Longtime master of trumpet and Shepherd School professor passes away after ALS battle

Charlie Geyer

Charlie Geyer, the trumpet professor who spent the last decade of his celebrated career at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, passed away this week at the age of 79 after a long battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Charlie Geyer
“Charlie’s legacy will undoubtedly continue to resonate within the halls of the Shepherd School, and he will be missed tremendously by all who had the privilege of knowing him,” said Shepherd School Dean Matthew Loden.

“Charlie has left an indelible mark on the international trumpet community and our musical family, touching the lives of countless students, faculty and staff over his 11 years at the Shepherd School,” said Shepherd School Dean Matthew Loden, adding that the community sends its heartfelt condolences to Geyer’s wife and fellow faculty member Barbara Butler, daughter Jorie as well as all of Geyer’s family, friends and musical colleagues during this difficult time. “His professional achievements, including his recent recognition by the International Trumpet Guild, serve as a testament to his exceptional talent and commitment to the next generation of trumpet players.”

Less than a month ago, Geyer and Butler were honored with the International Trumpet Guild’s (ITG) Honorary Award, which is reserved for individuals who have made significant contributions to trumpet performance, teaching, publishing, research and composition. The award is traditionally bestowed toward the end of the recipients’ careers, maintaining its prestige by being highly selective. Geyer received his award last year, and Butler’s award will be presented to her soon.

“Barbara and Charlie have been perennial powerhouses in the trumpet industry for decades,” said Ryan Gardner, ITG president and Shepherd School alumnus. “From their performing career that spans many major orchestras to their featured performances as chamber musicians and soloists worldwide, we have been fortunate to hear their beauty and musicianship. They have established themselves as two of the most successful trumpet teachers of all time, placing so many students into prominent positions both as performers and as teachers. What they have done is truly extraordinary.”

Charlie Geyer award
Then-president of the International Trumpet Guild Jason Scott Bergman (left) and ITG board member Mary Thornton (right) presented Charlie Geyer with ITG's Honorary Award last year. Barbara Butler, Charlie's wife and fellow Shepherd School faculty member, was also honored.  

Geyer’s journey in trumpet began at the age of 6. By 12, he was already performing on radio in Peoria, Illinois. His early years were marked by his participation in the band program in Joliet, Illinois, setting the stage for his professional career. While attending Northwestern University, Geyer performed as principal trumpet with the Chicago Lyric Opera, and upon graduation, he joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. His tenure there lasted 12 years, during which he also served as principal trumpet with the Grant Park Symphony, then he moved to Houston to become principal at the Houston Symphony.

Geyer’s academic credentials include bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Northwestern, where he studied under Herb Stoskopf, Adolph Herseth and Vincent Cichowicz. His teaching career has been equally distinguished with professorships at the Eastman School of Music and Northwestern before joining Rice’s faculty in 2013. Geyer has been a frequent recitalist and soloist, performing and recording with the Chicago, Houston and Grand Teton symphony orchestras, Eastman Brass, Music of the Baroque and Chicago Chamber Musicians.

“Charlie’s legacy will undoubtedly continue to resonate within the halls of the Shepherd School, and he will be missed tremendously by all who had the privilege of knowing him,” Loden said.