ATU Mourns Loss of Faculty Member, His Wife

Brian Conatser

Brian Conatser, instructor of music at Arkansas Tech University, died as a result of injuries sustained in an automobile accident on Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021.

Mr. Conatser taught classes in piano and applied piano at Arkansas Tech. He was also a frequent accompanist for the choirs and opera workshop at ATU.

His wife, ATU alumna Ann Shields, also died in the accident.

Dr. Jeff Bright, head of the ATU Department of Music, remembered Mr. Conatser as having a caring, gentle soul.

“I don’t think a student passed through our department in the last 15 years who did not work with Brian in some capacity,” said Bright. “He was always willing to help the department any way he could. He was incredibly talented and performed collaboratively on many occasions with musicians from across the state. Both he and his wife, Ann, were fixtures in the Russellville music community. His loss will not only be felt at Tech but across our region. We are all just heartbroken and devastated by his untimely passing.”

Suede Graham, a 2016 graduate of Arkansas Tech, was among those who posted reflections about Mr. Conatser’s influence to social media.

“Mr. Conatser was a wonderful musician, but an even more wonderful man,” wrote Graham. “He was a friend and guardian to all of us in the ATU music department. The way he could play piano in Crocs, the way he could sight read our music five minutes before we were set to walk on stage for a recital, the way he had the cheesiest jokes. My heart goes out to his friends and family, and my heart goes out to every single musician that had the pleasure of working with Mr. Conatser.”

Emily Rachel Bruce Calhoun, ATU Class of 2018, shared memories of working with Mr. Conatser on her French horn and vocal recitals.

“He was always a kind and gentle soul, and was always empathetic with those he was around,” wrote Calhoun. “He was such a great person, with a loving heart and this world has been changed for the better with the impact he left on it.”

A graveside service is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021, at St. Paul (Gravel Hill) Cemetery near Dover with the Rev. Brian Brock officiating under the direction of Shinn Funeral Service of Russellville.

An open viewing will be held Thursday, Aug. 19, from noon-4:00 p.m. at the funeral home, which is located at 800 West Main Street in Russellville. The family will receive friends via drive by visitation from 4:30-5:30 p.m. at the Shinn Funeral Chapel entrance.

Complete obituaries for Mr. Conatser and Ms. Shields are available by clicking on these links: