Some people are born into money and always have plenty of it. They don't do anything to earn it. It's just given to them. They have never been without it, and wouldn't know what it's like to be as the rest of us---always struggling to make ends meet. We all know people of that sort, if only from the movies. You may be one yourself.
Music to me is like money to those people. I inherited a musical life at birth, and have been around fine music ever since. There has never been a period when I didn't have it and love it, but the flame didn't grow into a passion until my early teens.
The story of my musical life inevitably starts with and centers around my father. Whenever people ask me about my musical influences, the first words out of my mouth are inevitably: ``My father ...''
Harold Richard Newton, a.k.a. ``Dad'' to me, made his entire living in music: as a violist, violinist, conductor, teacher, and sometimes as a composer. He was a gifted young violinist, worked hard in his youth, as a young man studied for a year in Hamburg, Germany, at a time when the U.S.A. was in a deep depression, while in Germany Hitler was rising to power, and came back ready to begin his professional career as a musical artist.
When I was born in July 1943, during World War II, Dad was employed as principal violist with the Kansas City (Missouri) Philharmonic. For a while during that period he worked part time as a draftsman in a B--29 bomber factory, not because he couldn't get work as a musician, but because the government required men his age, already nearly 37, to have war jobs or join the slaughter.
Kansas City is a blank in my memory. When I was eighteen months old we moved to New York City, where we lived until I was four, not long after my brother Dean was born. While there, Dad's primary job was playing in the NBC Symphony under Arturo Toscanini. He also played with the City Center Symphony.
We rented our small apartment at 333 W. 83rd Street in Manhattan from a musician. There was a Steinway grand piano in the living room that I liked to bang on. But there was only one bedroom.
Dad was searching at the time for a more-or-less permanent principal chair in one of the best orchestras, and thought New York might be the place to find one. I've heard through my brothers that he discussed the possibility of playing principal viola in Pittsburgh with Fritz Reiner, and also had some dealings with Dmitri Mitropoulis when Mitropoulis was in Minnesota. Some prominent conductors knew him and recommended him to their colleagues.
What Dad wanted as much as a secure orchestra job was to return to Chicago, where he was born and had family nearby. When he was offered the assistant principal viola position with the Chicago Symphony in 1947, he accepted it. Family legend (probably true) relates that not long after we moved, he was offered the principal viola job with the Metropolitan Opera orchestra in New York, but he'd already accepted the CSO job and gone to Chicago, and didn't really want to live in New York anyhow.
The 1947 Chicago Symphony
His first tenure with CSO was not long---from 1947 until 1953. He left when Fritz Reiner took over as conductor because Reiner had a reputation for eating musicians alive for breakfast, and Dad didn't want to deal with the stress. In 1948 he began teaching at Northwestern University, in the northern suburb of Evanston, and had begun to find success as a conductor, so decided to explore that and freelance for a while. He remained at Northwestern until 1956.
The Northwestern University faculty string quartet
After we moved to Wilmette, Dad sometimes took me with him to summer morning rehearsals at Ravinia in Highland Park when he rehearsed with the Chicago Symphony. Nowadays they charge admission any time of day, but then all I had to do was tag along and I got to have the run of the place. I could play out in the open grassy area where in the evening concertgoers would lay their blankets and picnics, or I could sit under the shell as close as the first row if I wanted, and watch and listen as the greatest conductors in the world and the greatest soloists in the world rehearsed the greatest orchestra in the world. One morning I sat though a rehearsal conducted by Pablo Casals of a large scale work for chorus and orchestra of his own composition. I may have taken that experience for granted in those days, in that I didn't reflect as I do now on how privileged it all was, but I certainly enjoyed it.
Little Symphony of Chicago in performance
In the late fifties Dad went through an unsuccessful period as an entrepreneur, as he attempted to mount a major performing arts festival on the North Shore. He never worked so hard for so little return, with a great deal of his time and effort being poured into business matters such as finding sponsors, organizing, and contracting, rather than into the making of music. In the end the whole project went belly up, at great cost to our family. Dad was able to salvage two events out of it: the performance of a play by Molière, and a concert by one of his most beloved creations, the Little Symphony of Chicago (also known as the Newton Concert Ensemble), a professional chamber orchestra under his direction that played a few concerts in the Chicago area, but never took off.
When all that work wound down, Dad returned to playing freelance. One afternoon I was in the basement while he was practicing in our workshop. As he was putting away his instrument he said to me: ``It's a good thing I know how to play the fiddle.'' He had spent so much time away from regular performing and practicing the previous two years that his playing had gotten rusty, but it was coming back quickly.
He added that the best thing he ever did for himself was to spend that year in Germany. While there he practiced eight hours a day, and went to concerts at night. He was a good player when he went over there, but all that work laid a solid foundation that brought him back as a professional. It never left him for the rest of his career.
My father returned to the Chicago Symphony during the 1969--1970 season, around the time he turned 63 (in October 1969), and the orchestra's first year under the great conductor Georg Solti. Dad no longer served as assistant principal during his second stint, which lasted through the summer of 1973. He went on tour with them through Europe, when they made some historical recordings. By then I was living in New York. We heard them play Schönberg's Moses and Aaron in Carnegie Hall when they passed through town. Dad regaled us with stories of sightseeing by himself while they were in Germany and Austria, getting to use his German language skills again after forty years, and of the excitement of recording the Mahler Eighth Symphony while they were there, a record that won some awards and critical acclaim.
For most of the years between CSO contracts, Dad was principal violist in the Grant Park Symphony, an excellent professional orchestra that plays outdoor summer concerts in Grant Park in downtown Chicago, near the lakefront. When he left the Chicago Symphony, he continued to come to Chicago every season from Florida until 1980 to play the Grant Park summer season.
In 1974 my brother Dale joined the Grant Park orchestra as cellist, and has played almost every year since. The following fall he moved to Tampa, where he, his wife, and Dad comprised the string faculty at the University of Tampa, and played together in the Florida Gulf Coast Symphony. For the next six years both Dad and Dale traveled up from Florida during the summer to play Grant Park together.
Grant Park, July 4, 1978
Because these concerts were free and in the summer, I often went with him, including through my college days, whenever I was home. As the years went on, it became unusual for me not to go, regardless of the program, as I've always loved to go to concerts.
These evenings were rarely attended by any of my brothers or my mother. Usually it was just Dad and I. He used to carpool with other musicians. We'd drive to the home of one or another and they would ride downtown together, while I tagged along, usually saying little, but taking in the adult conversation, which invariably centered on music.
Most frequently we would link up with violinist Joe Goodman, the assistant concertmaster. His wife was also a professional violinist, and his son Jerry, who was briefly a friend of my brother Dale's, became a jazz violinist, rising to fame in the seventies with John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra. Joe became a bit of a mentor to me, because he was a ham radio operator, and so was I. He sold me the ten-meter AM transmitter that I used through high school, and encouraged me in this extraordinarily rewarding hobby.
It was on one of those trips with Joe Goodman that I sat in the back seat with pianist Jeffrey Seigal, who was only sixteen at the time, and still a student of Rudolph Ganz, but already up and coming. Jeffrey is a popular concert pianist today, known especially for his Keyboard Conversation concert and talk series, which has played here in Scottsdale for many years. When I met him, he manifested his gift for talking about music, as he gabbed non-stop the entire trip on the topic of which piano concerto is ``greatest.'' His personal vote went at the time for the Brahms second. To this day I admit that I concur with that assessment.
At the Grant Park concerts, during intermission, when the musicians came out to take a break, I'd always be introduced to Dad's orchestra buddies, whom I got to know by name. Those were good times.
My most memorable Grant Park experience was soon after pianist Van Cliburn won the Tschaikowsky competition in Moscow in 1958, for which he received a ticker tape parade in New York City. His achievement made him the biggest cultural hero in the US since the cold war.
Before he went to Moscow, he had contracted to appear with the Grant Park Symphony as soloist on two evenings, in return for which he probably made about $150 per performance. For these concerts they had to make special arrangements. There were over 200,000 people at each one. It was like Woodstock.
Musicians in the orchestra were still given tickets to the reserved area, but only one per concert instead of the standard two, fifteen rows further back than usual. I got to go to both, but because of the anticipated crowds, I could not travel with Dad and expect to get a decent seat. They opened the reserved area at 5:00 PM, three hours before the concert, so I took the train downtown myself, got to the park when they opened the section, and got one of the best seats available both nights. On the first concert Cliburn played the Tschaikowsky Concerto in B-flat minor, and the next night the Rachmaninoff Concerto in D-minor, the third. I brought the scores to both, along with plenty of reading material to keep me busy during the three-hour wait.
 Most people don't know that Tschaikowsky wrote two other piano concertos.
In 1972 my parents moved to Saint Petersburg, Florida, where he taught at a college in Tampa, and played principal viola and was associate conductor of the Florida Gulf Coast Symphony, in addition to coming to Chicago during the summers. Later he played in a string quartet that played at resorts. He finally retired for good when they moved to Minnesota around 1985, though he continued to practice and play for friends until the end. He played a short recital with an accompanist just a few months before he died of leukemia in June 1995, approaching age 89. Because playing music was what Dad loved to do more than anything, I always knew that if he stopped the end would be near, which proved to be the case.
As a child I perceived music to be something adults did. All the people I knew who played music were advanced professionals, my parents' friends. It never occurred to me until high school to try it seriously myself, although I loved poking at the piano.
Being the oldest child by several years had advantages, in that both my parents always seemed to have time for me, even though Dad's work schedule was weird. My mother, who had been a teacher, taught me to read when I was four, another legacy for which I will always be grateful.
Neither of my parents ever urged me to take music lessons or pursue it with long-term benefits in view, but whenever I expressed an interest in it, Dad would teach me things. Rather than starting me out with playing, he introduced me to the arcane world of musical notation, so that I understood a little about how music was written and how to follow along when it was played, which amounted to basic score reading, before I ever played an instrument. I would play at practicing this art, scribbling nonsense music on manuscript paper. At least it looked like music to me.
Sometimes I flopped out on the living room floor for an hour or more listening to Dad practice, and being deeply impressed. One day I told him directly, as he was putting his fiddle away, that I was proud to have a father who played music as well as he did. It was evident that he was touched to hear his son make that unsolicited heartfelt open expression. Just as every father wants children he can be proud of, every father longs for children who are proud of him.
Some people don't even know what a viola is. That's why Dad often referred to his viola as a fiddle, and to himself as a fiddle player, to avoid having to explain over and over. It seems I picked up the habit from him.
By that age I was conscious that Dad had a special status in the community because of his unusual job---that he wasn't exactly famous, and certainly wasn't rich, but was known and highly respected. In fifth grade, kids in my class expressed amazement that my father's name appeared now and then in the weekly Wilmette Life community newspaper.
In Chicago at first we had no piano. Our jolly next door neighbor, Mrs. Taylor, taught piano. One day before I'd even started school I knocked on her door and announced that I wanted to begin piano lessons. I had not taken this up plan with my parents. Mrs. Taylor was surprised, and said she didn't realize we had acquired a piano. Ummm---We hadn't. Was this necessary? Couldn't I just come over and play hers? No, that wasn't possible. I needed one at home to practice on. I left downhearted.
Around that time my father briefly acquired a pump organ. It worked well enough as far as I could tell. I sat at it, churning my feet at the bellows, and was entertained by the sounds I could get out of it. For some reason Dad put the thing in the basement. One day I went down to play with it, but it was gone. When I asked my father where it was, he said he gave it away. I cried I was so heartbroken. He had no idea I was interested in the thing.
