In Memoriam: Ernest D. Brown Jr. (1947-2012)

Ernest Brown, longtime professor of music at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, died earlier this month after a three-year battle with cancer. He was 64 years old.

Professor Brown joined the Williams faculty in 1988. The next year he co-founded Kusika, the William College African Dance and Drumming Ensemble. Three years later, he founded that Zambezi Marimba Band at Williams.

Dr. Brown was a 1969 graduate of Harvard University, where he majored in philosophy. After conducting graduate study in ethnomusicology at UCLA, he earned a Ph.D. in music from the University of Washington. His dissertation was on Zambian royal xylophone and drum bands.

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  1. This note is for Ernie Brown’s wife Susan Revotskie and for his children. I only read of his loss in a back issue of Harvard yesterday. Susan — I was one of Ernie’s two Harvard freshman roommates (our other roommate killed himself at home in Illinois over Christmas break 1965 — yikes). Ernie and I both graduated and then I was scooped up and away by Vietnam and into the Air Force. I have always regretted not reconnecting with Ernie. My loss. I was thrilled to hear of the rich and generous life that he crafted. My own life has also been wonderful and complex — an 8-year marriage to Sally (another Harvard ’69-er), and then a 30-year one with James Lowell Jolliff (oops, I am [duh] gay but didn’t know it until I was 27). Then, five years ago and with no advance warning, James had a major cerebral aneurysm and died in my arms on our living room floor (in Hawaii). With warning and “time to adjust” OR without it (who CAN “adjust” to losing the love one one’s life) — I can only imagine what losing Ernie has been like for you and yours. Please accept my empathetic condolences over your loss. I can VIVIDLY still see Ernie in my mind’s eye, as a freshman. He was hilarious, light-of-spirit, brilliant and totally of his own mind. Watching me walk barefoot (with my hammer toes) across our dorm floor, he cracked: “I can hear you walking across the room like you’re a DOG.” That said with the sweetest (and evil) grin. I was totally asleep, still-a-boy that year — barely surviving my own whacko family upbringing and in shock at being at Harvard. But he was FUN and so kind. Finally — a dear friend at Hospice gave me some wonderful perspective, just after my Jamesie died. My friend said: “Be SURE to allow yourself AT LEAST one MONTH of acute grieving — where ever that takes you — for every YEAR you had together. I DID my grieving, and have come out the other side (nearly five years after). I send you love, patience, peace and all the best.
    Berkeley F. Fuller (
    San Francisco

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