Published: May 14, 2017

Tony Award-winning orchestrator and MSU alumnus William David Brohn dies

Contact(s): James Forger College of Music office: (517) 355-4583, Lisa Mulcrone Media Communications office: (517) 432-0922 cell: (517) 285-1047

William David Brohn, 1955 MSU alumnus and Tony Award-winning orchestrator, died May 11. He was 84.

Brohn, born in Flint, Michigan, and educated at MSU and the New England Conservatory of Music, displayed his musical talents on many stages during his long and successful career. As a top orchestrator, he arranged scores for some of the most popular shows on Broadway including “Wicked,” “Miss Saigon,” “Mary Poppins” and “Ragtime,” for which he won a Tony Award for Best Orchestrations in 1988.

Brohn, who treasured his Michigan roots, served for the last 12 years as a member of the MSU College of Music National Leadership Council. He gave his time and financial support to the college and returned to campus often as a visiting professor.

“Bill Brohn was a lion of the Broadway stage as one of the world’s foremost orchestrators,” said James Forger, dean of the College of Music. “He was also committed to the next generation of musicians and returned to campus regularly where he worked with and mentored a wide range of students in the MSU College of Music. His searing intellect, great ear, and kind, caring nature made him one of the most popular and effective visiting professors on campus.”

He was recognized by the university with an honorary doctorate in fine arts in 1996 and was chosen grand marshal of the homecoming parade in 2015.  He was honored that year with a half-time program in Spartan Stadium that featured the hits he orchestrated for Broadway.

His first Broadway project was the 1975 revue “Rodgers & Hart” and his last “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess”in 2012. Brohn collaborated with many of the top names in musical productions during his career. In the 1980s, he began working with award-winning producer, Cameron Mackintosh. The two worked on shows such as “Carousel,” “Oklahoma!,” “Mary Poppins,” "Barnum" and “Half a Sixpence.” 

“Bill Brohn blew into my life 30 years ago when I was preparing 'Miss Saigon' and we immediately became close friends and musical collaborators on many of my productions,” said Mackintosh. “His spirit was as extraordinary as his prodigious musical talents and his ability to use individual instruments as characters in a score elevated his orchestrations to the highest level of musical art. He was also one of the kindest and most humble human beings I've ever known. His pen may have finally been put to rest, but his glorious orchestrations remain timeless and, like his memory, will lift our spirits forever.” 


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