It is with heavy hearts and great sadness that we write to inform you that Dr. Michael S. Pettersen, tenor in the Mendelssohn Choir, passed away on Wednesday, April 1, of cardiac arrest. Mike was a valued member of the Choir, singing second tenor since his first season in 2008. He most recently participated in our peformance of Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle, on March 22 at East Liberty Presbyterian Church.
Not only was Mike a talented singer, he was also a dedicated educator. He was Joseph A. Walker Endowed Professor of Physics and has chaired the Department of Physics at Washington & Jefferson College since he joined the faculty in 2002. Mike’s research was in the field of surface science. He held a Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology and an A.B. from Harvard University.
Mike was a scientist, but he was also a musician in love with music. In the early 2000s, he built a harpsichord, and on the front, he inscribed the opening line of Homer’s Iliad, which is “Sing, goddess.” He will be remembered for his quiet confidence, accurate singing, and his willingness to help his fellow singers, whether it be with notes or setting up risers and chairs for self-produced concerts.
The singers, staff, and board of the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh will greatly miss Mike. We send our heartfelt condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues at Washington & Jefferson College.
“He was always a joy to stand next to in choir and talk with. It’s thanks to him I know that low temperature physics is cool stuff!” –MCP alum Cody Sweet
“My memories of Michael are his excellent and accurate singing and his wit. Many the time his quick comment put things into proper perspective and made rehearsals and concerts that much more enjoyable.” –MCP alum Ralph Vitt
“We had gotten to be friends over the last couple of years. He would occasionally come out for dinner with us between performances.” –MCP singer Beth Hesselson
“I sang beside him for many many rehearsals and performances during my time in Mendelssohn. I also knew him around the W&J Campus and music events. He was such a kind, quiet, and brilliant man.” –MCP alum and Renaissance City Choirs Artist Director Jeffry Blake Johnson
“In my mind I can see him so clearly helping set up risers for our latest concert at East Liberty Presbyterian Church on March 22nd. He was always willing to help in whatever capacity he could. He will be sorely missed……..” –MCP Chorus Manager MaryColleen Seip