Malcolm Cecil, C-GCC professor, Grammy winner, dies at 84

Grammy winner, adjunct professor Malcolm Cecil, who died Sunday. He was 84. Contributed photo

GREENPORT — The Columbia-Greene College community and music lovers around the world are remembering Malcolm Cecil, who died Sunday following a long illness. He was 84.

Cecil, who was an adjunct professor of music at the College, was also a Grammy Award winner and was known throughout the music world, having collaborated with many musical artists, said Jaclyn Stevenson, director of marketing and communications at Columbia-Greene Community College.

As a professor at Columbia-Greene, Cecil taught Introduction to Music and History of Jazz. Over the years, he worked with his students and often performed with other jazz musicians in the Arts Center Theater on campus. For his outstanding dedication to his students and the community, he earned the President’s Award for Excellence among Adjunct Faculty in August 2018, Stevenson said.

Cecil taught at the college from January 2010 until the fall of 2019. He was also a private contractor/performer, participating in many productions in the college’s Gemini Series, Mary Garafalo, assistant to the president, said.

Cecil won a 1974 Grammy Award for his engineering work on Stevie Wonder’s groundbreaking album “Innervisions.” He formed a duo with Robert Margouleff, dubbed Tonto’s Expanding Head Band, widely considered to be an essential cornerstone of early electronic music.

In addition, he performed and recorded albums with Stan Getz, J.J. Johnson, Johnny Griffin and Rashaan Roland Kirk and collaborated with such musical giants as Quincy Jones, Bobby Womack and the Doobie Brothers, Stevenson said.

Cecil’s biggest moment at the college was his 80th birthday bash held in the Arts Center Theater on April 29, 2017, said Guy Apicella, who was Columbia-Greene’s coordinator for special programs when the concert took place. Nine other nationally known musicians joined Cecil onstage for a night of great music and collaborations, Apicella said.

Many of Cecil’s former students are sharing kind sentiments about their professor.

“Thank you for teaching me as much as you had. Thank you for being such a great mentor and a friend,” said alumna Alexis Rivera of Catskill.

“R.I.P. to one of the most kind, honest, genuine men I’ve ever met: Malcolm Cecil. He took me under his wing at Co-Greene and gave me the courage to sing Frank Sinatra in front of an audience for the first time,” added alumnus Patrick Fenaughty of Palenville.

“I lost a great mentor today. He taught me a lot when it came to music and showed me that I can achieve my goals. Rest In Peace, Malcolm Cecil. I will always carry your teachings, and you will be missed,” said Alumnus Brent Decker of Hudson.

“I was fortunate enough to substitute for him in Intro to Music a couple of years ago, and he was a kind, warm, humble man,” noted John Santana, reference and instruction librarian and assistant professor at Columbia-Greene Community College.

The college library is building a book display in Cecil’s honor and memory with three titles in which he is mentioned, either for his work with Stevie Wonder or his early experiments in electronic music, or both.

Santana said he hopes this contribution will further inspire the campus community with Cecil’s legacy.

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