Keith Conant, violist, dead at age 49

Sun Sep 18, 2011 at 6:50 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Keith Conant

Keith Conant, principal violist of the Lyric Opera Orchestra and a versatile chamber musician, died last week, age 49. The cause was a heart attack, said his partner Daniel Goss.

“I am shocked and deeply saddened by the news of Keith’s death,” said Sir Andrew Davis, music director of Lyric Opera, in a statement released by the company. “He was a wonderful musician and colleague whose kind and gentle spirit shone through in the musical gift he shared with us all. As a section leader, he inspired by example. Because of the level of his commitment to the orchestra, and their commitment to him, he was able to deliver the very best his section had to offer in every performance. He will be greatly missed.”

“Keith Conant was a wonderful musician and a gentle and sensitive soul,” said Sandra Morgan, a flutist and longtime colleague in the Rembrandt Chamber Players. “He was a highly valued member of Rembrandt Chamber Players for 18 seasons and continued to be a close friend and colleague. The entire organization — musicians and board — are sad beyond words. We will be dedicating the remainder of our season to his memory.”

Mr. Conant joined the Lyric Opera Orchestra in 1987 as assistant principal viola. He served as acting principal from 1995-1997 and became principal viola in the fall of 1997.

He was also principal violist of the Chicago Philharmonic and its earlier incarnation, Symphony II, and was scheduled to perform Bruch’s Romance for Viola next April with the orchestra.

In addition to the Rembrandt Chamber Players, Mr. Conant appeared with a variety of Chicago-area ensembles, including the Chicago Chamber Musicians, the Bach Week Festival and the Highland Park Strings.

Mr. Conant was a member of the Seattle Symphony from 1984 to 1986. He studied under Paul Doktor at Juilliard, as well as with Karen Tuttle and William Lincer. He served as principal viola of the American Philharmonic Orchestra, the New York Youth Symphony, the Juilliard Orchestra and Tanglewood Young Artists Orchestra. In addition to private teaching, he also served as an adjunct professor at Valparaiso University.

In addition to Mr. Goss, his partner of six years, Mr. Conant is survived by his sister Katherine O’Shea (Don O’Shea) of California, his brothers Scott Conant (Joanne Conant) and Jim Conant, both of Connecticut, and seven nieces and nephews.

Visitation for Keith Conant will be Thursday Sept. 22 from 2 p.m.-8 p.m. at Olson-Burke-Sullivan Funeral Home at 6467 N. Northwest Highway, Chicago. In lieu of flowers, Mr. Goss requests that a donation to Paws Chicago be made in Mr. Conant’s memory at

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10 Responses to “Keith Conant, violist, dead at age 49”

  1. Posted Sep 19, 2011 at 8:43 am by Mary Wohlhart

    My thoughts and prayers are with you Daniel. I’m so sorry for your loss.
    Mary – Hyatt Reegency Woodfield

  2. Posted Sep 19, 2011 at 9:54 am by Camille Atkus

    My prayers and thoughts are with you. I enjoyed speaking with you about Keith. We are here for you if you need anything! Your Hyatt Family

  3. Posted Sep 19, 2011 at 10:53 am by JORY NOBLE

    Sending love and comfort to you. Keith was loved by so many of us and will be missed so much. Love to you –

    Jory Noble

  4. Posted Sep 20, 2011 at 3:32 pm by Ann & Roger Cole

    I don’t think we have met, but we wanted you to know how saddened we feel at the news of Keith’s sudden and untimely death which was noted at Rembrandt’s concert last evening in Chicago. We have known and adored Keith for many years as fans of his and of the Rembrandt Chamber Players through whom we met him. He was a beautiful person, warm, kind and without pretenses. We loved to watch him smile as he played and will treasure that memory.
    Ann & Roger Cole

  5. Posted Sep 20, 2011 at 9:49 pm by Lisa Cuseo-Ott

    I will miss my dear, kind friend with whom I grew up in Westport. Although I haven’t been in touch with him recently, he was often in my thoughts as I listened to concert performances from Aspen or Tanglewood on NPR. He spent most of his early summers at these music festivals.

    He was not only a talented musician, but also had a brilliant mind and kind, gentle spirit. My condolences to his family and partner, Daniel. May his spirit live on in the music he loved to perform.

  6. Posted Sep 21, 2011 at 9:26 am by Eleanor Nicholson

    In faraway India I have received the news of Keith’s death and i am shocked and saddened. Daniel, I offer my condolences for your loss and for the loss to all of us. I always loved seeing Keith at Rembrandt concerts and we always had greetings whenever we met. From the day I hosted Keith and his dog in Lakeside when the Rembrandt Chamber Players came for a weekend, I have cherished him and his beautiful playing.
    Such a loss……

  7. Posted Sep 21, 2011 at 9:43 pm by Paul Berg

    Keith was my neighbor in Logan Square many years ago.
    I have many found memories of Keith, most notably hearing him perform with the Rembrandt Chamber and the Lyric.
    He was kind-hearted beyond words and incredibly gifted.

    My condolences to you and your extended family.
    Paul Berg

  8. Posted Sep 21, 2011 at 10:32 pm by Molly Knight Forde

    Keith has been my dear friend since 1980 at the Aspen music festival. We have been through so much together, played music together, traveled Though I had not seen him for the past few years, we stayed in touch. I will always remember his laugh, his considerate nature, and his love for chocolate milk and his dog Boo. My heart goes out to Dan and all of the Conants as well as the many friends around the world. It is a life truncated too soon and we will all miss him. May you rest in peace dear Keith

  9. Posted Sep 22, 2011 at 12:00 pm by Terry Harrison


    We have not met but I wanted to offer my condolences on the untimely death of Keith. I met Keith in 2002 through my daughter, Kati, who was taking private viola lessons from him. She was in college at the time and having a hard time with the expense. He found out when she was going to quit and lowered his rate to practically nothing for her so she could continue lessons. We’ve been to see him in the Lyric Opera for many years. I’ve kept in touch via Facebook but am sad to say that we haven’t spoken in a while.

    He was such a gentle and kind person and touched many lives with his music. Kati is now 28 with her MM in Music Theory. She is a professional violist with several orchestras in her area plus she is teaching violin & viola. She will miss him dearly as will we all.

    Please know that our thoughts and prayers are with you.

  10. Posted Oct 19, 2011 at 10:53 am by John Thomlinson

    Dear Keith, you will live on in my memory for the rest of my life. Your elfish grin will never be gone. Thanks for the support you gave me over the past few years – you continue to make a difference in my life. My deepest sympathies to Dan and the family.

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