Department of Music

Arlene Cole, Beating Heart of Our Department, Passes at 79

The Department of Music hosts an event on September 30, 2022 to celebrate Arlene, and a special website will be published this month where friends, family, alumni, and colleagues can share their memories. Details follow below.

photo of Arlene Cole at the Great WallIt is with sorrow that we announce the passing of Arlene Toshiko Matsuoka Cole, Assistant Professor of the Practice of Music at Brown. She retired in 2021 after a rich career at Brown spanning over 50 years. Her devotion to students’ academic and personal development was incomparable. She had a way of making her packed classrooms feel like family gatherings. Over the years, one could find her on campus any day of the week or weekend, giving piano lessons or helping students with music theory and keyboard skills. A number of students chose Brown because they heard about her exceptional teaching and dedication. Students loved and revered her, and in many ways she was the beating heart of the Department of Music. An alumnus recently put it plainly: "Arlene Cole is the Music Department."

Arlene was born in Camp Jerome, Arkansas on May 26, 1943, to James Matsuoka and Dassie Matsuoka nee Yasunaga. She grew up in Cleveland and attended the Cleveland Institute of Music, then received her Bachelor’s in Music from Eastman School of Music. She went on to obtain her Masters of Music from Yale School of Music. Always striving for excellence, she would later study with Sacha Gorodnitsky at The Juilliard School. From there she held professional appointments in Connecticut, California, and Massachusetts, before coming to Brown in 1970.

Arlene is survived by her husband Brian, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at Brown, daughter Geraldine of Providence, son Elliot of Boston, and her beloved dog, Leya. 

A virtual space to share memories

As we celebrate Arlene's exceptional life and her career at Brown, we need the voices of the people she mentored and with whom she worked for over 50 years. We invite you to share your memories and experiences. Write to Include your statement, your name, and your connection to Arlene (class year, organization in which you worked, etc.) Attach any photos you would like us to include. Thank you.