Steven Strunk, 68, a longtime professor of music at Catholic University who was also a composer and jazz pianist, died Feb. 20. He collapsed while exercising at a gymnasium near his home in Washington, his daughter, Nica Strunk, said. An autopsy is being performed to determine the cause of death.
Dr. Strunk joined the faculty at Catholic University in 1973 and taught music theory and composition until his death.
He composed many works of classical music, primarily in an atonal style. A 1989 Washington Post review of his “A Passage” for clarinet and piano described the composition as “a splendid example of economical, even pungent writing.”
Dr. Strunk also was a jazz pianist and performed regularly at nightclubs, hotels and social functions. He was a member of the Gene Donati Orchestra and often performed at the Kennedy Center and, for many years, at the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown.
Steven Gerhardt Strunk was born in Evansville, Ind. He played clarinet and saxophone before concentrating on the piano. By age 12, he was studying at a conservatory in his home town.
He often performed in nightclubs in his teens and frequently appeared with another Indiana native, the celebrated jazz vibraphonist Gary Burton.
Dr. Strunk graduated summa cum laude from the Boston Conservatory in 1965. He later studied at the Juilliard School in New York under renowned composers Luciano Berio, Roger Sessions and Vincent Persichetti. He received a doctorate from Juilliard in 1971.
He taught at Florida State University and Eastern New Mexico University before coming to Washington to teach at Catholic.
Dr. Strunk wrote many articles about music and was particularly known for several studies in the 1970s and 1980s in which he applied methods of structural analysis typically used for classical music to jazz. He wrote the article “Harmony” for the scholarly reference work “The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz.”
His marriage to Barbara Burke ended in divorce.
Survivors include his wife of 17 years, Elena Nantz Strunk of Washington; two children from his first marriage, Kurt G. Strunk and Nica B. Strunk, both of Southampton, N.Y.; and three grandsons.
— Matt Schudel