In Memoriam, Ernie Urvater

The Golandsky Institute mourns the loss of Ernie Urvater, producer and director of Choreography of the Hands, and the 10 Taubman Technique Videos. Ernie was an extraordinary man with a wide variety of talents, and his work as the founder of Sawmill River Productions has had a profound impact on recording and immortalizing the work of Dorothy Taubman.

Ernest Michael Urvater | Obituary

Amherst, MA — Ernest Michael Urvater, born in Vienna, Austria, in 1934, died at his home in Amherst, MA, on July 5, at the age of 88.

He was the only son of Friedrich Urvater, born in Krakow, and his American-born wife Muriel (nee Barnett). At the age of two, Ernie and his Jewish parents fled newly-Fascist Vienna. They eventually travelled to America on the great ocean liner, the SS Normandie. The Urvater family spent time in St. Louis and Chicago before settling in New York City. For many years the family home was a two-story clapboard house in Far Rockaway. Ernie proudly identified as a New Yorker throughout his life.

After attending New York public schools (he claimed to be an indifferent student who often cut class to watch movies in Times Square), he earned a B.A. with honors from Queens College. After a brief career in advertising, Ernie turned his energy to the entirely new (to him) field of solid state physics. He earned a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1968, where he was proud to have led one of the largest anti-Viet Nam war teach-ins in the nation. He taught many courses at the Boulder campus and later at the University of Colorado at Fort Collins. Ernie was a visiting researcher at Brookhaven National Laboratory in the late 1960s.

Always athletic, Ernie was drawn to the rugged Western landscape and became an avid hiker and skier. He developed and headed a successful federal program for inner city students, designed to improve their skills in science and mathematics while exposing them to the outdoor life. An active participant in the program, he led groups into the Rockies during the summer months.

After a decade of teaching in Colorado, Ernie moved to Boston. There, he plunged with characteristic brio into two of his lifelong interests: music and film. He studied jazz piano at the Berklee School of Music and for many years jammed with local musicians in Amherst, where he played with a group called the Uncertainty Principle.

After moving to Amherst in 1986, Ernie founded Sawmill River Productions, through which he produced and directed documentary videos on a variety of subjects, including the role of plastics in the marine environment, paganism, and the Montague Bookmill. Perhaps his most ambitious project focused on the work of classical music teacher Dorothy Taubman. Ernie also directed and produced a series of three videos called Angles of a Landscape about the life and work of Emily Dickinson.

In keeping with his family’s tradition, Ernie was always keenly interested in politics—international, national and local. Many Gazette readers have expressed appreciation for his pithy, insightful letters to the editor.

Ernie is survived by his wife Terry Y. Allen; his children Toby Urvater of Phoenix, Dr. Joshua Urvater of Seattle, and Dr. Julie Urvater of Seattle; his brother Dr. Jed Schlosberg of Quito, Ecuador; six beautiful and gifted grandchildren; two stepdaughters, Claire Calcagni of Brooklyn, NY, and Susan Cottrell of Rougemont, NC; and by his niece Erika Needles and nephew Jonathan Needles. Ernie was predeceased by his sister Susan Needles of Phoenix.