December 28/98 to January 3, 1999
In those days, one could still hear classical music on the AM radio, FM having not yet come into use. I would scan the dial until I found classical music, and would ask my mother, "What do you call that kind of music?" She wasn't sure what name should be applied to it, but I would always say, "That's the kind of music I am going to play when I grow up." As I think back on that now, it seems unfathomable that I would have come to that conclusion.
When I was 11 years old, having begged my parents for several years, they finally made a great sacrifice, and bought a clarinet for me so that I could participate in the school band program. Fortunately for me, I had a band director/teacher who was a woodwind doubler, and who got me started thinking along those lines. After a year on the clarinet, he switched me to the oboe, and after another year, to the saxophone. During high school, I was primarily an oboist, and played the clarinet and saxophone in jazz ensembles, or as they were called in those days, dance bands. I was principal oboe in the Kentucky All-State band in 1953.
My first professional "gig" occurred when I was 13 years old. I travelled with my teacher from my hometown of Hopkinsville, Kentucky to the neighboring town of Clarksville, Tennessee, and played saxophone and clarinet for a dance at the USO Club (United Servicemen's Organization). For playing four hours, I earned eight dollars, and that was about the most money I had ever seen at one time! This confirmed for me the wisdom of choosing a career where one could be paid for doing what is most enjoyable.
When I went to college (Murray State University, Kentucky) I was a bassoon major, and a beginner on the bassoon. (That's too long a story to include here.) After my senior recital, I finished the year taking flute lessons. I feel fortunate ultimately to have gravitated to the bassoon. I am more comfortable playing it, and seem to have a greater affinity for the tone quality of the instrument than I have for the oboe.
After receiving my music education degree, I became a high school band director in Indiana and then in Illinois, all the time continuing to try to improve my performance skills. During that period, I was a member of the orchestra in which I now play, the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra. After six years as a public school music educator, I went to Indiana University, where I earned a Master's degree in bassoon performance. I taught for one year at what is now the University of Charleston in Charleston, West Virginia. Then, I came to the University of Evansville, where I am now in my thirty-second year! During the first several years I taught here, I worked on a Doctoral degree in woodwinds performance at IU, eventually taking a year's leave of absence to complete the degree. During that year my graduate assistantship duties consisted of teaching the woodwind techniques class.
As a part of my woodwinds degree, I had to study and perform on all five woodwind instruments. My flute teacher there was Harry Houdeshel. That was during a period when James Pellerite was very much the primary influence on the flute department there. I have also made it a practice to attend flute master classes when time allows. One notable experience for me was about 1971 when Jean Pierre Rampal appeared as soloist with the Evansville Philharmonic, playing Mozart D Major and Ibert. He gave a master class while here, and afterward we took him and his wife to a local eatery, Mac's Barbeque! I think he enjoyed experiencing a part of American life that he might not have encountered otherwise!
Another flute experience which stands out in my memory occured in 1967, when for a week or two, I played the first woodwind book in the national touring company of "Hello, Dolly," starring Betty Grable. Those who have played that show will remember that the book calls for a little saxophone and clarinet, but it primarily is a flute and piccolo part. I would estimate that nearly one half of the book is for flute, with nearly a quarter being for piccolo.
I was motivated to subscribe to the flute list as a part of my quest to learn more about the flute. This has been a most successful learning experience for me. I have benefitted from the contributions of many of you.
I very much enjoy any kind of musical challenge which calls for doubling, such as broadway shows. On several occasions, I have played woodwinds recitals, on which I played five different works on five different instruments. Probably I won't do that again - it is too difficult to get all five embouchures in shape at the same time. In our orchestra, I am principal bassoon, and usually get to play any saxophone solos which come up.
In addition to being involved with various woodwind instruments, for reasons unknown to me I also have found myself teaching in a wide variety of areas. I founded the jazz program at the University of Evansville, and still administer it, along with directing our Jazz Ensemble I, and teaching Jazz History and occasionally Jazz Theory and Improvisation. I also teach Woodwind Techniques and Orchestration. Having been here as long as I have, I have taught nearly every course we offer at one time or another. I was also Department Head of our music department for two terms, and a total of seven years.
I now teach bassoon, oboe and saxophone. On a couple of occasions when for one reason or another we have found ourselves without a flute teacher, I have fulfilled that duty as well. Especially some of the younger members of the flute list will be horrified at the concept that any flute student would study from a woodwind doubler, especially one whose principal instrument is not the flute. But, my flute students have professed to have profited from studying with me. Some of them could play more or faster notes than I could, but I have felt confident of my ability to help them from the standpoint of techniques as well as musicality.
And now, a few personal notes about myself. I am 61 years old, about 6 feet three inches tall, and about 240 pounds. I have been married for over 38 years to my wonderful wife, Beverly, who is a pianist and organist, and who has recently completed her 30th year as organist at our church, the United Methodist Temple. She also teaches music at one of the Catholic elementary schools here in Evansville. We have two sons, one of whom is married and has given us two exceptional grandchildren. One of my sons played clarinet and saxophone and the other played trombone, although neither of them elected a career in music. My daughter-in-law was a flutist, and our five-year-old granddaughter has already expressed an interest in the flute.
Having taught for 39 years, I am eligible to retire, but have no intention of doing so any time soon. I'm still having too much fun. I love my students (well, most of them) and I enjoy and respect my colleagues. I get to hear and play all kinds of music, all day, every day. What could be better than that?
I have many hobbies, including genealogy, reading (especially Civil War history, WW II history, and anything having to do with French or British culture and history), travel (I have been in all 48 contiguous states of the US, and have been to Europe five times; withing the next couple of years we will go to Europe again and to South America), and others.
Whenever I do retire, one of my plans is to do a lot more flute playing. The flute has always been my "hobby" instrument - the one which I tend to play whenever I want to play just for my own pleasure.
I close with greetings to all flute enthusiasts. I can wish nothing better for you than the kind of enjoyment and fulfillment I have received from my life in music.