One day not long afterward, when I was about six, our new Chickering spinet piano arrived. Dad was not a skilled pianist, so didn't need a performer's instrument. As a conductor, he needed a piano with which to study scores, and could hack through things well enough to accomplish this work. Dad was undoubtedly the first to play the Chickering, but I'm sure I was the second. Before long I'd learned to pick out ``My Country 'Tis of Thee'' with one finger. Then I learned ``Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater,'' and ``Chopsticks,'' which both took two fingers. That's as far as I got for a while.
After a while Dad got me started on teaching myself the piano using a popular method book he picked up for me. Later he taught me about conducting, never with the idea that someday I would be leading instrumental groups, but just to show me how it was done. My musical activity then was just another form of playing, like throwing a ball.
We moved to the North Shore suburb of Wilmette in 1952, the summer I turned nine. In fourth grade we had a school-wide talent show. When I showed up for the tryout, my teacher Mrs. Patterson was surprised and said she didn't know I took lessons. I told her I didn't, but I knew how to play. I played ``The Running Brook'' from book two of the Michael Aaron series, and passed the audition.
They put me first on the long program. When I walked onto the stage and saw all the children staring up at me, I made a funny face of mock surprise and horror of the sort that dumb little kids will make, which made them all laugh. It was the beginning of my performance career. Following that, I ran through my routine without a flaw, took my bow, and walked off satisfied and glad to be done first.
Later that year I presented an idea to Mrs. Patterson: If I wrote a script and music for a musical, would she arrange for our class to perform it for the school and parents? ``Sure, no problem!'' she glibly assured me. I'm sure she lost a lot of sleep in the excitement and anticipation.
The preposterosity of a nine-year-old child who had never yet written a note of real music actually accomplishing such a task never occurred to me, so I dove into it, utterly unfazed.
The keyboard fixation that still possesses me today had already taken root, because I took up typing when I was five or six. My mother took a short story class and beat out page after page of Philip Marlowe inspired magazine style murder mysteries on a Remington portable, using up reams of yellow second paper. She tried to hide her spicy work from me, but there was too much of it lying around. I read all I could find.
Naturally, I had to try my own hand at this as well. I wrote mainly Lassie stories. A typical example ran along the lines of this:
Bark! Hi, Lassie! Where have you been? Bark! You say you just saved six people who fell out of a rowboat and were drowning!? Good girl! Bark! Sure, Lassie, I'd love help with my homework. But first let's ask Mom for some cookies. Bark!
And so forth.
With years of experience under my belt, I walked into school a few weeks after the forementioned conference and deposited a half dozen laboriously made carbon copies of a completed one-act script about children misbehaving in school and getting sent to Mr. Jones, the stern principal, before my astonished teacher. No, I had not begun the music, but didn't consider it a problem. All I had to do was make up some music and write it down. How hard could it be? I already had some fairly strong opinions regarding the casting, which I hoped she would consider.
Mrs. Patterson consented to let me present the thing to my class. That the reception was something less than unbridled enthusiasm may be the reason I never worked on it again after that day.
Obviously, I was undaunted by the idea of writing music at that age. The rumblings had already begun.
People ask: How does one compose? My understanding then was that you just start making up music and save the good parts. It's like the old joke about how to sculpt an elephant out of a piece of marble: just chip away all the parts that don't look like an elephant. It's more a process of discovery than of invention. The good tunes are out there. It's the composer's job to go out and get them. At least that's how I thought at age nine.
My parents had never urged me to begin taking music lessons, as I later insisted upon with my own two children. One day, still being of the opinion that if I were to take music lessons, I would be doing them a great big favor, I offered to cut a deal with them: If they would buy me a football helmet and shoulder pads, I would agree to take piano lessons. :-) They did and I did. I clearly got the better part of that bargain.
My first piano teacher was David Nya, a theology student from one of my father's chamber music classes at Northwestern, whose aspiration was to become a monk. He manifestly hated teaching me, and seemed to dislike me personally. I studied for a season and a half and lost interest in practicing the things he assigned, so let it go for a while, but continued playing on my own for fun.
My father made wire recordings of me playing several pieces from the Michael Aaron piano series, when I was in fifth grade. I don't remember if I had begun lessons yet, but if so, not for long. Dad transcribed them to audio cassette fifteen years ago and sent me a copy. I was surprised at how steady my playing was.
Later I studied piano with Mrs. Carter, whose husband was a physicist. They lived in Winnetka in a house with two pianos in the living room and a back room full of pinball machines. I played one recital there of the type my daughter Cyra-Lea later was subjected to ten times. I performed a simple arrangement of Finlandia by Sibelius. The students had to sit in that back room and wait their turn because the living room was too small for us and parents, too. I couldn't concentrate on the task ahead for longing to play with one of the pinball machines, but couldn't do while the music was playing. Still, I managed to pull off another perfect performance. I was two for two.
In fourth grade I had an amusing but life-changing experience when I heard our grade school orchestra. It was the first time I had ever heard other children play music together. Now, I can honestly say that I've always been attuned to listening open-mindedly to new sounds. Almost all the music I had heard my whole life up to that time had been polished classical performances played by pros. When this little orchestra of beginners went into gear, it sounded like a train coming to a stop, with all its squeaking, grinding, honking, and clams. And I was amazed by what I heard! It was the most exotic sound I'd ever heard in my life, and I thought it was supposed to sound like that! Suddenly I wanted to be a part of that experience.
The school offered free private lessons from the kindly and dedicated grade school music teacher Mr. Delander, and rent-free instruments to fifth and sixth grade students, for as many instruments as they had available, with preference for the older students. In fifth grade I wanted to take trumpet lessons, but they ran out of trumpets, so I didn't get lessons. My father would have preferred that I take up a string instrument, but he never did anything to force a musical direction on me.
Once we visited a family who lived on a small farm in rural Illinois. One of the kids had a trombone. I spent part of the afternoon with them honking and blowing my brains out through it. It made my mouth feel numb. Later, in sixth grade, I wrote down trombone as my first choice on a whim, but still earnestly preferred trumpet. I got trombone, and brought home the instrument, but was disappointed. I began to learn to play it, but unenthusiastically.
In seventh and eighth grade I took both band and orchestra as electives, even though I never had any trombone lessons beyond the few beginning lessons I had in sixth grade. At first I was indifferent to it, but I got to like it much better the second year.
We had a wonderful auditorium at Howard junior high school. The Minneapolis Symphony played there once, also New York Pro Musica, and the Chicago based Fine Arts String Quartet played a series there. In 1964, I played harpsichord continuo parts with a recorder ensemble that played incidental music to the play Cyrano de Bergerac in the Howard school auditorium. They had a regular classical music subscription series, and used volunteer students to act as ushers. After everyone was seated, the ushers could sit and listen to the concerts. I volunteered for every one.
 The players were friends of Dad, who told me that at one time he suspected they were considering asking him to join the quartet, replacing the retiring violist, a job he would have been delighted to get. In high school I owned a recording of the six Bartok String Quartets performed by Fine Arts, yet another set I wore out.
The most memorable of those concerts was when William Primrose, then considered the greatest violist in the world, gave a solo recital. My father was a personal acquaintance of his, and went to this concert himself. While others had to wait outside, I got to go in with my father and be introduced and shake the great man's hand. I stood there listening to them talk viola shop for ten minutes after the concert, while crowds were waiting outside to greet and congratulate the artist.
I was happy to go anywhere with my father, for the pleasure of being with him, but especially when music was involved. Whenever it was possible for me to go, he would gladly take me. My younger brothers didn't have nearly as much opportunity in this regard as I did. In retrospect I realize that at times Dad may have take me places partly to get me out of the house and give my mother a little relief from having to deal with four kids at once.
Once Dad took me to a black church in Valparaiso, Indiana, where he was contracted to conduct a performance of Handel's Messiah. This was an unusual experience for a boy from the all-white upper and upper-middle class Chicago North Shore. The trip was for a rehearsal, not the performance. Dad introduced me to a man who was in charge, evidently the church's pastor. He tactfully suggested that perhaps I might prefer to be elsewhere, if I felt ``uncomfortable'' being there. I didn't, and couldn't think offhand of any reason why I wouldn't want to be there. I was ten or eleven at the time, was with my Dad, and I'd come to hear some music. Was there supposed to be some reason I might rather be somewhere else?
I may have nonetheless been whisked away, because I no longer remember the rehearsal at all. Surely I would if I had been there, since the circumstances were unusual, and I certainly have a clear recollection of being inside that church. On the other hand, neither do I remember doing anything else in that town I'd never been in, and where there was not a soul that I knew.
Dad conducted various civic orchestras, primarily the Twin Cities Symphony in Benton Harbor--Saint Joseph, Michigan, and the Kenosha, Wisconsin Symphony. He was able to contract some well-known soloists to play with them. Once he had the famous gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. She is also represented in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but I don't know what she sang with the orchestra.
Once I met pianist Theodore Letvin, when he played the Khachaturian Concerto. I played trombone myself in that concert, which was a big thrill for me. I was about sixteen at the time, and starting to learn to play trombone reasonably well. It was one of the few times I played when my father conducted.
Another time I met violinist Elaine Skorodin, a student of Heifetz who went on to a successful career as a soloist and chamber musician, playing her Stradivarius with such notables as Alfred Brendel and Gregor Piatagorski. She too was a friend of my father's, and played the Sibelius Concerto with the Kenosha Symphony. She told Dad she liked me. Once I traveled with her and my father to a rehearsal in Kenosha, when we stopped for eating dinner on the road. By then I knew the Sibelius Concerto rather well myself, as I used to listen often to my father's recording of it played by Heifetz, while following the score.
When I was fourteen, Elaine was a soloist with the Chicago Symphony, playing the Glazunov Concerto at a Saturday evening pops concert. Her parents gave their box seat tickets to my father, while they listened from backstage. Dad took me to the concert. During intermission I ran into two of my best friends from school, who were astonished out of their wits to see me there. They had never been to a CSO concert. In fact, they'd never been to any classical musical concert. When they asked how I happened to be there, imagine their thunderstruck awe when it turned out that I was sitting in the seats belonging to the night's soloist's parents, who had personally invited us. Of course, afterward, we were welcome guests backstage, Dad as both friend of the soloist and a popular orchestra alumnus. This encounter earned me points at school for weeks afterward.
Once Dad took me to a live radio show at NBC studios at the top of the Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago. I was allowed to sit in the studio during the performance. That morning I'd bought a copy of the Gershwin Preludes at Carl Fisher with thoughts of learning to play them. During a break, the pianist on the job wrote in some fingerings for me on the slow one, and gave me some hints. My father told me afterward that I'd just had a free lesson from one of the most in-demand session pianists in town.
On another occasion I sat in a studio and watched them make a TV commercial for Pillsbury. That was less interesting. I'm surprised they let me sit around for that one, because jingle sessions are all business, and not a place for kids to hang around. If I'd sneezed during a take, I'd have been booted out on my keister, left to wait for Dad out in the lobby. But I've always been good at sitting quietly and inconspicuously.
When I was nine or ten, Dad was contracted to be the evening's soloist with the Chicago Symphony on a pops concert. He was also represented on the program as a composer, as he played his own Suite for solo viola and orchestra, a work he wrote as part of his masters thesis. He'd performed it as soloist with the Kansas City Philharmonic, and also in Kenosha, but CSO was the big time.
He practiced for hours every day to prepare. Aunt Bertha, Dad's sister, came for the performance, and I sat with her in box seats at Orchestra Hall. My mother was backstage. My brothers were all too young, so were home with a baby sitter. It was about the most exciting thing that had ever happened in our family. I'd been told it was to be Dad's big ``solo.'' Afterward I expressed my disappointment in the experience when, as I said to Bertha, ``I thought it was supposed to be a solo. The orchestra kept butting in!''
