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Canterbury Remembers John Shackelford

Kelly Slonaker

The Canterbury community is deeply saddened to share the passing of former faculty member John Shackelford on September 5, 2021.

John was born on December 28, 1950, in Parkersburg, WV. He studied flute and voice at the Juilliard School of Music, NY, where his flute teacher was Julius Baker, solo flutist in the New York Philharmonic and the foremost flutist in the world at that time. Baker recognized John’s talent and invited him to spend summers at his home in Brewster, NY, where John had the opportunity to play with many accomplished musicians.

In his late teens, John made his official operatic debut in a Long Island, NY, production as Schelkalov in Boris Godunov and went on to perform in various opera productions throughout the United States and parts of Europe. Most notably, he played Radames in Aida (Cleveland Opera), Samson in Samson and Delilah (Hawaii Opera Theatre), and the title role in Lohengrin on tour in France.

In his 50s, John returned to the United States and settled in New Milford, CT, with his wife Laura, a clinical psychologist. He imagined himself retired, but after a few years of giving voice lessons locally, Canterbury Director of Music Dave Overthrow called John and asked him if he would consider teaching at the School. In 2006, he joined the faculty and found his true calling. “I love Canterbury and am extremely grateful that after all my wanderings, the Lord gave me the opportunity to come here,” he reflected in a 2012 issue of Pallium. “I am deeply moved by the chance to teach the children and for what Canterbury is. I love what I do here far, far more than all of the accolades I ever received. As challenging as this can be, I am always awed by what worthwhile work this is.”

John Shackelford directed the Canterbury Octet and Chorale; taught AP Music Theory, Music History, and Computer Music; and gave private flute and voice lessons until his retirement in 2016. He loved technology, was also known for his dry wit and varied knowledge of unusual facts, and will be missed by all who knew him.

John is survived by his wife Laura Shackelford and his sister Susan Shackelford Pierce of Madison, AL.