February 28, 1939 - November 14, 2016
Tom Harmon, 77, passed away November 14, 2016, in the Avamere Assisted Living facility in Medford, Ore. after a long illness. He was widely known and highly regarded as a concert organist and educator.
He was born the son of Dr. Thomas and Eleandor Harmon in Springfield, Ill. He graduated with honors from Springfield High School. Tom is remembered fondly there as a music prodigy who began playing the piano at age six and organ at age 11. He performed regularly at the First Methodist Church, on radio, and in local restaurants and lounges. He also is remembered there for restoring the theatre organ from the historic Orpheum Theatre and moving it to the high school.
Tom went on to earn bachelor and PhD degrees with honors in music at Washington University in St. Louis, and a master degree with honors in music at Stanford University. He was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study organ in Austria with Anton Heiller. It was there that he met and married fellow Fulbrighter Sue Snow in June 1964. His special research interest was the organ works of J. S. Bach.
His academic career was devoted to the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), where he started in 1968 as an assistant professor and University Organist. He went on to become full professor and served as Chairman of the Department of Music for seven years. Tom performed frequently as a concert organist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Chamber Orchestras, the American Youth Symphony, the UCLA Philharmonic Orchestra, the UCLA Wind Ensemble, and the Los Angeles Master Chorale. He also performed across the United States, including broadcasts on American Public Radio, the BBC and a memorable HBO Halloween Special TV show, as well as in Mexico, Japan, and numerous European countries. As University Organist, he oversaw a major restoration of the UCLA concert hall organ after damage from the 1994 Northridge earthquake. During his tenure at UCLA Tom also served for 20 years as organist of the First United Methodist Church in Santa Monica.
He retired in 2002 to Medford, Ore., where he continued to perform in concerts and churches, and finally had time to enjoy his hobbies of model railroading and traveling by rail. He moved to Avamere in 2013 upon the death of his domestic partner, John Crutcher.
Tom is survived by his brothers, Dr. Charles Harmon of Tulsa, Okla. and Dr. Bob Harmon of Jacksonville, Fla.; and his former wife, Sue Harmon of Ashland, Ore. He was grateful for the love and support of all of his family and many friends. Tom is fondly remembered for his remarkable intelligence, keen sense of humor, generosity and supremely gifted organ music talent that could create “music cathedrals” wherever he played.
A service was held November 21 at Avamere for his caregivers and local friends. Another celebration of Tom’s life will take place in Los Angeles next February. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the American Guild of Organists/Southern Oregon Chapter, 1250 Green Meadows Way, Ashland, Ore. 97520.