We are saddened to report the passing of Professor Emeritus Oscar Kosarin, who served as Associate Professor of Musical Theatre at CCM from 1971 through 1985. Kosarin passed away on Saturday, Oct. 1, at the age of 98. He is survived by his wife, Dianne, daughter, Carli, and sons Kim and Oscar.
Initially taught piano by his mother, Kosarin also studied harmony and counterpoint with Boris Levenson, studied composition with Anis Fuleihan and Isadore Freed, and attended Leon Barzin’s conducting classes.
Kosarin began playing piano professionally at the age of 19, first performing with dance bands in night clubs before making the move to Broadway, where he also gained experience as a conductor, arranger and vocal coach. On Broadway, he conducted musicals such as Happy Time with Robert Goulet, Oh, Captain with Tony Randall, Fade Out, Fade In with Carol Burnett and Mr. Wonderful with Sammy Davis, Jr.
Kosarin was named to CCM’s faculty in the fall of 1971 as part of the expansion of the school’s still-nascent musical theatre degree program. Kosarin inaugurated his time at CCM by conducting productions of Bye, Bye Birdie, Brigadoon and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum during the 1971-72 season. He cited Sweeney Todd, West Side Story and Sugar as three of his favorite musicals from his 14-year tenure at CCM.
Kosarin retired from CCM in the spring of 1985. During a farewell banquet held in his honor, CCM Drama Professor Diane Kvapil observed:
“He’s much loved by the students. He teaches them what’s special about them and how to use it. His colleagues will miss him because we worked well together.”
At the time of his retirement, Kosarin referred to his decision to teach at CCM as the smartest move he ever made, commenting:
“I had a great advantage in that [the students] were a group of people who really wanted to study. We had a wonderful relationship.”
In addition to his appointment at CCM, Kosarin also taught and directed musical theatre workshops at New York’s American Academy of Dramatic Arts and coached opera and musical comedy privately. He composed the ballet music for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Pal Joey, Hazel Flagg and Canterbury Tales. He also composed music for films, including Virginia—Pursuit of Happiness, which won first prize at the Virgin Islands International Film Festival in 1975. In 1983, Prentice Hall published his book The Singing Actor: How to Be a Success in Musical Theatre and Night Clubs.
CCM’s upcoming production of A Chorus Line will be dedicated to the loving memory of Professor Kosarin. Our thoughts are with his family and friends during this time.