In September 1957, I entered New Trier High School as a freshman. The music bug had not yet permanently bitten me, but my interest was growing. I played trombone in the Cadet Orchestra. That year many things happened that changed my life.
It had been over two years since I took either piano or trombone lessons. One day I started playing through volume four of the Michael Aaron piano method book (which I still have) and became inspired to progress through it, so started practicing every day. At the same time I began listening to more records, especially if scores were available. One afternoon I listened to a recording of the popular Mozart Sonata in C Major (K.545) played by Brazilian pianist Guiomar Novaes. Her tone and the sound of the piece captivated me. It may have been the single defining moment of my life because of what followed.
I became possessed with the idea of learning to play this Mozart sonata myself, so I asked my father to get me the music next time he went to downtown Chicago. I was sure I could learn to play it. He did, and I did. It was then that I first started practicing piano in earnest, but still without a teacher to guide me, working on pieces that were way over my head.
One day Samuel Mages, my high school orchestra teacher, brought in a classmate, Dick Bair, to play the trumpet for us. As a freshman, Dick was first trumpet player in the Honor Band and Senior Orchestra. He played the solo part from the second Bach Brandenburg Concerto in its original key, but on a standard B-flat trumpet. I'd never heard another kid play music that well in person, only now and then on TV. Dick eventually became a friend of mine, became salutatorian of our class, and went to MIT.
Later in the year I heard my first concert by the Senior Orchestra and Honor Band. A clarinet player, Bob Lamotte, played a Weber Concerto. Once again I was astonished, as I was learning that it was possible for people my age to play music well.
By this time I was completely enthralled with music. Regrettably, I was already too old to develop into much of a virtuoso on any of the instruments I eventually took up.
There is an optimum age for learning the foundation motor skills necessary to play musical instruments. To do it well enough to become a working professional musician today, a student must start young, normally between ages six and nine, work hard, take it seriously from the beginning, and never lapse or let up. Experience has shown there to be virtually no exceptions to that rule. At age fourteen I was already well over the hill. Fortunately, I had other resources to draw on.
As a sophomore at New Trier, Mr. Mages offered me a privilege extended to only one or two students previously, or so I heard: he let me conduct the band, knowing I'd learned a little about how to conduct from my father. That year I rehearsed and then conducted two performances of Von Suppe's ``Light Cavalry Overture.'' The first was at a daytime assembly concert at Howard Junior High School, which made my younger brother Dean, who was in seventh grade there, popular for a day as the kid whose big brother conducts the high school band. This in turn made me briefly popular with him---not the usual state of our relationship in those days. On occasion Mr. Mages even asked me to substitute rehearse when he couldn't be there, rather than getting another music department teacher. That was a hoot, for as long as my peers were willing to accept my direction.
My junior and senior years I conducted two band performances per year, including, in my senior year, our big spring concert, when New Trier paraded out all its student soloists, of which we had many. At that time I conducted a movement of a Weber Clarinet Concerto (not the one Bob Lamotte played), with a good player named Ron Nelson as soloist. Afterward, Dr. Peterson, the head of the music department, whom I didn't know well because he conducted choral groups and directed musicals, not the instrumental groups, rushed up behind me, put his arm around my shoulder, shook my hand vigorously, while the people in the packed gymnasium were all applauding. He whispered in my ear, ``You're the best one of everyone here!'' I hope he thought to speak as flatteringly to Ron, who played beautifully, but was deathly ill with the flu that day.
My sophomore year, New Trier acquired its own resident composer: Dr. Horace Reisberg, who turned out to be an extraordinarily hip guy---a fine and inspirational teacher who knew music well, loved his work, and loved and related well to his students. He wrote some compositions for the performing groups, difficult pieces that were painfully modern sounding to most of the students, and taught music theory and chamber music, courses that were not offered in most high schools in those days. I never took his theory course, because until my senior year I was on target to become an electrical engineering student in college. My academic course had long been mapped out to drive me toward that goal.
Making the decision to become a musician brought me to what was at the time the most troublesome crossroads of my life. During my kidhood, after the customary initial cowboy and doctor phases, I dreamed of being an MIT nuclear physicist or mathematician, then got into electronics and ham radio, and had settled on electrical engineering as a future college major. Meanwhile, I got more and more involved in extracurricular music at school, and discovered my heart was not into science as much as it had once been, and that I didn't have quite the aptitude for it as I had originally hoped.
Even many good musicians barely make enough money to live on. Clearly, I was a ``pretty good'' trombone player, but not one of the star solo instrumentalists in my school. I was, however, becoming a star composer, within the limited scope of New Trier High School, enjoyed writing music enormously, and believed in my ability to do it well.
The time came for me to begin sending in college applications. One went to Purdue, primarily a technical school---evidence that I was still considering engineering. When I applied to University of Illinois, which is strong in both engineering and music, I had to declare what my major would be. The decision tormented me for months.
I'll never forget the night I spent tossing in my bed. Which would it be? Engineer or musician? I had to put something down, had to make a decision and stick with it. Finally, after much turmoil, I thought to myself, Okay, I'll do it: I'll be a musician! I'm sure it will make me happier. Having finally confronted the decision, I rolled over and fell fast asleep, and never looked back.
Nonetheless, I was reticent at first to tell my parents about this monumental change of direction, so I tried to send the application in without their noticing what I'd checked for a major. It didn't work. My mother spotted it and decided we'd better have a little talk.
Later my father got in on it. They reminded me that a musician's life can be a tough life. We had always struggled somewhat. Yes, Dad was one of the best, and we lived in a nice home in the suburbs, but money was often tight. I clearly was not on the same sort of career path Dad took, as a virtuoso performer, orchestral musician, or conductor. Had I considered how I would make a living when I got out of school?
So I said I'd pursue a double major: I'd get a degree in music composition and one in music education. That way I could teach music in high school, like Dr. Reisberg. This plan proved satisfactory to my parents, so during my first year at U of I, I did take some music education courses, while being primarily a music composition major.
Music ed soon became tiresome. It was music for nincompoops. Some of my fellow students didn't even particularly like music, much less know anything about it. During the second semester I decided to drop out of that program and stick to applied music. This time my parents didn't object, because I had done exceptionally well that year. If I had followed this new direction through to completion, I likely would have acquired a doctoral degree, and taken a job somewhere in academia at a university or college level. That would have been fine, and certainly better than teaching high school band.
But life throws us many unexpected surprises, and that was not to be my eventuality either.
Meanwhile, back at the homestead ...
As long as I lived at home I had the advantages of my father's musical influence, his record and score library, and his great willingness to take me to hear music whenever I wanted and it was convenient.
Dad didn't have an extensive record collection, but neither did anyone in those days. When we moved to Wilmette he bought a monaural hi-fi and started to buy records regularly. Some were things that he played on, such as Chicago Symphony recordings. We also had non-commercial albums, probably acetates, custom recordings made from chamber music concerts, and solo recitals he played. Some of these still exist.
He would often take me with him to concerts when he was just another face in the audience, since I was usually both more interested and more available than my mother, and my brothers were too young until I left home for school. And of course there was his playing in the house every day.
 That's not technically accurate. Some background for readers who don't know our family: Dean, who is three years and four months younger than me, was never as interested in music when he was young as the rest of us ultimately became. Dale, who is nearly seven years younger than me, is a professional cellist today. He was only eleven when I went off to school, but I'm sure had some opportunities after I left. Dwight, who developed a strong interest in music in his teens, is less than fourteen months younger than Dale. I wasn't around to witness exactly what went on, but with two children close in age, it is difficult in any family to extend equal and full benefits to both. If any of my three brothers ever read this biography, it's likely they will get back to me with a refined point of view.
At times Dad invited friends over for chamber music, usually string quartets, sometimes trios. Once I got to be page turner for a reading of the Brahms Piano Quartet in A major. Sometimes these sessions were just for fun, when they read through Mozart and Beethoven. At other times it would be rehearsals for concerts, and invariably with some of the best musicians in the Chicago area.
While Dad taught at Northwestern he played in the faculty quartet. Later he played in a string quartet with three brothers named Chausow: Oscar, who was also a fine soloist, David, the second violinist, and Leonard, who played cello in the Chicago Symphony. They had another brother who played french horn in Minnesota. This group, too, rehearsed at least once at our house.
I recall reading the parts over the shoulders of musicians sitting in our living room as they rehearsed a difficult Hindemith quartet, works by Brahms and Mozart, and one by Gordon Binkerd, with whom I later studied composition.
My folks made a social occasion out of these visits, so the musicians brought their wives, and after playing, everyone would eat. My brothers tended to disappear, but I was usually anxious to hang around, and seemed to be reasonably welcome most of the time. What great days those were!
My last two years at New Trier, the whole middle of each school day was filled with music. Fourth period was the Honor Band. Then some of us sacrificed our lunch period to play in a brass ensemble with Dr. Reisberg coaching us. (We were allowed to eat a sandwich in the orchestra room.) Trumpet player Dick Bair, mentioned earlier, was in that quartet. We played several performances of works by Giovanni Gabrieli, Francis Poulenc, and others, including one on Northwestern University's FM radio station, and one at a lunatic asylum. Following quartet practice was orchestra rehearsal. In addition, I took trombone lessons during a study hall period once a week rather than after school.
As a freshman I began studying trombone formally for the first time since my beginner lessons, with Mr. Tam, the assistant director of junior high music at Howard, who had himself been a trombone player, but a rather poor one, as I quickly learned. At least he was a kind man, who recognized my earnestness, and unselfishly directed me to a better teacher.
I progressed rapidly despite him, and not long afterward was connected with Jay Zorn, who traveled around teaching trombone at schools in the area. He was a reasonably good teacher, and I studied with him until I graduated. Mr. Zorn was a Christian Scientist who would not rest when he was sick. He dropped dead of a heart attack in his early forties, leaving behind a wife and four young children, a year after I graduated from high school.
The summer after my freshman year (1958), I started taking piano lessons with Alice Mason, an ultraconservative pedant who had somehow built a clientele of students among the children of professional musicians, and used that fact as her recommendation. I tried hard to do what she wanted, but didn't enjoy her at all, and eventually quit. Later she taught our neighbor girls, and I would see her and wave as she came and went. By then I'd begun exploring so-called avant garde music, and Miss Mason had gotten wind of it. Once she wagged her finger at me and said, ``I wonder what your father thinks about all that!'' After quitting Miss Mason I took no more piano lessons until I got to University of Illinois, but I practiced every day, still trying to learn music that was beyond my technical abilities.
It was inevitable that I would become interested in modern music. It had already started when I first met Dr. Reisberg, who became my mentor. Because I had heard it since I was young, I had always liked the music of Copland, Bartok, Hindemith, and especially Stravinsky. I cut my score-reading teeth on Le Sacre du Printemps, a work I listened to sometimes several times in a week, and considered the most wonderful piece of music I'd ever heard.
In the fifties there was a TV show called I've Got a Secret, hosted by Gary Moore. Contestants came out, ``whispered'' a secret to Gary Moore, which would be shown on the screen, and a panel of celebrities tried to guess what it was. One day a man came on whose secret was he was going to play a musical composition that he wrote---for several radios and contact microphones. The composer was none other than John Cage. It was the first I heard of him, but I heard a lot more starting the next day when I told Dr. Reisberg. I eventually met John Cage on at least three occasions that I can remember. Cage became one of the most influential composers of the twentieth century.
In 1955 Elvis Presley became famous. I saw him on Steve Allen, then on Ed Sullivan, and thought he was strange. In those days TV was an enormous new fad. There were only three channels to watch, everyone had just gotten TVs the last two or three years, and we all sat at home and spent our evenings watching the same shows. It was impossible not to know about Elvis, but I paid little attention at first. Eventually something clicked and suddenly I wanted to hear more.
