David Thorsen
1927 - 2021
FUNERAL HOME
McAulay and Wallace Mortuary - Fullerton - Fullerton
902 N. Harbor Blvd.
Fullerton, CA
David Thorsen, Professor Emeritus and founding member of the School of Music, Cal State Fullerton, died October 10, 2021, in Fullerton, CA. He was born June 6,1927 to Oliver Thorsen and Nora Arntzen Thorsen of Escanaba, Michigan. He received degrees in music education from the University of Redlands and Occidental College. Dave married Cathrynn Ellen Bossard (Katie) on July 12, 1952. They were married for 64 years until her death in 2016. Dave's choral conducting career began in Pasadena. In 1960, he was asked to help establish the music department of newly opened CSUF where he conducted the University Singers and taught until retirement in 1995. He was the choir director at several churches and an officer of many distinguished choral conducting organizations. For over twenty years, Dave also taught magic and performed at the The Academy of Magical Arts in Hollywood - The Magic Castle. He was a warm, loving husband, father and grandfather, known as the "Magic Grandpa", a title he was most proud to earn. Thousands of students of music and magic, church choir members, and friends had the good fortune of knowing David Thorsen during his lifetime. He is survived by son, Paul Thorsen (Gail), daughter, Karen McClung (William), niece, Maren Killian, six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. A memorial service is planned for Spring 2022. Contributions can be made to the David Thorsen Endowment through the School of Music at CSUF. For more information on how to make a gift, call 657-278-8683 or email [email protected]
Published by Los Angeles Times on Nov. 7, 2021.
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6 Entries
What an amazing influence David was! I was always appreciative of him as a student at CSUF and later on as a colleague teaching in the music department. He was a perfectionist but always stayed so kind! David was a consummate professional. I knew he was a man of faith and I remember his church was FPC...I played there once as a student! Tony and I joined in May of 2021 after attending on the patio during the pandemic. His influence lives on. Sending lots of love to the family
Cindy Ellis
Student
November 30, 2021
In October, 1956, I met Dave when I was a senior at Pasadena High School which was then on the same campus as Pasadena City College where he was the choir director. I auditioned for a combined choir, consisting of singers from the college and the two high schools, that would be performing under Dave’s direction. After being accepted, I found out that rehearsals would be at night and I did not yet have a driver’s license. Having just moved to California, there was no one I knew with whom I could hitch a ride. Dave’s solution: “I will come to pick you up.” So, on a ride to my first rehearsal with Dave as conductor, our mutual friendship began. Sadly, exactly 65 years later, it ended. Butwhat. a. ride!

During those 65 years, I was privileged to learn much from this remarkable man who became a steadfast presence throughout my life along with his dear wife, Katie. How beautifully they enriched my world. Besides being teacher, mentor, counselor, and wearing a dozen or so other hats, Dave was always, first and foremost, a most supportive and generous friend. Without a doubt, his family came first but he did not hesitate to offer help in some form or freely give his time when needed. If asked what he contributed to my life, I would begin by giving him credit for his strong support of my educational and creative endeavors along with the growth of my musical knowledge and repertoire through his excellent teaching and conducting. The myriad words of wisdom he imparted guided me throughout my life. Also, the much needed praise, bringing out the best in me, contributed to building my self-confidence which was then sorely lacking.

The joy I received from singing in Dave’s many choirs while studying great choral pieces is indescribable. I loved his rehearsals because they were stimulating, productive, educational, and fun. I would leave on a high note. His concerts left the same feeling, whether as a singer or a member of the audience, and it usually took days to come down from the high. I am very grateful to have experienced so many glorious, years of both sacred and secular music under Dave’s tutelage. How I wish I could go back in time to relive it all.

Dave was a fine example of a Renaissance man, “A well educated, charismatic gentleman cultured in the arts.” Music was his life’s work and magic was his lifelong passion. It is fortunate for many that Dave had the knowledge and the skill to teach both. He was a born teacher and because of that natural ability, we who knew him are all, in some way, the beneficiaries of his talent.

I often wonder in what direction my life would have gone had Dave Thorsen not walked into it on that October day more than six decades ago. Words of advice: Cherish your friendships. Some are irreplaceable.

Dear Dave, I miss you and I love you. You are never far away.


Jill Hillary
Friend
November 24, 2021
It would be hard to overstate Dave Thorsen's positive influence on my life. In the late fifties, I was floundering at Pasadena City College, messing around in student government, moving from major to major, getting poor grades.

For his Spring concert and tour (probably Spring of '58), Dave scheduled a hymn called "The Creation," comprising a narrator backed by a choir. We had never met but, out of the blue, he asked me if I would do the narration. Flattered right out of my socks, I of course said yes. And in almost every way, as Robert Frost said, “that has made all the difference.”

Though I was merely an ancillary figure that Spring—not actually in the chorus—the experience of being part of, and touring with, that fabulous musical organization was thrilling. Watching—and listening—in rehearsals as Dave Thorsen drew the most beautiful, tender, touching sounds from the breasts and mouths of a mix of enthusiastic but untrained, seemingly angelic, bright eyed young people, using only subtle motions of his hands, and the most telling and expressive looks imaginable on his face, was to be a front-row witness to magic.

