Dr. Victor Bilanchone Jr., Wofford College professor of music emeritus, is remembered for his jovial spirit, his care for students and colleagues, and knowing how to get the best out of his choral groups.
He died on April 27 at Spartanburg Regional Hospice Home. He was 82.
“I will miss Vic desperately,” says Dr. Al Jeter ’74. “I honor these 50 years of friendship. I’m grateful he was part of my life.”
Bilanchone, who served 29 years as Wofford’s director of music, arrived on campus in 1972. Jeter says students immediately felt a new level of excitement.
Bilanchone took groups to perform concerts across the Southeast during spring break, and he formed the college’s first SATB (soprano, alto, tenor and bass) ensembles. He would invite women from Converse College (now Converse University) to participate, and there were performances with full orchestras.
“He always went above and beyond because he wanted more for all of his groups and singers than a basic minimum,” Jeter says. “That’s quite a gift. That’s when you know someone is not just simply trying to earn their check.”
Jeter’s relationship with Bilanchone continued to grow over the years. Bilanchone became familiar with Wofford through his involvement with the Lake Junaluska Singers, the resident performing ensemble for the United Methodist camp at Lake Junaluska in North Carolina. When the group needed a baritone, Bilanchone recommended Jeter. Jeter joined Central United Methodist Church and its choir, and Bilanchone would occasionally help the choir before becoming its director for 30 years.
Jeter says Bilanchone insisted on excellence with choral groups, and he expected everyone to follow their assignment, but he was never antagonistic. He always created an environment that fostered positive and cooperative attitudes.
Jeter performed as a soloist during a concert honoring Bilanchone at his retirement. Now retired himself, Jeter credits Bilanchone’s influence on his 45-year career in public education as a teacher and administrator.
“When you work with people, you have to treat them with respect. Then they will do their best,” Jeter says. “How can we be less than that when we have good models and examples like Vic.”
Bilanchone is survived by his wife, Linda Bilanchone, Wofford professor emerita of English; and the couple’s three adult children: Patrick, Jodi and Jill.
Thom Henson ’96, Wofford’s director of parent engagement, says Bilanchone’s impact on Wofford, Central United Methodist Church and Spartanburg will be felt for many years to come.
“When you heard a choir directed by Vic sing ‘When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,’ you had been to church,” says Henson. “Dr. B made everyone feel like a star, whether you could carry a tune or not. I will miss hearing him recap his latest round of golf and asking me what was going on at Wofford.”
Gary McCraw ’77, professor and director of music, was Bilanchone’s student accompanist for three years. They were reunited several years later and worked together for nearly two decades.
“When he took the Scarritt College position in 1982-83, I was hired back as accompanist and remained his accompanist until his retirement in 2001,” says McCraw. “During those years we shared some great experiences, among them Wofford choral trips to London, Italy, Bermuda and throughout the great state of South Carolina. Vic was not only my teacher, but my mentor, and, most importantly, my friend.”