One day at school I heard there was a radio station that was playing Elvis all day long, until midnight. I faked coming down sick, something I had never done before. My indulgent mother picked me up, and I sat in bed the rest of the day listening to Elvis in my bed. He had made only about a dozen recordings by then. That's a dozen songs. They just kept playing ``Hound Dog'' and ``Blue Suede Shoes'' and ``Heartbreak Hotel'' and a few others over and over.
 There was only one other time I did that, on a day when I stayed home to watch a World Series game. Incredibly, it turned out to be the one where Don Larson pitched a perfect game for the New York Yankees against the Brooklyn Dodgers. I watched every pitch, sitting in pajamas and a bathrobe, behind a TV tray full of goodies.
Soon Elvis released his first album, which remained his best one. I bought it and wore it out. Then I bought his second and third, and a ten-inch EP with ``Long Tall Sally'' on it, which I thought was totally amazing. After Jailhouse Rock, both Elvis' music and Elvis himself stopped being interesting, so I no longer followed his career.
When we first moved to Chicago, Dad acquired a classical guitar. He never played it himself. It sat unused in a closet for years, in need of repairs. Finally, Dad had it fixed up. It wasn't an artist's instrument, but was quite functional, though I couldn't play it yet.
Undoubtedly because of Elvis, I pulled the guitar out and started to fool with it on and off for a couple of weeks. A talent show was coming up at the junior high school. A classmate named Doug Mitchell played drums. I thought maybe I could write a simple song, something easy enough for me to play, and that I could sing and play it myself on the show with Doug whacking away at a drum part. It was a harebrained scheme. Doug came over for a rehearsal, but I hadn't gotten very far with the song, and he politely begged off the project. That was the end of that experiment. The guitar hurt my fingers to play anyway, so I soon lost interest in it again. Eventually Doug became quite a good musician himself---a jazz drummer, tympanist in the Chicago Youth Orchestra, and a capable pianist.
My only further interest in pop music as a kid was brief, the summer I turned fifteen (1958). Dean and I visited cousins in New Jersey, who all watched Dick Clark's American Bandstand every afternoon. So for that two weeks, we did, too. When I returned home, I continued listening to teenage music on the radio and watching American Bandstand. The happy days lasted for two weeks until one day my father passed through the room and expressed his impatient dismay that I was wasting my time listening to crappy music on TV, when the yard needed to be mowed and raked, and I had homework to do. I was so embarrassed that I was ashamed to be caught listening to that sort of music thereafter, and lost all interest in it as suddenly as I had gained it. It stopped then and there, and I never again watched American Bandstand or listened to top-forty music on the radio.
By the time I was twelve, I began to acquire discretionary income of my own, and discovered the joy of collecting records. There was a tiny record shop in the business district a few blocks down the street, in the back room of an appliance store. Dad bought albums there, sometimes of things he had recorded. One day as he headed off to get something I asked him to buy me a copy of the current big hit ``Sixteen Tons'' (1955), sung by Tennessee Ernie Ford. At the time 45 RPM records cost $0.89. I spent my own money for this. It was the start of a lifelong quest.
Before long I discovered cheap classical music recordings being sold off the racks at the grocery store. I bought all they had, around a dozen of them in a series. There was some fluff in there, but there was some good stuff, too, and I wore the grooves off those things. Ever since, I've spent a great deal of money collecting recordings, and have lost, given away, or had stolen, as much as I still have.
A wellspring of a record store opened within walking distance of our house, owned and run by a man named Paul Siebenmann, along with his wife. Paul's store had listening booths. His personal taste leaned in the direction of modern jazz, which turned out to be a further good influence on me, but as an astute businessman he kept track of what his regular customers liked, and would stock it and show it to them when they came in, which I did several times a week. It was through Paul that I first obtained recordings of Charles Ives, Elliott Carter, Edgard Varèse, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Pierre Boulez, Luciano Berio, John Cage, and Morton Feldman. Whatever he stocked along that line I automatically bought, and listened to over and over, somewhat to the consternation of my puzzled father. And I continued to feed on Stravinsky and Bartok, then discovered Schönberg and Webern.
My thirteenth birthday arrived in 1956. My folks didn't buy me any special present that year. It seems they were temporarily strapped. Mom apologized. As the oldest son, I reacted quite maturely: ``Oh, that's all right.'' It really was. That afternoon, as recompense, Mom took me to Woolworth's in downtown Evanston and invited me to pick out something I'd like to have, saying she'd buy it for me. I headed for the record bins, and soon found a ten-inch EP album of Benny Goodman with a trio backing Rosemary Clooney. That was what I chose.
 Readers who know I'm now one of Jehovah's Witnesses know that I no longer celebrate birthdays, but I did then.
Mom assured me she was quite prepared to allow me to be more extravagant and let me have pretty much anything in the store that struck my fancy. I said no thanks, just that one record would be fine. I must have listened to it a hundred times. It opened with a wonderful rendition of ``Memories of You.'' It was my first jazz album, although it was really more of a pop album.
We didn't listen to much jazz at home when I was young, because it wasn't my father's preference and he didn't understand the music, but he certainly didn't dislike or disapprove of it. Whenever I did hear jazz, mainly at Paul Siebenmann's record shop and on the radio, it excited me.
During high school I tuned into jazz through friends. The players who were current then were some of the greatest of all times: Miles Davis, Coltrane, Bill Evans, Art Blakey, Art Farmer, Thelonius Monk, Charles Mingus, Cannonball Adderly, Horace Silver, Mose Allison, and Ramsey Lewis all come to mind.
Classical music station WFMT, still one of the best in the country, played music on the show Live from the Southerland Lounge from downdown Chicago, ten until midnight every weeknight. I heard all these now legendary players live on the radio. I'd play the radio quietly in bed and listen until I was about to fall asleep, or until my mother came in and suggested I ought to turn it off and go to sleep.
One of the greatest concerts I'd ever been to until that time was an outdoor show on the most perfect early summer evening imagineable at Old Orchard shopping mall, allegedly the first mall in the country. The program was shared by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, and the George Shearing Trio. Brubeck played hits from his famous Time Out album. Shearing announced: ``I'm going to play a solo arrangement of `Tenderly,' in the style of Rachmaninoff, arranged by ... me ... right now!'' The whole experience knocked me out. The company of a girl friend made it all the more pleasurable.
Playing jazz is altogether different from playing classical music. I had little opportunity to learn how. But I played some jobs with a dance band run by a saxophone player named Spike (Jim) Dashow.
 Duhh---a truism of titanic proportions to any reasonably informed musician. Normally I dislike the traditional labeling of music, partly because the labels are imprecise. Rather than the usual ``classical'' and ``jazz'' types, I prefer to distinguish these broad categories as ``European'' and ``American'' on the basis of the music's roots and how it is made, rather than where it actually comes from. American music includes the genres dubbed jazz, blues, folk music, and rock and roll, whereas so-called American musical theater is more European in nature. By that standard, French violinist Stéphane Grappelli played American music, and Leonard Bernstein, in works such as West Side Story, composed essentially European music.
Naturally, these distinctions exclude many musics that don't fit neatly into such simplistic pigeonholes. Admittedly, I haven't made a point of following through with this perception in this biography, in order not to throw the story off on a tangent.
The first time was a frantic learning experience---getting the whole book of trombone parts to stock arrangements, close to a hundred of them, just two days before the job at a teen dance club in Evanston, and practicing the difficult parts for so long my lip turned to hamburger before I even got to the job. There I was, sight-reading music that was not only way harder than I had ever played in the school band or orchestra, but in a completely different style, with a technique of articulation, phrasing, and interpreting rhythm that was still foreign to me, doing so for the first time ever on the job. It was quite a night, but was both fun and exciting. I made it through, and Spike asked me to play two or three more times. So did another musician named Ron Turner, who ran a competing dance band. Ron was the second trumpet player in our brass quartet at school.
One of those occasions was a radio performance with a vocalist. The singer was Ann-Margaret Olson, who became famous later as Ann-Margaret. She was beautiful even then, when she had jet black hair, not the red hair that became her trademark. Ann-Margaret graduated from my high school two years ahead of me. Some of my classmates went gaga whenever she walked by, but I considered her an older woman, so didn't pay as much attention until I saw her perform a show-stopping choreographed rendition of the song ``Tropical Heat Wave'' dressed in a bathing suit on the 1959 edition of the annual New Trier student show Lagniappe.
In seventh grade I hadn't yet written any music to completion. At the same age Mozart had been an international superstar for years. But that year (1955) I started to write a piano sonata. A friend at school named Bob Moreen, who was then in eighth grade, had a reputation as a good pianist, so I approached him and asked him if he'd like to play my piece when I finished it. He seemed excited and said he'd love to. However, I soon abandoned the project, and it never came up again. Years later Bob went to University of Illinois as a piano major. We remained friends there, though we ran in different circles. His specialty was playing show music. Today he is a cabaret performer in the Chicago area.
Poem of the Wind
May 10, 1959
Several more failed projects followed. Most of them I remember only vaguely. The earliest work for which I still have the music is a short solo piano piece called Poem of the Wind. The manuscript bears the mysterious marking ``Prelude #1, Op. 10,'' but at barely two minutes this vaguely polytonal exhalation is the first piece of any significance that I finished. I have no idea what I was counting as the previous nine opuses. None of it exists today.
At New Trier I discovered that if I wrote a piece of music and got the parts copied, I could probably at least get a reading of it. In summer of 1959 I wrote a piece for small jazz ensemble called Bughouse Square, named for a well-known public gathering place in Chicago where beatniks would get up on soapboxes and orate or read poetry. It was intended as a modern dance, targeted for the annual school show, Lagniappe 1960, but was rejected. It was considered too hard, and although I tried to make it jazzy, it didn't quite succeed.
Early in 1960 I wrote another piano work, Fantasy on a Theme, with the right hand written in the key of C (no sharps or flats), and the left hand in the key of B (five sharps). This I performed myself at a senior music club concert.
Later that year I arranged Fantasy on a Theme for concert band, and went to a great deal of trouble to get the parts copied---at least a month of grueling hard work. Mr. Mages gave it a reading with the Honor Band, but it was too hard, too sparsely instrumented, and didn't work as a band piece. The session was disappointing, but at least I got to hear it once. Sort of. Some of the students had an insurmountable problem playing in five sharps. (Seven when transposed for B-flat instruments!)
Later I wrote a thunderous solo piano piece with the embarrassingly pretentious title The Arrival of Death! It was certainly the best piece I'd written to date. When I brought it in to be evaluated by Dr. Reisberg, he promptly lost the only copy. He was sooo embarrassed and apologetic. Maybe the title was prophetic of the composition's early demise.
During spring vacation of 1960 I completed an entire orchestra piece called Heute, German for ``today,'' and subtitled ``A Dance,'' although it was more dirge-like than dance-like. An ambitious movement of a string quartet followed, which experimented with odd time signatures, like 5/12, on the theory that a ``twelfth note'' is one twelfth of a whole note, or third of a quarter note triplet.
In fall 1960, I completed two movements and started a third of Symphony for Band, inspired by music of Vincent Persichetti. This piece turned out much better than the Fantasy, and Mr. Mages was openly complimentary about it. We rehearsed and performed it with the summer band the summer after I graduated, with Mr. Mages conducting.
December 19, 1960
In December of my senior year I completed my most successful high school piece, a work for theater orchestra called Hoedown. Despite its syncopated themes in 5/4 and 7/4 meters, it was supposed to sound reminiscent of a barn dance. The rhythm of the 5/4 vamp at the beginning was copped straight from Dave Brubeck.
