WPI’s Maestro Takes a Final Bow
When Doug Weeks, administrator of music and associate head of the Department of Humanities and Arts, joined the WPI faculty part-time in 1980 (he would become just its third full-time music instructor in 1987), the Institute’s modest instrumental music program had one performing group: a 15-piece brass ensemble. Today, the university teems with opportunities to not only perform instrumental and choral music, but to study it, to pursue it as a minor or major, to explore it deeply through project work, and to bring it to appreciative audiences around the globe.
“We associate Bill Grogan with the WPI Plan; we associate Doug Weeks with the WPI music program,” said Phil Ryan ’65, former chairman of the WPI Board of Trustees and former acting president of the university, at a virtual celebration in May to honor Weeks’s WPI career. “Both of you have had and will continue to have a very big impact.”
We associate Bill Grogan with the WPI Plan; we associate Doug Weeks with the WPI music program.Phil Ryan ’65
The celebration marked Weeks’s belated retirement. Having planned to step down at the end of the 2019–20 academic year, he agreed to extend his tenure for another year to help the university prepare to fill his oversized shoes. Little did he know that his final year as a full-time faculty member would be one of the most challenging of his career, as the COVID-19 pandemic made face-to-face instruction and in-person performances before audiences difficult, if not impossible.
“After 40-plus years, I imagine this one stood out,” President Laurie Leshin said. “I’ve been talking at every Commencement ceremony [six were held in June 2021] about how amazing it is that our music and theatre groups figured out how not to be held back by this pandemic, to continue to bring joy to people, and to let people continue to express themselves. They did that with great guides and great teachers, and you are both, Doug.”
A running theme during the celebration that one heard from students and alumni who contributed to a 2½-hour video tribute to Weeks (and from noted alumnus Sergio Salvatore ’02, acclaimed pianist and senior director of engineering at Vimeo, who appeared by Zoom to perform an original composition called Although), is that under Weeks’s leadership, WPI has become well known among prospective students who are interested both in music and in studying at a top STEM university.
Weeks, himself, is well known at WPI as the conductor of WPI’s Concert Band, Orchestra, and Brass Ensemble and as an educator who developed well-attended courses in American Popular Music, Music Arranging, and Performance and who advised award-winning humanities and arts projects and Major Qualifying Projects. But he also made his mark in the region and around the world as a trombonist who has performed with symphony orchestras, with live theatre groups, and with noted artists like Luciano Pavarotti, Christopher O’Reilly, Henry Mancini, and Leon Fleicher. He is an educator who has served as a guest conductor, clinician, and adjudicator at music festivals; as a mentor, teacher, and performer with students at the Al Kamandjati Music School in Ramallah, Palestine; and as a global ambassador who has taken WPI ensembles on tour in the United States and throughout Europe, Russia, and Egypt.
As the event concluded, Weeks promised that, while his retirement will mark the conclusion of his formal career, there are sure to be many encores in the years ahead as he remains involved with the university and its music scene. One of the first of those may come next spring when the university will hold a special concert to honor Weeks, complete with the debut performance of a new work especially commissioned for the event.
“I want to thank a far-sighted administration, as well as the wonderful students who have incorporated music as part of the Humanities and Arts program at WPI and the WPI Plan,” Weeks said at the conclusion of the event. “I walked into a school with a structure in place, and it has been exciting to see it grow and expand. And to see all of these students and alumni here today, some of whom I have not seen in years, is truly overwhelming. I am amazed, and I thank you all so much.”