In the next Fall, I joined the choir; soon after, I became a Music major and one of Dave's choral conducting students; and I had the privilege of helping him with the choir tours, and special concerts and concert recordings.

Then another request came in—Uncle Sam asked me to become a soldier, an offer I just couldn’t refuse. Nonetheless, while doing my bit to keep the Ruskies at bay, I was still able to lean on Dave's teachings. I sang in and directed base chapel choirs, and I trained choruses for musicals staged by a US Army Special Services theater in Germany. Dave Thorsen was sitting on my shoulder the entire time. And after the Army, I hustled down to CSU Fullerton, to pick up my schooling under Dave.

I didn’t remain in Music; a theatrical bug bit me and I switched my major. And the one person I sought out for advice and counsel at that time, was David Thorsen. Eventually, I became a filmmaker, but films have sound tracks and most films have some flavor of musical support. Without any question, Dave Thorsen’s aesthetic shows through in all my work.

It’s truly an honor to be able to say I was a student of David Thorsen—my teacher, my mentor, and my friend. Like no one else I have ever known, Dave found great joy in his calling as a musician and a teacher, and he shared that joy, unselfishly and unabashedly, with his students and with everyone around him.

Farewell, Dave. And thank you.
Robert Grant
Student
November 3, 2021
David Thorsen will always hold a place in my heart and mind as a key influencer and one-of-a-kind model of the kind of human being that makes the world so much better for his having passed through it.

I clearly remember the first moment I met him. He was auditioning singers for his “College Singers” choir at Cal State Fullerton and as a newly-graduated high school student, all of my fingers were crossed that I’d make the cut. He immediately made me feel at ease with his warmth and ever present “twinkle.” For me, it was respect, admiration, and gratitude at first site. Later, I would tour with the choir yearly, in and outside of the country. When I think back to those years, it’s his face that I see.

I “found” him again quite by accident. I had learned that a hall had been named after him at Cal State and had assumed that he had already left this earth. I didn’t want to check that assumption because I so much didn’t want to know, in case it was true.

Some dear friends had been taking magic lessons at the Magic Castle and mentioned their wonderful teacher named “Dave.” The more they spoke, the more deja vous tickles I began to feel. Surely it was impossible that their magic teach was “my” Mr. Thorsen! There was nothing else to do but go to the Magic Castle and see for myself. I was overcome with joy at seeing him again, thriving, teaching, and spreading the loveliness of his being to other lucky people. I vowed not to let him out of my life again. And I didn’t. I feel him with me every day and always will.
Fifi Klein
Student
November 3, 2021
It would be hard to overstate Dave Thorsen's positive influence on my life. In the late fifties, I was floundering at Pasadena City College, messing around in student government, moving from major to major, getting poor grades.

For his Spring concert and tour (probably Spring of '58), Dave scheduled a hymn called "The Creation," comprising a narrator backed by a choir. Out of the blue, he asked me if I would do the narration. Flattered right out of my socks, I of course said yes. And in almost every way, as Robert Frost said, “that has made all the difference.”

Though I was merely an ancillary figure that Spring—not actually in the chorus—the experience of being part of, and touring with, that fabulous musical organization was thrilling. Watching—and listening—in rehearsals as Dave Thorsen drew the most beautiful, tender, touching sounds from the breasts and mouths of a mix of enthusiastic but untrained, seemingly angelic, bright eyed young people, using only subtle motions of his hands, and the most telling and expressive looks imaginable on his face, was to be a front-row witness to magic.

In the Fall, I joined the choir; soon after, I became a Music major and one of Dave's choral conducting students; and I had the privilege of helping him with the choir tours, and special concerts and concert recordings.

Then another request came in—Uncle Sam asked me to become a soldier, an offer I just couldn’t refuse. Nonetheless, while doing my bit to keep the Ruskies at bay, I was still able to lean on Dave's teachings. I sang in and directed base chapel choirs, and I trained choruses for musicals staged by a US Army Special Services theater in Germany. Dave Thorsen was sitting on my shoulder the entire time. And after the Army, I hustled down to CSU Fullerton, to pick up my schooling under Dave.

I didn’t remain in music; a theatrical bug bit me and I became a filmmaker. But films have sound tracks and most films have some flavor of musical support. Without any question, Dave Thorsen’s aesthetic shows through in all my work.

So it’s truly an honor to be able to say I was a student of David Thorsen—my teacher, my mentor, and my friend. Like no one else I have ever known, Dave found great joy in his calling as a musician and a teacher, and he shared that joy, unselfishly and unabashedly, with his students and with everyone around him.

Farewell, Dave. And thank you.
Robert Grant
Student
November 1, 2021
My years at Pasadena City College were filled with the wonderful music we made in Dave's choir and Madrigal singers groups. He was a stern musical disciplinarian which resulted in performances we sang with confidence and passion...a passion for music that he always shared. He inspired me to continue my singing with Howard Swan and the Occidental College Glee Clubs, for which I will be forever grateful. How fortunate I was to share even a small part of his full life.
Joy Lawrance
Student
November 1, 2021
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