We performed Hoedown on the annual big student show Lagniappe 1961, with choreography, which I never got to see because I was busy playing in the orchestra pit. We recorded the whole show afterward, but the record has been lost.
Another student beat me out in the audition to conduct the Lagniappe orchestra, even though he had far less conducting experience (but was a fine musician), so I played trombone. But I got to stand up in the orchestra pit each night following my piece and take a bow as a bright white spotlight shone on me. People had to pay to get into that show. It ran four nights to a packed house. Unfortunately, Dad had a job he couldn't afford to turn down, so never got to see it. I was disappointed, but understood well by then the nature of the business my father was in. He never turned down any job if he was available. My mother missed this one, too, because of a health care emergency with my elderly great-uncle, who was living with us at the time.
That spring I wrote a piece for percussion ensemble called Refraction that Dr. Reisberg gave a read-through with a student group he conducted. I played the piano part. It wasn't good enough for them to do a performance, something I had hoped for.
I do have photographs of me conducting the band at our final outdoor concert in the Wilmette Bowl, where I received a student-voted award for being outstanding band member. During my junior and senior years I had served as the band's drum major at football games and parades. The primary benefit from that gig was not having to play my trombone while trying to march around in the freezing cold outdoors. I always felt like an idiot prancing around by myself out there in a uniform.
The summer after I graduated from New Trier I received an unsolicited full scholarship to play in a summer music program at Northwestern. The band was conducted by Paul Paynter, director of the Northwestern band. The orchestra was led by Jacob Avshalomov, a man with a history of conducting youth orchestras and training groups, and a composer of some note. Each group played a concert at the end of the clinic. The orchestra played a fine reading of Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain. These were the best ensembles I'd played in at the time.
Study in Violet
July 21, 1961
That July I wrote a virtuosic piece for solo flute and chamber orchestra called Study in Violet, inspired by the Poem for Flute and Orchestra by American composer Charles Griffes. My girl friend, a talented flutist, said she would perform it. She went on to become first flutist in the Northwestern University orchestra, where her father taught theology, and to be a professional musician and teacher. Our relationship ended shortly after I went to college, so my piece never got played or even read, even though I had a flute and piano reduction of it, and the accompaniment was not particularly difficult.
In September 1961, my folks sent me off to the University of Illinois, where I enrolled with a double major in music composition and music education. Despite being a reasonably confident fellow, I was still only eighteen years old. Suddenly living away from home for the first time was an overwhelming experience. To my relief, I did well as a student. At New Trier I had been an average student academically---in the top half, but not by much. For reasons I did not understand then, nor do I now, New Trier regarded all participation in music activities, even though done on school time, as extracurricular, and did not give grades in these subjects. If they had, I would have graduated from high school as an honor student.
During my first year at U of I we were blessed with the presence of one of the most unusual composers who has ever lived: Harry Partch. Every introductory article I've ever read about him uses the word ``iconoclastic'' somewhere in the first two sentences. Partch invented his own musical system based on the practice of just intonation, yielding scales of 43 pitches to the octave. It was necessary for Partch also to design and build musical instruments to play this music, and to train the musicians to play them.
Partch's theory appeared full-blown in his extraordinary 500-page book Genesis of a Music, of which I read about half. Partch's musical philosophy remained essentially unchanged for the remainder of his life.
 Published in 1949 and 1974 by Da Capo Press, 0-306-71597-X. The official Web home page for all things related to Harry Partch is Corporeal Meadows.
Had I known about Partch when I arrived as an ignorant freshman music student, I would have striven to have some sort of association with him. I doubt that he took students or taught classes. He was more of an artist in residence for two or three years, but with a retinue of devoted students following him about.
While in Urbana he wrote and premiered two opera-like musicals. The strangest of these was Water! Water!, written in 1961, and performed in 1962, twice at school, and once in Chicago. It has probably not been performed since. I heard one of the Urbana performances, and the one in Chicago, staged in the Studebaker Theater on Michigan Avenue, a few doors down the street from Orchestra Hall.
The next year Harry Partch moved on, along with his instruments, and a number of his disciples. One of them, Danlee Mitchell, remained Partch's right-hand man until Partch died in 1974, and is still the curator of the instruments and tender of the Partch flame.
Regrettably, I arrived a bit late to become involved in that activity, and it was gone before I was fully aware of its importance. My first experience with music at a university level was to be considerably more mundane and academic.
Gordon Binkerd became my first formal teacher of composition. Binkerd was head of the composition department, a good-natured academician and a reasonably good composer who received his PhD from Harvard. For weeks our lessons consisted of sight-reading on four-hand piano Bach's The Art of Fugue, written in open score on four staves, and in cleffs I had never tried to read. Because I was not a good sight-reader at the piano, it was trailsome work. We also went through the standard harmony text by Walter Piston. Binkerd had studied with Piston at Harvard, where as a doctoral student he had to write a fugue a week. His skill with counterpoint showed in his own music.
In October, Dr. Binkerd let me write some music: a woodwind quintet, and a piece for string quartet and trombone quartet, both notably more accomplished than anything I'd written before.
The quintet, called Introduction and March, was short, possibly the most conservative piece I ever wrote, and simple. It was performed twice.
January 7, 1962
The choice of instrumentation for the octet was copped from Stravinsky's short work ``In Memoriam Dylan Thomas,'' except Stravinsky's included a tenor voice to sing the Thomas poem ``Do not go gentle into that good night.'' Mine was titled Eröterungen, German for ``discussions,'' a score of about sixty pages. It was never even copied out for the sake of getting a reading, but I'm confident it was my best work to date.
The second semester, for reasons I no longer remember, I quit Binkerd and studied with Robert Kelly, a sweet man and a decent viola player, but in my opinion a third rate composer and a terrible teacher. I didn't enjoy my composition lessons with him, and completed nothing at all the whole semester. But my direction was changing at the time as I began to become engrossed in new music.
In earlier times, persons who entered the university as composition students were assumed to know traditional music theory fairly well, since they were writing music. As noted earlier, I never took Dr. Reisberg's theory course at New Trier, and had never studied harmony either formally or on my own. But composers were no longer writing music rooted in traditional practice.
So I studied the Piston book the first semester, and took an advanced class in music theory the second, with Robert Kelly as instructor. I was able to get ``proficiencies'' for the third and fourth semesters, meaning all I had to do was take and pass an exam, and got credit for taking the classes. This was a big mistake. There were still some substantial holes in my understanding of traditional harmony, to a degree that when I took eighteenth century counterpoint, I had difficulty with it, and didn't enjoy either the course, or the instructor, with whom I did not get along. It was the only music class I ever took that I had a problem with.
 Years after I left U of I he became dean of the music school. In fairness, he was a good instructor, composer, bass player, and administrator. It was just a personality thing, my fault I'm sure.
In contrast, one subject I understood well without needing a class was orchestration, having written two orchestra pieces and three band pieces to date, and read cover to cover two textbooks on orchestration. To proficiency this course I had to arrange a Bartok piano piece for band. I had it completed in three days, and did a good job of it, so was given credit for the course.
In addition to composition, I studied trombone with Jerry Gross, the current graduate assistant. My sophomore year I progressed to studying trombone with Dr. Robert Gray, a fabulous teacher, fine trombone player, and wonderful man. I studied trombone almost every semester the whole six years I was in Urbana.
One miracle I pulled off was to cajole Claire Richards, the head of the piano faculty, into taking me on as a student despite my ragged and undisciplined skill. Ms. Richards was an advocate and performer of contemporary music, so was considered a good choice of teacher for a composition student, if you could get her. I had the nerve to audition with the solo piano part of Beethoven's Piano Concerto no. 1 in C Major, parts of which I could barely play at all, much less well. I could almost hear Ms. Richards groaning as I bashed through it. She reluctantly agreed to take me on, while warning me that we had much work ahead. But I practiced hard, and to this day credit Claire Richards with teaching me more about piano in three semesters than any other teacher I ever studied with.
The spring semester of 1963 I studied one semester of harpsichord, and then, to my disappointment, Ms. Richards demoted me to studying with a graduate student. She admittedly tried hard, but was not much of a musician, and I didn't like her, so she will remain nameless in this biography. That was the last formal piano study I ever did.
My freshman year I immersed myself in music completely. In addition to my music and academic classes, I played in the band, but reluctantly. By then I had come to think little of band music as a genre. Furthermore, in those days the university had a requirement that incoming male students take two years of ROTC, with the only possibility of getting out of it being participation in the band, a militaristic organization separate from the music school. Dodos were in charge. We had to play in parades on cold, rainy days, and participate in the marching band, which was fun only for the sake of being able to watch football games from the fifty-yard-line at field level. I also made some money on the side working as a parts copyist for the band. I always hated copying music, but it was a necessary part of becoming a composer, and I wanted to learn it well.
Many free concerts were available, played by faculty, students, and sometimes by visitors. I went to everything I could, no matter what it was. The first two years I kept track and tallied up a total of 35 concerts a semester, sometimes three or more in a single week.
One of my roommates the first year was Henry Howey, a talented bass trombone player and outstanding student, who had studied in high school with Ed Kleinhammer of the Chicago Symphony, and played bass trombone in the Chicago Youth Orchestra. Although we didn't see eye-to-eye on all matters, we eventually became good friends. It was Henry who influenced me to take up bass trombone. I bought my first instrument from him, a Reynolds with a distinctive dark, reddish-orange color. Before long I stopped playing tenor trombone completely, though they forced me to play it in the university concert band the second year.
Lee Street Beach, Evanston
The summer after my freshman year (1962), I worked as a life guard on Lee Street beach in Evanston, my first real paid job. In the evenings and days off, if I wasn't going to Grant Park with my father, I'd usually work at music, practicing, and writing.
By then my interest had turned fully to modern compositional techniques. I was studying everything I could get my hands on, but especially Stravinsky and Webern.
July 28, 1962
That summer I completed two compositions. The first was buffalo bill's, a setting for soprano, alto saxophone, guitar, and piano of the short poem by E. E. Cummings of that name. It was a serial composition, and was strongly influenced by Stravinsky's music of the fifties, such as his great ballet Agon.
The big turning point came when I wrote my first ``real'' String Quartet, a serial work in four movements (titled I, II, III, and IV) of compact, sparse music. This was influenced more than anything by the astonishing String Trio by Webern, a work that stands apart even among his own compositions. When I returned to school in the fall, the quartet was not finished, but almost. All I had left was some editing and refinement of dynamics.
The 1962--1963 school year I studied with Hunter Johnson, a composer whose main claim to fame was a work for small orchestra he wrote for the Martha Graham dance company. Hunter seemed to me to be a man with quite an inferiority complex. His music was in the mainstream Americana tradition, whereas most of the better composers at U of I had taken up the pursuit of the new advanced techniques. Hunter Johnson, already an older man, felt left behind. But he did like me personally, and regarded me as his most talented student. He allowed me free reign to do whatever I wanted, partly because he felt he had little to offer me regarding technique, which turned out to be true. In retrospect, I should have studied instead with Kenneth Gaburo or Ben Johnston, both gifted composers, and men I got along with and who respected me.
The String Quartet was finished in November, whereupon I plunged into a piece for 21 brass instruments, using a graphical form of proportional notation. I gave it the silly title Genesis 51. The Bible book of Genesis has only 50 chapters, which I knew at the time, and the music has absolutely nothing to do with the Bible. Genesis 51 never got so much as a reading. This was by my own choice, as I was unsatisfied with it myself, though Hunter thought it looked impressive.
 By amusing coincidence, one chapter beyond Genesis is the first chapter of Exodus, referring to the departure of a large number of people. Somehow this factoid does seem strangely relevant to this work after all.
