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Eric Hammer, professor of music education and director of bands

Conservatory of Music professor Eric Hammer '73 passed away Jan. 28.

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Pacific mourns passing of Conservatory professor Eric Hammer

Jan 29, 2019

Eric Hammer ’73, Pacific alumnus and director of bands and professor of music education in the Conservatory of Music, passed away Monday, Jan. 28. He was 67. Dr. Hammer had announced he would retire at the end of the academic year after leading a remarkable and impactful 26-year career at Pacific.

The Conservatory of Music will illuminate Faye Spanos Concert Hall in his honor each day until the Celebration of Life, which will be held at 10 a.m. on Feb. 10 in the Alex G. Spanos Center. 

"Eric's love of music and enthusiasm for life touched everyone who had the privilege of being in his presence. He connected with generations of young people, inspiring many of them to study music at Pacific and to become lifelong musicians and Pacificans," said Pacific President Pamela A. Eibeck. "His passion for Pacific was clear; he embodied the best of our university community."

Together with his faculty colleagues, Dr. Hammer built and sustained the Symphonic Wind Ensemble and the University Concert Band and supervised the student-led Pep Band. He has led the 50-60-member Symphonic Wind Ensemble to national prominence. The group was invited to perform a featured concert at Carnegie Hall in March of this year during the New York Wind Band Festival.

"Eric created a sense of community simply in the way he walked into a room. He brought people together, he was warm, endlessly energetic, and he believed that every child must sing, in school and throughout their lives," said Peter Witte, dean of the Conservatory of Music.

Dr. Hammer inspired young musicians teaching at summer band camp, conducting honor bands, adjudicating band festivals and giving clinics at high schools. It was not uncommon for students to say that he was the reason they enrolled at Pacific. He guided music education student teachers as they launched their careers throughout California and initiated and organized the Pacific Western Concert Band Festival held at Pacific for the past 13 years, which draws some 500 of the top student musicians from schools throughout the Western United States.

He stayed in touch with Pacific alumni across the nation, providing a way for them to connect with their alma mater, even as they built their own careers and communities. He invited them back to campus for master classes and arranged opportunities for them to interact with students through receptions and events across the state during the Concert Band or Wind Ensemble performance tours. He also brought alumni together to perform with current students at the biannual Alumni Band Concert during Homecoming Weekend, providing a rich experience for both students and alumni. He was awarded the 2009 Pacific Alumni Association Faculty Mentor Award, in recognition of his significant impact on the lives of students and alumni.

He conducted local community ensembles, such as the Valley Concert Band and, in 2016, began the New Hammer Concert Band, a professional-level wind ensemble that brings musicians together from across the state – including many alumni – for an intensive musical experience and public performance. A portion of concert ticket revenue supported music programs in local schools.

He was highly respected as an educator and conductor and recently was recognized as the Outstanding University Educator by the California Music Educators Association. His influence extended far beyond Pacific through the many hundreds of students and educators he taught in clinics and conferences or conducted in performances across the United States and abroad. In 2017, he was elected as a member of the prestigious American Bandmasters Association, which recognizes outstanding achievement on the part of concert band conductors and composers.

An Iowa native, Dr. Hammer earned his Bachelor of Music degree in University of the Pacific’s Conservatory of Music in 1973 and a teaching credential in the Gladys L. Benerd School of Education in 1974. He completed his Master of Music in wind conducting and Doctor of Musical Arts in music education at the University of Oregon. He taught in public schools for 16 years before joining the faculty of his alma mater in 1993.

He was preceded in death by his first wife, Nancy Hammer '74. He is survived by wife Patricia; daughter Elisabeth "Betsy" Hammer '09 and husband Patrick Mulcahy; sister Priscilla Burnett and husband Mark; and brother Mark Hammer and wife Dami. Dr. Hammer was loved by his students and colleagues and will be deeply missed. 

Share your memories of Dr. Hammer on the Conservatory of Music Facebook page.

View more photos from Dr. Hammer's years at Pacific

Eric Hammer leads the Alumni Band at Homecoming Weekend

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