December 19, 2016
Byron Grant, for many years an important figure in American musical theatre training and a former president of the Educational Theatre Association Board of Directors, died Friday, December 16 in a Macon, Georgia hospital, a week after being struck by a car outside a restaurant. He was eighty years old.
From 1991 until his retirement in 2007 he chaired Webster University’s Department of Theatre and Dance and headed the school’s musical theatre program. At Webster and through the Educational Theatre Association, he pursued the idea that the quality of American musical theatre can be sustained by nurturing young artists to meet the demands of evolving forms.
He participated in the International Thespian Festival for 23 consecutive years, representing Webster’s musical theatre program, presenting workshops on auditioning, and serving as accompanist for the Festival’s college audition program. He also presented workshops at various state Thespian conferences and at performing arts high schools.
He served two-year terms as president and vice president of the Educational Theatre Association and was a member of the task force to revise the Association’s constitution and by-laws.
In 1999, he received the William T. Kemper Award for Excellence in Teaching from his peers at Webster University. The same year, he was honored with the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching by Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan. In 2001 he was inducted into the Educational Theatre Association Hall of Fame. An endowed scholarship named for Grant was established for students in Webster’s musical theatre program.
He stayed in the game after retirement, continuing to teach as recently as the fall 2016 semester. He delivered a series of master classes at Mercer University’s Townsend School of Music that culminated in a mid-November cabaret performance with Townsend vocal studies chair Martha Malone.
Grant held a master’s degree in music from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, a Bachelor of Arts degree from Huntington College, and diplomas from the Conservatoire de Musique and the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. He taught vocal music and was the director of musical productions at Baker High School in Columbus, Georgia, and a faculty member of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy before joining the faculty at Webster University.