My String Quartet was performed twice. The first time was at a student convocation in Smith Music Hall, the music building. I'd been unable to attend any of the rehearsals, so heard the work for the first time myself at that concert, a nerve-wracking experience. The second performance was at a student composers forum at Iowa State University. The first violinist in the quartet was David Preeves, the son of Milton Preeves, principal violist in the Chicago Symphony, and my father's stand partner and friend for years.
One night I was listening to the Schönberg Piano Concerto, played by Glenn Gould, to which I owned the score. As I immersed myself in the sound, I perceived a technique of continuous development at work by which the musical material was presented. Whether what I heard was Schönberg's intent I will never know, but it provided me with a flash of inspiration.
A few hours later I had worked out the tone row and laid out the entire formal structure of my next work, Sonata for Piano, to be written for my friend Roger Shields. Why I labeled it a sonata I no longer recall. The form of the piece is unique unto itself and not remotely related to the classical sonata form.
This piece took me the rest of that year and until July the following year to complete. In 1965, it won the prestigious Joseph H. Bearns Prize from Columbia University, an award that had been granted previously to such notables as Samuel Barber, Milton Babbitt, Charles Wuorinen, and Mario Davidovsky, and which came with a sizable cash prize, big enough that about a third of it went to buy myself a brand new Holton bass trombone. The rest was spent on records, carousing, and living expenses.
Esteemed previous Bearns Prize winners
The summer of 1963 I was unable to reobtain my life guard job, thanks to a sleazy political move on the part of the band department moguls, permanently fixating my dislike for the organization. It was said to be essential to the integrity of the band's sound to have all six trombone players on deck to perform at graduation a week after most non-graduating students had left town. Any player who didn't return would lose his stipend. (They actually paid students in the concert band a small amount.) Consequently, I would not be available to start work on the day my presence was required, and so could not take the job. I should have ditched the stipend, but allowed myself to be bullied, as I was concerned also with my reputation, which is more than I can say for the band directors.
In retaliation, I sat through the performance and moved my slide back and forth, but didn't play a single note. That was the last I had anything to do with the band department.
But that summer didn't go to waste. I dove headlong into practicing trombone, and improved rapidly. Since I had nothing but time on my hands, my usual routine was to arise at some reasonable hour, practice for two or three hours in the morning, go to the beach for an hour or so in the afternoon, and then practice the rest of the day. In the evening I would play with the summer band, my last year of doing so, go with Dad to Grant Park, or rehearse with a brass quintet some friends and I had formed for the summer. We were hoping to present a concert of renaissance music. Much of what we worked on I transcribed from the standard musicology resource known as HAM (Historical Anthology of Music). Some works included pipe organ, and we had at least one rehearsal with an organist. The other trombone player was a friend I'd made at school the previous year, Tom McFaul, who became one of my best friends, and was the other founding member of my rock band four years later. The trumpet players were Tom's friends.
Trombone playing became the focus of my energies for the time being, while my unfinished Sonata for Piano langoured on. It's no exaggeration to say that during that summer I practiced pretty much all day, almost every day, and was becoming the sort of player who might consider trying to make a go at making a living as a trombone player. This option was not particularly appealing to me, but I considered it as either an alternative or adjunct to life in academia. And I continued to practice lots of piano, as I always did, whether I was taking lessons at the time or not.
By then I had picked up a measure of competence on the euphonium, an instrument used almost exclusively in bands. Despite its usual venue, I've always liked the sound, particularly of the large-bore four-valve instrument. It's not difficult for a trombone player to learn. There are seven slide positions on a trombone, and seven fingering possibilities in three valves on a euphonium (or a trumpet or french horn). There is a one-to-one correspondence between them, for instance sixth position on the trombone is valves one and three depressed. The euphonium has the same range as the trombone, and with the fourth valve added, was like a tenor trombone with an F extension on a thumb valve. Furthermore, as a bass trombone player, I was used to filling a large bore instrument, and although the euphonium is itself considered a large bore instrument (it's really a sort of tuba), it's smaller than a bass trombone. My valve technique was not as good as someone who played it all the time, but I had the advantage of the physical ability to get a rich soloist's sound out of it.
Therefore, that summer, two years after I'd graduated from high school, I finally talked Mr. Mages into letting me play an instrumental solo with the summer band. The band included numerous alumni and a few town people, not just high school kids---it was better than my school band. We played a schedule of four concerts in Gilson Park by Lake Michigan, four blocks from my home. We'd have two Monday night rehearsals, and perform every other Tuesday night. On that concert I played a short, lushly romantic piece called ``Seascape'' by Alfred Reid, not technically difficult, but a vehicle to show off the tone of a good player. I nailed the performance, being in great shape at the time, and anxious to do well.
That night, August 6, 1963, I went to bed quite satisfied with myself. In the middle of the night I awoke with what turned out to be my first bout with kidney stones. My mother bolted out of bed and drove me to nearby Evanston Hospital, where I remained for 25 days. Much of the time I was there I felt fine, and tried to do composing in my hospital bed. But the doctors wanted to get to the bottom of my unusual malady, so insisted on probing it. By the time I was released I'd had two surgeries: a hyperparathyroidectomy, and an operation to remove a fistful of kidney stones from my left ureter.
This episode put an abrupt end to our plans for a brass quartet concert at the end of summer.
It also took my father by surprise financially. I got out of the hospital barely a week before I would have headed back to Urbana. Dad was obliged to ask me if I would mind terribly getting a job and staying home the following school year, because in paying my hospital bill he couldn't afford to send me back. As I was accustomed to rolling with the punches in my family, I cheerfully went along with the proposition. Not that I had a choice, but I quickly viewed it as an opportunity to do something different for a year, and knew I'd be back to school the following September.
My first priority was to find a job, but Dad was a step ahead of me. He knew a french horn player named Bill Wagner who had started a small business in engraving music for publishers using music typewriters. The techniques he used at the time were still primitive, but improving. Dad thought that because I was a composer, it might be in my interest to learn to do this work, to develop a skill that would serve me later in making permanent versions of my scores. I agreed, so went to see Bill, who began training me immediately.
In those days, the business was run from the home basement of a studio harpist named Peter Eagle, in Highland Park, close to Ravinia, where the Chicago Symphony plays its summer season. Peter was just an investor, but Bill ran the business, and a handful of men who had been studio musicians, arrangers, and copyists worked for him. We got paid by the line, so the more we produced, the more we made.
It took a month of daily hacking at a music typewriter to learn enough that I could take on a job for a customer. It was while I was standing at a paste-up board, putting the finishing touches on my second job, when the news came by telephone that John Kennedy had been shot. We spent the rest of the afternoon with the radio on, listening in disbelief. It was a dismally cold and rainy Friday, and as I took the Chicago & Northwestern commuter train home, I saw people crying in the train station and on the train.
Music typing was tedious and difficult work, and I never particularly liked it. Despite this, I eventually became an expert, and wound up making the bulk of my living doing music engraving over the next twenty years. I did jobs for Bill Wagner through the mail when I returned to school; took a break from it while I was in Buffalo, when I could have used the money; got a job at Music Art in midtown Manhattan the day I landed in New York; kept that job the entire eight and a half years I lived there; worked some through the mail for Music Art and also for some guy in Nashville when I moved to Maine in 1976; and also contacted Bill Wagner again when I was there, and did some work for him. When my economic situation became desperate in Maine, Bill offered me a job in Arizona. So I moved out, and worked for him full time, evenings, and weekends, from May 1978, until March 1983, when we split over personal differences, leaving me essentially unemployed.
After that, I did just a few more jobs for other people, while attempting to change careers, which led to my present job with Motorola. So even though I was never particularly fond of music engraving, it proved to be a beneficial decision to learn it the autumn after my kidney stone surgery, both for financial reasons, and as a tool of my art.
When I stopped music engraving, it turned out to be the end of anything like what I could describe as a professional life in music, except for a little bit of guitar teaching I did while looking for another job.
The 1963--1964 season was a dreadfully boring year. Most of my friends were away at school, so I had little social life, other than association with my one remaining buddy Fred Mercer, whom I had known since seventh grade. We got together almost every evening to play cards, chess, and pool. He beat me every time at all of them. I even gave piano lessons to Fred. Late in the evenings we'd go to the Pancake House and eat too much. I gained fifteen pounds that year, but Fred didn't, because he was an early morning jogger, a highly unusual habit in those days. Eventually Fred and I grew so tired of one another that neither of us wanted to visit much at all any more.
In February 1964, the Beatles arrived in the US. I thought the whole phenomenon was crazy, and at first paid little serious attention to either the hysteria or the music, but I did find their Ed Sullivan performances entertaining.
During that year I rarely worked long hours. Later in the year I bought my own music typewriter, and thereafter could work part of the time at home, saving the longish commute to Highland Park.
The rest of the year was saturated with music. I didn't want to give up composition lessons, so I got in touch with Dr. Reisberg and asked if he'd be willing to take me on as a private student. He didn't think there was much he could teach me, but I insisted that I wanted a teacher for the sake of the discipline, and to have someone knowledgeable to pass my work by, so he consented. He came to our house, and we sat in the living room by the piano and talked about music, whether I had done any composition the previous week or not. During that year we became friends, but I always called him Dr. Reisberg out of respect, rather than Horace.
 Many composers I've known believe music composition can't be taught, though most are happy to accept money for pretending to try.
Sonata for Piano
July 6, 1964
Despite the lessons, I was not productive during that period, probably because I was lacking in stimulation. In early summer of 1964 I finally got to work. Following some intense late-night sittings, on July 6, 1964, three days short of age 21, I finished the Sonata for Piano I had been dinking at for so long, my second noteworthy composition. It became the first composition of my own that I prepared for duplication using my music typewriter. Roger Shields didn't premiere it until a student convocation program the following spring.
Trombone and piano practice filled much of the rest of my time. In the fall of 1963 I got in touch with Ed Kleinhammer, bass trombonist of the Chicago Symphony, and asked him if I could take some lessons. He agreed. As an elite working musician, he didn't have a regular schedule for students. I made appointments for one at a time, and met him in a studio in downtown Chicago once every two or three weeks, whenever he was available.
Once again I began to practice hard. At my third lesson with Kleinhammer, he let me play all the way through a Schroeder cello exercise I'd been assigned without interruption. When I finished, he exclaimed: ``You're not only a heck of a trombone player, you're also a very fine musician!'' The compliment was one of the highlights of my life at the time.
The high point of my lessons with Kleinhammer came during the summer. He would be in Highland Park for morning Chicago Symphony rehearsals at Ravinia, far away from his home in Barrington, and would have several hours to kill. On two occasions he came to our house for my lesson, and after our regular lesson, he pulled out books of difficult trombone duets, which we sightread through for at least another hour. The experience taught me a valuable lesson: Even the best professional musicians sometimes make sightreading mistakes!
The previous fall I got the bright idea to present a trombone recital. I had been a member of the Congregational church since junior high school, and sometimes even attended. One day I made an appointment to visit the minister, to ask him if he thought it might be possible for me to use the large room in the basement for a recital, where I had attended both Cub Scout and Boy Scout meetings for years. The biggest hitch was that I wanted to borrow the seven-foot Baldwin piano from the office of Robert Edgren, the minister of music. It had to be moved down six steps. There was no elevator. Mr. Edgren was reluctant, but when I assured him of my intent to hire professional movers to move it the afternoon of the concert, and a tuner to tune it that day, and to have the movers return it early the next morning, he acquiesced. They even listed it in the church bulletin the week before, but neither man attended my recital.
