Remembering Carlton R. Woods

Carlton Woods

Carl Woods was an artist with vision. He came to Cleveland only 10 years ago and quickly saw the possibility of a new chamber orchestra. At a time when no long-time Clevelander would have considered it possible, he created BlueWater by the sheer force of his enthusiasm for the idea. Carl discovered an incredible community of professional musicians who wanted added opportunities to perform; he gave them the gift of an ensemble that grew organically from their combined talent. He was their maestro, yet he respected each as his equal. This approach set the group apart from the beginning.

Carl’s entire professional life was filled with music. He attended Heidelberg University (Tiffin, OH) and Washington University (St. Louis, MO) and earned his DMA from the University of Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. He enjoyed a distinguished career as a conductor at colleges and communities throughout the United States. He served on the faculties of Bethany College, Lindsbourg, KS; Allegheny College, Meadville, PA; University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR and Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, MI. He was the Conductor and Director of the Midland (MI) Symphony Orchestra, and founded several successful summer chamber music festivals in Pennsylvania and Arkansas.

As a guest conductor Carl performed with orchestras throughout the United States, Poland, Russia, Belgium, United Kingdom, Canada and Bolivia. He worked with renowned soloists including Itzhak Perlman, Edgar Meyer, Sarah Chang, John O’Conor, Mark O’Connor, Ani Kavafian, Anne Akiko Meyers, Sharon Isbin, Dave Brubeck, James McCracken, Eugenia Zuckerman and the Juilliard String Quartet.

From the first BlueWater concert in 2010 at The Breen Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of Saint Ignatius High School, BlueWater has consistently received high critical acclaim. The excellent reviews quickly brought attention from classical music lovers intrigued by a new offering. Carl’s innovative spirit informed his heartfelt commitment to music education as well. He inaugurated a program designed to integrate the arts and academics at St. Ignatius, where professional BlueWater musicians entered the classrooms to share their passions and expertise. Along the way he spearheaded an arrangement that makes BlueWater Chamber Orchestra the first professional orchestra in residence at an American high school.

Carl’s legacy lives on. Always a pragmatist, he assembled a board to create an organization designed to outlive him. His mission continues; the 2017-18 season will be presented as he programmed it. Other projects he cared deeply about will also go forward. The Board of Directors send their love and condolences to Carl’s wife LaDonna and the entire family. A memorial service was held March 5th at Avon Lake United Church of Christ, Avon Lake, OH.

Donations in his memory may be made here:

11 thoughts on “Remembering Carlton R. Woods

  1. Ken Wadenpfuhl

    Thank you, to Carlton, for pulling together BlueWater, giving the musicians in our community an opportunity to work and to make music together.
    Carlton was a very encouraging man and musician, I enjoyed the little time I had to know him. My prayers for his family!
    God’s grace toward’s you,
    Ken Wadenpfuhl
    Prinicipal Horn

  2. David H. Still

    A friend since the mid ’50s. Carlton will be missed by those in his profession and those he called ‘friend’. Rest in peace my friend.

  3. Cynthia Warren

    I was so sad to hear about Carl’s passing. I met him for the first time at the Blue Water Chamber Orchestra. I marvel at how he was able to create this ensemble and bring so many people together with a collaborative spirit. I am honored to be a member and look forward to many more years of music-making in his memory.

  4. George R Zubulake PhD

    Dr Woods was a role model for my son at CMU and during his time as conductor in Midland. I also recall taking my Mom ,then in her 90’s, to one of his concerts in Midland. I placed his name in prayers for the souls who have passed at St Demetrios in Saginaw Mich. on 2/25/17.May his Memory be Eternal!!

  5. Leo Zimmerman

    Carl was such a wonderful person. He was kind, thoughtful and had great sense of humor. I admired him for both his artistic talent and tenacity in making BlueWater a reality. At the end of the day, he was just fun to be around.

  6. David Duro

    I first met Carlton in the late 80’s when he was Music Director of the Music Festival of Arkansas in Fayetteville. His warmth and passion for music and education was immediately apparent to everyone around him. He always surrounded himself with great musicians and great people in all his endeavors. I was delighted when he moved to Cleveland and wanted to start a chamber orchestra. BlueWater’s existence and success are a tribute to his passion and perseverance. I will forever be grateful for the chances I had to collaborate with him, and he will be greatly missed by all the musicians he touched.

  7. Kathy Pfeil

    Carlton has left a boundless gift to the people of Cleveland….may his spirit live on in the beauty of the music


    I greatly enjoyed spending time with Carlton at our 55th high school reunion in 2014 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I had made a lot of joyful music with him at Franklin Junior High and then at the brand-new Washington High. As Juniors, we both had major singing roles jn the Lerner and Lowe musical Brigadoon. I believe he played Charley Dalrymple, celebrating his marriage lustily with Scottish dancing as well as song. We also learned to sing great choral music in the school’s fine a cappella choir. We also shared some recreational adventures over the years, including during some summers after graduation. I’m glad he had such a good musical career and a happy family life. We caught back up on Facebook and email recently and I was glad to be able to pay him my respects while he was still with us. I’m remembering him systematically and fondly as I rehearse the Mozart Requiem with a chorus in Waterville, Maine.

  9. Ann Gilbert

    Along with being a great man and conductor, I remember Carlton as a most kind and caring person.
    I miss him every time I play with BlueWater or hear one of the wonderful recordings.


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