Carnegie Mellon University
Lance LaDuke, Douglas Ahlstedt and Mildred Miller Posvar

In Memoriam

Remembering Lance LaDuke, Douglas Ahlstedt and Mildred Miller Posvar

written by
Dan Fernandez

The School of Music lost three dear friends and colleagues in fall 2023 who are all deeply missed.

Prof. Lance LaDuke tragically passed away in December at the age of 56 from injuries sustained in a devastating fall. He was a professor, a euphonium player, an ensemble director, an advisor, an expert in entrepreneurship, a multimedia series producer and host, an avant-garde artist, and a friend to scores of students, alumni, faculty and staff at Carnegie Mellon.

Former Head of the School of Music Denis Colwell remarked, “For those who knew him, it goes without saying that Lance possessed an extremely well-developed sense of humor that enlivened every meeting he attended. Lance leaves behind a legacy of dedicated students, amazing entrepreneurship, compassionate care for colleagues and a too-short career of great musicianship.”

“Dedicated to the well-being of all students, Lance supported ideas and initiatives beyond his studio,” recalled Gino Mollica, a 2020 alumnus in vocal performance. “His creativity and innovation manifested in projects like the Modern Musicking Show and the SubSurface: Site-Specific Sight & Sound concert, showcasing his commitment to enhancing the student experience.”

LaDuke was an associate teaching professor in euphonium and music business, as well as coordinator of special and creative projects, director of the Tartan Tuba Band and the first-year advisor to undergraduate students in the School of Music. During his distinguished career, he performed with numerous outstanding ensembles including the Pittsburgh Symphony and Philadelphia Orchestra and taught at prestigious institutions around the world including the Juilliard School, the Royal Academy of Music and the Hong Kong Academy for the Performing Arts. He joined the CMU faculty part-time in 2003 and received his full-time appointment in 2012.

Jesse Stiles, associate professor of sound media, remembered that after founding the Exploded Ensemble with LaDuke in 2016: “Within a span of two years we went from having no experimental music group to having music critics hail our students’ efforts as leading the city in musical bravery. The work was never-ending, but it was filled with so much laughter and light that it all felt somehow effortless.”

Retired Professor of Voice, Douglas Ahlstedt, 78, passed away in November. An Army veteran who served in Okinawa in the 1960s, he went on to study at Eastman School of Music before he embarked on an operatic career at the San Francisco Opera, Deutsche Oper am Rhein and the Metropolitan Opera.

A tenor, Ahlstedt sang over 60 roles at the Met Opera in over 200 performances. He joined the faculty at the Carnegie Mellon School of Music from 1998 through his retirement in 2020 where he trained generations of singers and charmed his colleagues with his kindness and generosity.

“Doug Ahlstedt was not only a dear friend to me,” recalled Associate Teaching Professor Roseanna Irwin, “but he was also my mentor at Carnegie Mellon. He was never too busy to share a cup of soup or make a cup of espresso for me … Doug was kind, positive and a good listener. He was proud of his students and would have done anything for them to help advance their careers.”

Mildred Miller Posvar, retired artist lecturer in voice and one of the leading operatic voices of the 20th century, also died in November at the age of 98. Her incredible career included 23 consecutive seasons at the Metropolitan Opera where she sang in 338 performances, including a record-setting 61 outings as “Cherubino” in Mozart’s "The Marriage of Figaro."

Born in 1924 in Cleveland to German immigrant parents, she studied at Cleveland Institute of Music and New England Conservatory of Music. A mezzo-soprano, she went on to perform at every major opera company in the United States as well as the great European houses, was a regular on radio and television (including “The Ed Sullivan Show”), and performed with such luminaries as Leonard Bernstein, Plácido Domingo, Leontyne Price and George London.

Miller married Wesley Wentz Posvar, a former high school classmate of hers, who went on to become the chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh. As the First Lady of Pitt, she was a major booster of Pitt athletics and played host to an array of functions and events in that capacity. She was a civic leader who supported many cultural organizations in Pittsburgh, including the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Pittsburgh Opera.

She founded the Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, now known as Pittsburgh Festival Opera, in 1978 with Helen Knox, and was heavily involved in nurturing new artists through both Opera Theater and the annual Mildred Miller International Voice Competition. She taught voice at Carnegie Mellon for over 20 years, only retiring in 2020 at the age of 95.

Mark Carver, associate teaching professor of collaborative piano, remembered that, “Millie was one of a kind … artist, teacher, friend. I remember taking her to dinner on her 90th birthday; her comment to me was, ‘Beethoven and I share the same birthday … but he's a little older!’”

Marianne Cornetti, artist lecturer in voice, took over both Miller’s teaching studio at CMU and also artistic leadership of the Pittsburgh Festival Opera. “Millie loved, adored and nurtured young opera singers; it was her passion. She is the true meaning of a legend in Pittsburgh and the operatic world! She touched many, many singers and gave them their start. She will be missed, but never forgotten.”