For this occasion I commissioned Dr. Reisberg to compose a piece for me to play, which surprised and delighted him. I couldn't pay him for it, but would at least be sure to give it a performance. I challenged him to write something technically difficult. Twenty-three days before the recital date he presented me with the piece, called simply Trombone and Piano, and I set about learning it. It was indeed difficult, but not unmanageable.
Trombone and Piano
March 8, 1964
Naturally, I wouldn't present a whole recital by myself of just solo trombone music. I collaborated with a trumpet-playing music education major friend from school named Dick Jorgensen, whose father was the director of instrumental music in the Urbana public schools. My friend Roger Shields, for whom I had written the Sonata for Piano, agreed to come to Chicago to accompany us. The date was scheduled during spring vacation, when they could get off school and spend a few days in Wilmette.
For the last piece on the concert, I programmed the Poulenc Sonata for Trumpet, Horn, and Trombone, which I'd played with our high school trio. For this I enlisted the assistance of a friend of my father's, a studio french horn player named Paul Ondracek, who generously rehearsed once with us, then played the concert for free.
We provided colorful original programs, with a silk-screened front cover, and typeset matter printed using the hand-operated press in our basement, with the assistance of my father. Or more correctly, my father, and perhaps my youngest brother Dwight, did all the work, since I never did learn to use this gear myself.
I opened the program with the Sonata for trombone by Paul Hindemith (1941), with its piano accompaniment that is even more challenging than the trombone part. Dick followed with a piece by Barat, someone I've never heard of before or since. Then I played a Sonata by baroque composer Benedetto Marcello on the euphonium, a beautiful instrument I borrowed from Ed Kleinhammer. The work was originally written for bassoon or cello. Then Dick played the Sonata for trumpet by American composer Kent Kennan. Following that, I premiered Dr. Reisberg's Trombone and Piano, and we concluded with the Poulenc. It has taken me 37 years to realize that four of the six works on that program were in sonata form.
In imitation of something I had heard that Leonard Bernstein did at a concert, after accepting the applause following the Reisberg, I announced that it's my belief that new works deserve to be heard twice. So we would perform it a second time, to which proposal Dr. Reisberg shouted, ``Bravo!'' from the audience. I had planned to surprise him with that gesture.
The concert was a fine success, and afterward many people assembled at our home for goodies, graciously prepared by my mother.
Soon afterward I had to return the euphonium to Ed Kleinhammer. I had earnestly hoped he would let me buy it from him, but he wouldn't agree to it. To this day I've never laid hands on another euphonium.
The rest of that year, as I recall, was deadeningly uneventful, and I longed to get back to school, where my real life was.
In September 1964, with Beatlemania in full swing throughout the country, especially on college campuses, I returned to Urbana, where all day every day, whenever I heard radios or jukeboxes, it was almost all Beatles music.
The previous year Salvatore Martirano had joined the faculty. Sal, who was 37 at the time, was a spectacularly creative musician, and had lived his whole life so far on creative artist grants and commissions. This was his first real full time job. Sal was the person to study with, if you were interested in delving into the best of the best of mainstream new music. During my year at home, I wrote him a letter telling him of my desire to study with him when I returned to school, to which he agreed. As soon as I got on campus, I contacted him and reconfirmed the arrangement. By then I had a reputation, and could have asked anyone on the faculty. I wanted Sal.
The first several months of our lessons, Sal did a complete brain dump on me of his extensive knowledge of combinatorial serial techniques, which I did my best to understand, play with, and master. Sal came to regard me as his ``best'' student, at least for that period.
The composition department of a large university in a small town makes a small universe. Everyone involved with new music knew everyone else well. The intermingling between students and faculty was substantial. Sal was not merely my teacher, but became a friend. It was not at all unusual to run into each other at the various student hangouts we all haunted, and to sit and talk for hours over coffee or various foamy beverages. Sal and his wife also had me over to their house for dinner and on other occasions.
When in Eternal Lines to Time Thou Grow'st
When I started the year I had no composition projects in progress. In late fall I began work on what was eventually titled When in Eternal Lines to Time Thou Grow'st, subtitled ``A Sextet for Seven Players.'' The instrumentation was celeste, viola, electric mandolin, bass trombone, and three percussionists playing a forest of instruments. The title is a line from a Shakespeare Sonnet. The mallets part turned out to be so difficult I had to divide it between two players, which explains the subtitle.
It was by far my most ambitious composition to date. Its premiere was in spring of 1965 at a student composers forum at Northwestern, within walking distance of my home in Wilmette, but which once again my father was unable to attend because of work. The second performance was at University of Illinois two weeks later, and the third was on my senior recital in July 1966. I rehearsed and conducted all three performances. Faculty violist John Garvey, who also led the jazz band, and later a Russian balalaika orchestra, honored me by playing all three performances.
I'm not a string player, but have a good sense of what is possible. When I got the parts prepared for rehearsal, I happened to be back home in Wilmette, and asked my to father read through the viola part to be sure I hadn't written something utterly beyond the capability of the instrument.
As he played through it, he came to a dead stop at one passage, thinking he'd found an impossibility. I told him I'd worked it out as feasible using various charts I had to guide me and wondered where I went wrong. He looked at it carefully, and a light bulb went on. ``Ah! First finger on A. Mr. Garvey will probably stumble over this. If he does, just tell him: `First finger on A'!''
The first time the ensemble read the piece, it happened exactly as predicted. John Garvey stopped us and declared I'd written something that was unplayable. I replied: ``How about first finger on A?'' He paused and then exclaimed. ``Oh!'' You should have seen the puzzled look he gave me. He knew I was not a string player, though he knew about my father. I never explained to him how I knew the sophisticated little trick Dad had discovered. I'm sure I won some points with John Garvey that day.
By 1965, my musical direction in life had become more-or-less independent. I accepted influences from wherever I could get them. Numerous well-known people came through U of I, and over time I got to meet and talk to many of the most prominent composers: Karlheinz Stockhausen, Pierre Boulez, who autographed my dogeared score of his masterwork Le Marteau sans maitre, Mauricio Kagel, Elliott Carter, with whom I had one private lesson, and John Cage all come to mind. I barely missed a chance to meet Luciano Berio, my personal favorite of the time, but in 1999 I had the pleasure of an encounter with him that made up for that loss. The anecdote is related in An Encounter with Luciano Berio.
In spring of 1965 I received notification of a registered letter waiting for me at the post office. I walked over with my friend Dan McEvilly, having no idea what was waiting. When I saw that it was from Columbia University, I figured they were returning my score from the Joseph H. Bearns competition for young composers, which they would do if you sent them an envelope and money for postage. However, the envelope was barely big enough for 8.5x11" paper, so I was confused. When I opened it and saw that it was a check, I thought momentarily that they had lost my score, and were sending me a token check for $7.50 as reimbursement. Copying and distributing scores was expensive in those days, and a real pain, especially for starving students. Then I saw the accompanying piece of paper, a certificate suitable for framing. Huh? I looked at the check again and saw it was for a whopping $750, double what I'd made in odd jobs the whole school year. It was only then that I realized that I had won the Bearns Prize for my Sonata for Piano. The score is supposedly still sitting somewhere in the Columbia University library.
 ``Young'' meant under age thirty.
More accurately, I split the prize with another individual, one of the few years that happened. (There were also several years they awarded no prize.) Otherwise, the check would have been for $1500! I was overwhelmed by this astonishing news, and hurried to the nearest telephone to call my parents, then to tell Sal, Roger Shields, and everyone who would sit still to listen. For the next few days I was a celebrity in the composition department.
During 1965 I entered my most intense period of trombone practicing ever, except for the summer when I played all day every day. I practiced often for five hours a day. Although I was making good progress, it wasn't fast enough for my satisfaction.
My recent windfall gave me an excuse to buy a badly needed new trombone. As soon as school was over for the semester, I returned to Wilmette, where I first called Kleinhammer to tell him I wanted one of the Holton instruments he designed, and then sold my Reynolds to a studio player my father knew.
By this time Urbana was my true home. During that summer I took a class or two, and borrowed a bass trombone from the school. Every day I took it to a large auditorium-like classroom in the basement of the music school that seemed always to be available and quiet. The entire summer I never pulled out a single piece of music. Instead, I spent two hours a day playing nothing but scales, arpeggios, and tonguing and blowing exercises, to sharpen my sound and core technique. During that eight weeks my playing took off like a rocket ship.
no time ago
That summer I took a seminar in vocal composition from from Kenneth Gaburo. To fulfill a class requirement, I composed a piece for twelve-voice a cappella choir entitled no time ago, based on the E.E. Cummings poem by that name. It turned out well, but I was never interested in having it performed. My lone copy of the hand-copied manuscript bears a prominent A on the title page, the only piece of music I ever wrote that was actually assigned a letter grade.
After the summer session was over, I returned to Wilmette and made arrangements with Kleinhammer to travel with him and another of his students to the Holton factory in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, where they had eight brand new bass trombones that had just come off the line. The three of us spent an hour in a room trying each one, and each of us picked one. Kleinhammer, as designer of the instrument, got his for free, and reminded us that if one of us preferred the same instrument he did, this arrangement was not a democracy---the instrument would be his. Fortunately, we each chose a different instrument.
For reasons I no longer remember, I couldn't take the trombone with me, but it was shipped to me within two weeks. By then school was about to start again. I auditioned for and had no trouble getting the bass trombone job in the university orchestra, which had been held by my friend and roommate Henry Howey for three years. He had gone off to the Army Band in Washington, leaving the orchestra spot available. Conductor Bernard Goodman invited me to play in the Champaign-Urbana Civic orchestra, a decent group as those things go, being staffed mostly by faculty and advanced graduate students, a job I got paid for the next two seasons.
The 1965--1966 school year was technically my senior year. I'd acquired an overabundance of credits, and by the time I graduated in August 1966, I had more than an extra year's course credits.
Lessons with Martirano had become hit and miss. That was his way. We'd get together once every two or three weeks and talk. Once again, I didn't have a big project going, and was waiting for the muse to strike. For several months I had tinkered with some ideas, looking for an intriguing small combination of instruments for which to write a new chamber work.
One evening in January 1966, in a burst of inspiration, I wrote four pages of a piece for flute, clarinet, harp and tuba. I loved and was excited by what I did. The piece was heavily influenced by Luciano Berio, particularly his exotic composition Differences, for flute, clarinet, harp, viola, cello, and pre-recorded electronic sounds, a work I had listened to over and over since high school.
Some friends agreed to perform the work when it was done. After rounding up a committed crew, I launched into finishing the piece. This one came out of me more fluently than anything I had ever done, and it was done in a relatively short time, about two months. Its title is Branches of Wistaria, taken from a T.S. Eliot poem, including the spelling of ``wistaria,'' more commonly rendered ``wisteria.'' I like the musical connotations of the ``aria'' half of the word, the poetic double entendre that suggests a wistful, branching aria.
I prepared parts quickly, and arranged for a series of rehearsals. We were to perform it on a concert on May 28, 1966.
The piece is an order of magnitude more difficult than anything else I'd ever written, and although just a quartet, requires a conductor to keep it together. I rehearsed and conducted the performance myself. By the time of the concert, we had rehearsed over thirty hours, and still the performance was ragged in places. But I'll always be grateful to the musicians who dedicated so much time and effort to it.
The premiere was well-received, and I was delighted with the result. To this day I remain convinced Branches of Wistaria was my best work of chamber music from student days, or from any other period, because once I started writing songs I never again wrote instrumental music worthy of mention.
Branches of Wistaria
That spring, knowing that graduate school was coming up, I began to plan for what was ahead. To my delight, I was awarded a full fellowship for graduate study at U of I the following year, which meant that I would not have to teach classes as a graduate assistant, only take classes and compose, and I would get quite a bit more money than a graduate assistant as well. There were other places I could have applied to (and did), but because at the time important work was being done at U of I, and I had found a niche at the epicenter, I was content to stay there.
