancer for the past year. Brother Autry’s dedication to music, his students, his community, and his Fraternity Brothers was apparent throughout his life, and many will miss his friendship and tutelage.
Brother Autry was initiated in April of 1999 at the Mu Gamma Chapter at Angelo State University. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from Lipscomb University, his Master of Arts degree from Middle Tennessee State University, and his title of Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Oklahoma. Autry also received program certificates from the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, commemorating study at the Gnessin Institute and the Saint-Petersburg Conservatory.
For nearly 30 years, Dr. Autry taught piano as a private teacher, studio staff, graduate teaching assistant, and university professor. His students have played or been placed in auditions sponsored by the National Guild of Piano Teachers, Music Teachers National Association, and state and local organizations in Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Texas.
As a piano soloist, he performed throughout the United States and presented at national conferences of MTNA, MENC, as well as the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy and World Piano Pedagogy Conference. Autry’s playing has been described as “clarity and precision coupled with feeling and emotion.” His principal teachers include Jerome Reed, Jerry Perkins (Eta-Omicron 1960), and Andrew Cooperstock.
Recent performances with pianist William P. Coleman (Zeta Rho – 2014) and violinist Stefan Petrescu, brought attention to lesser-known chamber music by African-American composers and highlighted the music of John W. Work III (Zeta Rho – 1953) and William Grant Still. In 2014, Roland Carter (Beta Epsilon – 1965) arranged two Spirituals for the Coleman-Autry piano duo, to be presented at Fisk University’s Jubilee Day concert. In 2018, Brother Autry and Brother Coleman presented two concerts during the 56th National Convention, in New Orleans.
Other professional activity includes participation in the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy and Mentors and Coordinators Conference of the United Negro College Fund and Mellon Foundation. He was a co-coordinator for the first annual Historically Black College/University Conductors Summit at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. He served as Tennessee Music Teachers Association President through the 2005–2007 biennium.
Dr. Autry was awarded the Ridley/Jones Prize from the Fisk University History Department for original, primary research on Fisk University. His study included the preparation of performance scores from microfilmed manuscripts and documents in the Fisk University Library. The research was presented in a lecture-recital on the 2009 Piersen Lecture Series. Music Teachers National Association recognized his service to the Music Teaching Profession by naming him an MTNA Foundation Fellow at the 2014 National Conference. Additionally, he is the recipient of the Gail Boyd de Stwolinski Award from the University of Oklahoma School of Music.
Dr. Autry began his career at Fisk University in August of 2001. In his time at Fisk University, he served as the Professor of Music, Music Discipline Coordinator and the Chairman of the Department of Arts and Languages.
Just as with every other aspect of his life, Brother Autry’s work for Sinfonia showed significant commitment and dedication. In addition to his role as Faculty Advisor to the Zeta Rho Chapter, Brother Autry has served, mentored, and supported Brothers as the Province Governor of Province 15 for nearly a decade. He has changed countless lives with his music and friendship. For his numerous hours giving himself to others and working to make a difference, the Fraternity recognized Brother Autry in 2015 as Province Governor of the Year.
When his health got worse, there were two things that Brother Autry requested; to sing with Brothers and to be the recipient of the Fraternity’s Orpheus Award. In late January of this year, over 30 Brothers gathered at the Health Center at Richland Place, where their voices joined together to lift his spirit with camaraderie and a few Fraternity songs. On February 19, the night before he passed, he was presented with the Orpheus Award for his significant and lasting contributions to music.
While we are saddened to share the loss of our Brother, we are heartened to know that his influence will live on in the lives he touched.
Requiescat in pace, frater.