Growing up in a musical family
Well, in our family, music was part of our life from day one basically. And especially with Mother playing the pipe organ at the church we went to. And Mother’s earliest memory of me in my first Christmas program was that, when the kids started singing off tune I looked daggers and just quit singing. And, we found out, I think sometime in our Arnold’s Park days, that I actually had perfect pitch. And it does not mean I don’t make mistakes. You can have perfect pitch and still sing the wrong note. But, at any rate, it was always fun to sing and we always sang in the evening before going to bed. We’d gather around the piano.
We sang things like the Anglo Chorus from El Trumpeter, some of the Robert Louis Stevenson poems that were set to music. We sang all kinds of good classical-type songs. We had some definite favorites that we’d hum and stuff, and then Saturday night we went over the hymns and the liturgy music for Sunday, and it wasn’t very long before I could sing the liturgy from memory. And I still make that a goal on learning the liturgy from memory and I very seldom refer to the hymnal or the prayer book for following the liturgy.
Then when I started clarinet, we were living at Conrad, Iowa at the time and there were two people that were out for band at that point who had played instruments before. My sister had played the baritone when she was in junior high and we were at De Soto. And, Gary Mittens had played baritone also. Well, the rest of us hadn’t played an instrument before and I had thought about taking lessons on sax and mother said, “There is no way we’re going to have a sax in the house.”
[Sounds like my mother.]
And I would’ve been perfectly willing to try just about any instrument at that point to play in a band because I had always wanted to play in a band. My sister played the bell lyre in the band.
[And you’ve got the clarinet with you now, right?]
Yeah, because we had band practice this morning.
[And you just started this year right? To play it again?]
Mm-hmm. At any rate, I agreed to try out the clarinet since the other girls taking lessons that the same time as I was had already chosen to play the clarinet. I liked what I heard. The teacher liked what he heard. The person selling instruments liked what he heard too. And that’s how I wound up on clarinet. And then I got into music contests that year. Those of us that were in the freshmen trio, basically that took our lessons together, got another person to come in with us and we did a clarinet quartet. And our quartet got a two in the preliminary contest that first year. And I got a three on my solo and compliments on the good beginning I was off to and some suggestions on the types of music to select for the following year. And, then I found out about pieces I was interested in learning too, and one of those was the Bouillon Shower of Gold. Mother felt that I shouldn’t play that for a solo and she and I kind of argued about it for a while. But when I went to a band clinic I picked out another piece that looked pretty good to me and I wound up playing the Andante from Piano Sonata No. 1 by Mozart for my contest piece and I got a one in the preliminary. And at that point, you went straight to state, and I got a two on it in the state.
My first meeting with Mr. Voxman, who was head of the University Music Department for years, and at that point he was the top authority on clarinet in the country, he was doing the tryouts for state band that year and I was one of the people selected to try out for state band.
[Why did your mother say no saxophone? Too loud, or what?]
She didn’t want us involved that much in jazz. She did not care for jazz, and she didn’t want us involved in jazz.