Elmhurst College is mourning the passing of Frank Caruso, a jazz and piano professor who taught at the college for the past 15 years.
A musician who performed for many high profile figures like Duke Ellington and former presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, Caruso, 70, passed away on April 22 in Cary, Illinois, where he was recovering from a surgery after a recent fall. Known as a friend to everyone he knew, the father of seven’s sudden death has shocked the campus—students and faculty members alike.
Piano professor Barbara Masters, who shared a studio with Caruso, remembers his performances fondly.
“I enjoyed his concert with him playing the accordion and piano. What a gifted man,” remarked Masters. “I’m still shocked that he’s gone from us.”
Tim Hays, another EC music professor and director of the music business program, agreed.
“Frank was a major jazz lion in the city and a wonderful guy,” said Hays.
Caruso was known for his sense of humor, something visiting assistant music professor Mike Pinto recalls warmly.
“His sense of humor was just—his laugh made you laugh,” said Pinto. “He always took his work outside of the classroom. You’d always see him talking and laughing with students in the jazz lounge.”
In a Facebook post commemorating Caruso’s memory, jazz studies student Aimee Nawrocki said, “I wouldn't be the musician I am today without his guidance, and it was apparent that he deeply loved the students at Elmhurst College.”
Nawrocki also added that Caruso was one of the first people to support her when she started to publicly speak about issues she dealt with such as depression and anxiety.
“That really meant a lot,” said Nawrocki on Caruso’s support.
Director of jazz studies Doug Beach explained Caruso had a gift of teaching.
“He was able to teach anyone at any level. A quick teacher and he really took an interest in you,” said Beach. “When Frank was doing a lesson with you—it’s all about you. Nothing else mattered.”
President Troy VanAken believed Caruso left a lasting impact at EC.
“Virtually everything you hear about him from students to colleagues confirms how generous Frank was with his time, his talent, and his spirit,” said VanAken. “A true teacher and someone who will be greatly missed by the college.”
Funeral and memorial services for the professor were held on April 28 and April 29 at Rago Brothers Funeral Home.