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Lamont director Joe Docksey was instrumental in Newman Center vision

Joe Docksey

Lamont School of Music Director and Professor Joe Docksey calls the Newman Center for the Performing Arts a "palace to music." Photo: Michael Richmond

Lamont School of Music Director and Professor Joe Docksey, MA ’74, received DU’s 2006 award for distinguished service to the University at Founders Day. However, Docksey says that what others consider “distinguished service,” he calls “showing up to work.”

When Docksey became director of the wind, brass and percussion department in 1977, Lamont was housed in buildings on the corner of University Boulevard and Evans Avenue. Students practiced in storage units, held concerts in Sturm Hall classrooms, and the choir practiced in Buchtel Chapel.

“The facilities were, to say the least, poor,” Docksey says, laughing. It’s easy for him to laugh now. Today, Lamont resides in the Newman Center for the Performing Arts — a facility Docksey calls “a palace to music.”

That triumph was a long time coming.

In the 1980s, when DU bought the Colorado Women’s College campus nine miles away, Docksey says he was euphoric for the new space. But the euphoria quickly wore off.

“We had to bus students to the main campus for their non-music classes,” Docksey recalls. “People didn’t even know DU had a music school!”

In 1988, Docksey became Lamont’s director and, a few years later, the University launched its multi-million dollar capital campaign. Docksey became Lamont’s leading champion for space on the University Park campus.

“I was fortunate,” he says, “because my ideas didn’t fall on deaf ears. The chancellor could have stopped the fundraising at $20 million, but he kept listening and we have a $70 million facility — one of the world’s best.”

Docksey was a tireless presence in the entire planning and building process. He had a hardhat and steel-toed boots, and he spent seven days a week on campus. Even when the building was complete, he was loath to leave.

“It was all I could do to not stay the night,” says Docksey. “It’s so magnificent, I didn’t ever want to leave.”

“Joe has created a fundamental change of outlook about Lamont’s potential,” says Ricardo Iznaola, director of Lamont’s conservatory program. “He planted the seeds that are already beginning to bear fruit, and all his successors will have him to thank for the way their paths were made clear.”

Docksey plans to spend the rest of his career raising money for scholarships and faculty positions.

“Those resources will assure that Lamont can be among the world’s elite music schools.” He pauses, looks around his office with pure joy, and states, “This is the most special thing I’ve ever done.”

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