“I’ve been blessed with this job. It is a lot of hard work, but I can’t think of anywhere else I would want to work or nicer people to work with. I have loved this job. The hardest part is giving it up because I love it.”
— Harold Herman
on his retirement from full-time teaching
The Winchester Star, May 29, 2004
Shenandoah Conservatory began the year with the loss of one of its iconic figures when Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Theatre and Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre (SSMT) Founder and Artistic Director Emeritus Harold “Hal” Herman, B.A., passed away Jan. 13 at age 83.
Herman’s influence on the conservatory and musical theatre, both at the university and throughout the region, is immeasurable.
Herman served as a professor of theatre from 1973 until his 2004 retirement as a full-time conservatory faculty member, founded SSMT in 1984 and remained its artistic director until March 2015. “Hal Herman had an extraordinary impact on our conservatory and community,” said Dean of Shenandoah Conservatory Michael Stepniak, Ed.D. “He loved the magic of musical theatre, and was brilliant in connecting audiences with great shows. Through his vision and determination, he developed a national-level summer music theatre season and founded the conservatory’s Theatre Division. His knowledge of musical theatre was encyclopedic, and his passion for the stage was infectious. He lived and breathed theatre. He will be greatly missed.”
“Shenandoah Summer Music Theatre owes its existence to the vision and perseverance of one man: Harold Herman,” said Shenandoah Conservatory Charles B. Levitin Chair in Music Theatre and Professor of Composition and Musical Theatre Direction and SSMT Artistic Director Thomas Albert, D.M.A. “He left an undying legacy that has touched tens of thousands of lives, and made theatre-going a way of life for all of us: students, colleagues, actors, musicians, music directors, choreographers, designers, technical and costume staff, and, of course, the audience. To paraphrase Jerome Kern on Irving Berlin, Harold Herman has no place in Shenandoah theatre. He is Shenandoah theatre.”
“To say that Mr. Herman influenced my life is an extreme understatement,” said Matthew Gose ’93. “His expert guidance directly contributed to the director, choreographer, performer and person I am today.”
His love of theatre was such that he welcomed students of all majors to participate in the art. “As a nursing student, Hal embraced the idea that I could find time to practice and perform,” said Laura Smith ’85. “He worked with my nursing professors to make it work. I was thrilled to do a children’s theater show, “The Red Shoes.” His kind manner and instruction helped shape me and bring me out of my shell. I can still remember what we had for dinner at his house at the conclusion of the show: chilli and grilled cheese sandwiches. I always regretted that I couldn’t do more shows with him, but nursing didn’t lend itself to being able to schedule that. I never forgot the things he taught me.”
Herman was not only a director, but also an actor, particularly well known for his portrayal of “Tevye,” which he performed in the 1985, 1995, 2001 and 2008 SSMT productions of “Fiddler on the Roof.”
“Hal’s passing is not just a loss for our university community, but also one for theatre lovers throughout the region,” said Shenandoah University President Tracy Fitzsimmons, Ph.D. “He will be missed by every person who had the pleasure to work with or learn from him. His legacy, through SSMT, is secure.”