Colleagues of a San Francisco State University graduate student and musician slain in Antigua last week are struggling to deal with her death, faculty said today.

Nina Nilssen, 29, was found stabbed to death last Tuesday while on a Caribbean cruise with her family, according to news reports.

Nilssen, a Bay Area resident originally from New Mexico, was about to enter her second semester as a graduate student studying music composition, according to Ronald Caltabiano, associate dean of the school’s College of Creative Arts and one of her teachers. She had also studied music composition as an undergraduate at the school.

“It’s one of those horribly shocking things,” Caltabiano said.

Nilssen’s cruise ship had made port at Antigua during a seven-day cruise when the stabbing occurred. No arrests have been reported.

Caltabiano, himself a composer, called Nilssen “intensely thoughtful,” quiet and introspective. Her compositions were “intense,” he said, “modernist but very lyrical.”

“I guess, above all, very individualist,” Caltabiano said of her work. “She wasn’t copying anyone’s music, she was writing her own.”

Caltabiano said Nilssen’s student colleagues received the news with shock and tears.

“The hardest thing to get around is the fact that someone who has been a part of your life for years, is just simply gone,” he said. “I myself had that reaction. I was planning on seeing her tomorrow.”

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  • Monica Aiken

    Nina was serene, centered, honest, wise. She could refrain from speaking, and put it into her music. She was sweet and caring, had the clearest eyes and the most sensitive regard to others. She was open-hearted, warm, unjudgmental. She took her time, but kept going in the direction of her dreams. She was a free spirit, but she didn’t disperse herself or spread herself too thinly. She had close friends, but she was sturdy and strong by herself. She wasn’t the type of person who you would consider a “victim”. She wasn’t afraid. She was the only female composition student I knew of, at least in 2006, when I was at SF State, studying music. And she took it like a grain of salt. She was adventurous and talented and ambitious, but she never let it go to her head. She was always humbled somehow. Her roots were in New Mexico. She liked the desert, she missed New Mexico. But she was becoming more and more of a San Franciscan. She was adventurous but streetsmart. She was in no way nave. Her presence was always reassuring, motivating, like she just had this silent way of expressing that she supported you. Silent mutual support. She loved Nature, and she seemed to draw inspiration from Nature into her music. I always looked forward to hearing her musical creations, and I am shocked at this could happen to such an amazingly bright and beautiful and creative young lady. It’s truly a tragedy. And I mourn for her and her family. It was not her time. And violence of this nature is intolerable, unacceptable. We must do something to make our world a safer place. We cannot afford to lose lives in this indecent manner. It shouldn’t be a conversation about saving Antigua’s tourism. It should be a conversation about eradicating violence and crime so that tragedies of this nature can be avoided. She should not have had to die in vain.