ONTARIO -- Robert Shaw, the dominant figure in American choral music who died Monday, was remembered by Chaffey High School classmates as being someone who showed musical brilliance at an early age.
Mr. Shaw, 82, graduated from Chaffey High in 1933. He was best known as conductor of the Robert Shaw Chorale, which performed around the world. He also was conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra, the Atlanta Symphony and the Opera Company of Boston. He held annual choral institutes in France and at Carnegie Hall.
Mr. Shaw died in New Haven, Conn., of a stroke. He was visiting Yale to see a production of Samuel Beckett's ''Endgame,'' which his son Thomas directed and acted in.
As early as 1943 Shaw was named "America's greatest chorale conductor" by the National Association of Composers and Conductors.
Marjorie (Ferguson) Stamm, who graduated with Mr. Shaw and attended the Ontario church where his father was a minister, said singing was in his blood.
"When we finished with our church activities on Sundays, Bob and the other Shaw boys would drive us all home," said Stamm, 83. "They knew that my father loved music so they would get out and sing for him. He was always so devoted to his music."
That devotion was apparent when Mr. Shaw and Stamm attended a discussion by Sigmund Spaeth, a musical theorist who believed that it only took a certain number of notes to make all the music in the world.
"I just remember looking over and seeing how intensely he was listening to everything that was going on," Stamm said. "I was so impressed."
Ruth (Lichti) Dowding was in the high school glee club with Mr. Shaw.
"The music directors always asked him to conduct the glee club," she said. "He was our student conductor, and even then they recognized his talent. He was a remarkable person."
Margaret (Klusman) Bassett, 82, of Claremont graduated from high school with Mr. Shaw. She followed his musical career closely, and admits that she was tickled to know someone who made such a name for himself.
Bassett sat next to Mr. Shaw in a civics class during their senior year in high school. She met him one other time following World War II when he gave a performance at Chaffey High School.
"I visited with him after that performance and when I went backstage to introduce myself to him again, he was exhausted and full of perspiration," Bassett said. "He had just thrown himself into his music, and he could scarcely talk."
Shaw came back to the Inland Valley again in 1988 to visit music students at Pomona College, where he graduated in 1938 with a major in English and religion.
"He conducted here once with our choir and our glee club and it was just wonderful," said Jan Goertz, who has been secretary in the music department for 18 years.
"The kids were just blown away. We all were."
After graduating from Pomona College, Mr. Shaw went to work for band leader Fred Waring, creating a 24-voice glee club for the popular tours and weekly broadcasts of Waring and his Pennsylvanians.
Survivors include his sons Peter, John and Thomas; a daughter, Johanna; a stepson; a sister; and a brother. No services have been announced.