The rest of the spring semester I worked on a piece called Nonet, another long and complicated score, for soprano saxophone, contrabass clarinet, harp, Hammond organ, bass trombone, violin, cello, electric guitar, and percussion. I hurried to finish it because Sal had assured me that it would be performed in the summer series of new music concerts. I certainly didn't anticipate it at the time, but it turned out to be the last piece of thoroughly notated serial chamber music that I ever wrote.
However, that summer was fraught with many troubles. First, we were hit by an unprecedented heat wave, in a part of the country and era when most people, particularly poor university students, did not have air conditioning. Between the end of the spring semester and the start of summer school I moved into a house over a mile off campus with my percussionist friend Mike Ranta, a disciple of composer Harry Partch, back in school from having lived and worked with Harry for a year or so. Our house happened to have a grand piano in the living room, in poor condition, but marginally playable. I set up a study table in that room, and tried, in the sweltering heat, to copy Nonet parts, occasionally smudging them with drops of sweat.
Another big problem was that Sal Martirano's marriage was breaking up, and Sal was in a foul mood most of the summer. He had promised to conduct my Nonet on the summer new music concert series, but at the last minute decided that I should do it myself. This was okay by me, because in my opinion, Sal was not that great a conductor, but I wished I'd had more notice. But the primary disadvantage of this was that my piece, like my others, was difficult in the extreme, this time requiring nine dedicated players rather than only four, and without the direction of someone with the authority of a Sal Martirano, or at least another faculty member, I anticipated apathetic support for performing my piece, even though the players in the summer new music series were paid to rehearse and perform what they were assigned. They were all too buried in other work.
Sal's attitude was contagious. Soon everyone involved in the new music program that summer was in bad spirits. When the time came for the first two rehearsals of my piece, there was little enthusiasm for working on it, and no one had prepared his part in advance. When it became apparent that it would require enormous amounts of rehearsal, Sal canceled it from the series, which of course was a huge disappointment.
To graduate with a bachelor of music degree, one must give a senior recital. An instrumentalist buries himself in a practice room to prepare. A composition student must present a concert of his works, which requires the marshaling of many resources together, mostly other busy musicians willing to do him the favor of taking time to learn and perform his music.
Senior recital program,
July 29, 1966
The frustration I experienced that summer trying to get my recital put on could be the subject of a long article all by itself. Almost everything that could possibly go wrong did.
That summary doesn't begin to scratch the surface of the many problems I had just getting the concert to happen. When it was over, all I felt was relief rather than satisfaction. A few weeks later I officially graduated.
Things changed radically during my year and summer of graduate school. Sal and I met infrequently, perhaps once a month. He was always far more preoccupied with his own work than with students or classes. After the events of the preceding summer, during which he appeared one evening at my house to angrily curse out first my housemate, then me too, as long as I was nearby, because I happened to be friends with his soon-to-be ex-wife (who had invited me to dinner a week before), we were not as close as we had been. After he settled down a few weeks later, the skirmish blew over, and Sal continued to be highly complimentary and encouraging regarding my work.
Sal told me at one time that I didn't really need him any more. When I replied that I highly valued his input and opinion, he dubbed me a hopeless romantic. He has proven to be right repeatedly, but at the time I was not quite ready to be weaned.
I've written extensively elsewhere about the events that happened during 1966--1967 that influenced my thinking, music, and conduct. The article The Beatles and Me on my Web site, written in 1995, is a memoir concerning my activities of this year, including the Black Bag concert I put on with David Rosenboom and Bill Mullen, where I presented my atonal rock piece The Aluminum Foil Fantasy, and at long last, my Nonet, in what was a poor and desperate performance. It was at this time that I turned my interest to starting a rock band, and writing songs.
Meanwhile, my zeal for academics, which was never great, and even for avant garde music, had waned drastically. When I abandoned school to move to Buffalo, New York, I left with three deferred papers, and therefore incomplete courses, and needing to produce a masters composition. The music would not have been a problem, but I was no longer interested at all in doing library research on arcane subjects, in writing about Beethoven, or in Schenker analysis, which I never believed in to begin with, and still don't.
My interest in playing the trombone likewise plummeted for the next three years or more. While still in school I slacked off my practicing and started missing lessons, something I had never done, to Dr. Gray's dismay. I didn't care because I was on a new mission, and nothing could deter me from it.
As a composer I have always been interested in all musical instruments, not just the few I played myself. Whenever I can get my hands on a new instrument, whether for a few minutes, a few days, or a few months, I immediately set about trying to tame it.
In addition to trombone, piano, and euphonium, in 1962 I had learned to play baroque recorder fairly well. In 1963 I studied a semester of harpsichord with George Hunter. Playing harpsichord is not just like playing piano.
Now, in late 1966, with rock and roll stealing my full attention, I rekindled my long-dormant interest in learning to play the guitar. When I was home in Wilmette I started practicing on my father's instrument with the aid of the Carcassi classical guitar method book. I was unable to bring my father's guitar back to school with me. I don't remember why. Maybe he just said no, though that would have been unusual for him. It's also possible my two youngest brothers, who were both still living at home then, and who also learned to play guitar about then, didn't want me to take it.
So I borrowed a guitar from my friend Tom McFaul. To call it a guitar was a stretch. You would have had to see this instrument to believe it. At best, when it was new, it may have been a fifty-dollar special from Woolworth's. I'm sure it never had a new set of strings, and the windings on the lower strings were all loose. I had to slide them up the strings periodically to avoid cutting my fingers on them, where they rattled freely. This monstrosity had spent at least one night floating in a lake, and several sitting in a driveway. The neck was so warped that the strings were a half inch from the fingerboard at the octave fret, and more than a half step out of tune. The strings were steel, and when I started working with it in earnest, it didn't take long for the skin to begin falling off my fingertips. Remarkably, I managed to get a long way on that instrument before I finally acquired something more serviceable. For at least three months it was all I had.
In May 1967, I bought a Danelectro electric bass for $25 from a starving student friend anxious to get rid of it. I had no amplifier, so ran it through my stereo, which I'm sure overdrove the amplifier and speakers to the point of destruction.
The record of what I did with my band has been chronicled in detail in Dog Days---The Story of Think Dog!, the lengthy history and set of album notes that I included with my CD collection of band recordings, collected and transferred to CD in June 2000.
Our early history, from when we were in Urbana, through the period we lived in Buffalo, including the account of how I turned down a Fulbright fellowship to study in Rome in favor of pursuing my band, has been written up in the notes that accompany the second CD, entitled Before There Was Time.
Not told in those histories is that I was offered an NDEA fellowship by Washington University in Saint Louis, to found, develop, and direct an electronic music studio there. The cash offered was substantially more that what I was offered at U of I, and would escalate each year for as long as it took to get my doctoral degree. I've always said that the reason I turned this offer down was because I really didn't want to go to Saint Louis, and did not know of anyone worth knowing from the world of new music there, so preferred to remain in Urbana for my graduate work, all of which was quite true. What I have never admitted ``out loud'' until this writing but always knew is that I was at least a little bit terrified of the astonishing opportunity, and felt somewhat unqualified to accept it.
My band albums were assembled from old tapes in reverse chronological order. The first one presents our best (later) work. Believing there would never be another CD, I wrote the elaborate history. After it was completed, Tom and Ellen McFaul unearthed a tape of our earlier recordings, which led to my creating the second set of notes, with additional information and anecdotes that were not included with the first volume.
After the band broke up, other than continuing to work until 1983 as a music engraver, for various practical reasons that are well known to my family and friends, I no longer pursued music as a profession, but deliberately took up a more conventional sort of lifestyle.
My love for music has never dwindled, even though the effort I devote to it is presently subjugated by other pursuits. For a year or so in the early seventies I played bass, and other instruments as needed, in a trio that played strictly popular music for weddings and in bars. We worked infrequently. It didn't take long to know that this sort of work was not what I wanted to do, and I was making enough money at music engraving to live comfortably, so I quit the trio.
From 1971 until 1978 I played trombone in recording sessions for the Watchtower Society of Jehovah's Witnesses. Upon moving to Arizona I was no longer able to make the trips to New York, so had no further outlet for my trombone playing. The instrument sat in its case for months at a time. In 1985, I sold it to a young student.
From time to time I taught piano and guitar students, and even one bass student, but stopped teaching when I went to work for Motorola in 1983.
In 1984 I enjoyed a brief fling with songwriting once again, and produced several partially finished songs, and one fully completed song called ``When Lydia Left the Ball'' that I'm still proud of, but that has never been heard by anyone except my family.
When Lydia Left the Ball
In January 1985, I made a long-range musical decision with immediate impact. As a musician I had always spread myself thin, trying to play several musical instruments, and also compose. I saw in retrospect that other than composing, the activity that gave me the most pleasure and satisfaction was playing the piano, even though I was certainly a much better trombone player than I could ever hope to be a pianist. With the limited time I had available for music, my skills were degenerating and I was enjoying it less.
Steinway Model K
Therefore, I determined that I would no longer practice regularly any other instrument except piano. To provide impetus to follow through on that plan, I bought a brand new Steinway model K piano, and learned to tune and maintain it myself. For a period of several years thereafter, I practiced almost daily, and became a much better pianist than I ever had been when I was a working musician. In the course of things, I performed regularly for guests, played several weddings (freebies for friends), played chamber music with my violinist son Aaron, and even made numerous recordings on cheap home equipment for posterity and to send to my father. I also have a videotape of me playing the first two movements of Debussy's Suite Bergamasque on Vladimir Horowitz's personal performance piano.
 I have a professional fix my cumulative mistakes once every two years.
In 1987 I bought the first of a series of Amiga computers, and soon afterward a Korg 76-key keyboard and other MIDI equipment, along with some capable software. No music came from that which could rightly be called ``composition,'' but I did have some fun experimenting, and recorded a few ditties in the process.
In 1990 my daughter Cyra-Lea began a decade of year-round piano lessons. This led to a vying for resources, with the eventual result that I slowed down in my practicing. Nonetheless, it has always been my intent to take it up once again, and also to do some composing.
I ain't dead yet, so there's still hope.
Whether I would have eventually found ``success'' as a musician is a question that can never be answered. Even if it could, the knowledge would serve me no value today. My life has been what it has been. A significant part of that was being a musician, or trying to be one. I've done other things as well, and have no regrets.
Now that I'm no longer obliged to make my living at music, I'm free to enjoy it as I please. My taste, and level of activity are entirely my own, according to my convenience, and aren't influenced by professional colleagues and commitments. If I proclaim that the recordings I would choose to take to a desert island include the complete Beatles, everything recorded by Keith Jarrett, the Beethoven Sonatas and Quartets, the Elliott Carter String Quartets, and every album by Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, it's because that's what I like and listen to over and over again; I'm utterly unmoved by what someone else's opinion might be regarding these choices.
Today I continue to collect recordings, though less at the moment than in earlier times, because money is always tight and the technology is changing once again. We still go to as many concerts as time and money allow. We rarely go to clubs to hear jazz. Since I took up distance running I've become an early morning person. I listen to jazz recordings when I can, but can't say that I keep up with trends in any genre of music these days, and can no longer drop names as I used to.
Regardless of the degree of my current involvement with music, it's accurate to say that of all the facts I most treasure about my past, it is my musical inheritance that I value the most, and of all the pursuits that have occupied my attention over the years, other than Bible study and my family, music is still and will likely long remain the single most exciting, most satisfying, and most important interest in my life.
Selah, page 2
November 28, 1973