Though I have written many articles for a variety of magazines, for many years I resisted writing a book. But my attitude changed over the years. In 1970, I was asked to be the keynote speaker for the national convention of the Ameri¬can Choral Directors Association in Texas. For many in that state, I was still considered a “Texan” because of my long presence in Dallas, and I was happy to be considered that way. Therefore I became a natural as a guest for several conventions and other musical activities in Texas. At the ACDA convention I maligned the fact that too many choral conductors, at the time, were unable to handle most complicated music—not only scores written in our time but even music from all creative periods. I blamed our colleges who are training these conductors for their lack of skills, and I focused on the instruction books that did not emphasize music but rather focused on conducting techniques. If I were to write a book for choral conductors’ training, I ventured to say, it would be an anthology of music throughout the ages organized so that at the end of the instruction there would be no conducting problem that the student could not solve. I gave all kinds of examples to illustrate the point, and everyone I encountered after my speech praised it and said that it was about time someone spoke up about this lingering problem. One of the people who came up to me after the session was the editor of music books for Holt, Rinehart and Winston. He asked me for an appointment that afternoon, and we arranged to meet in the coffee shop. After a lengthy discussion and many excuses on my part for not writing such a book, I finally agreed to try it.
It took about a year to gather all the examples and the first edition of the Anthology for the Teaching of Choral Conducting was published by Holt, Rinehart, and Winston in 1971. At first, it sold very well, but multiple copies of it were mostly bought by music schools and kept in the choral departments to be used over and over again each year. We had thought that new students would buy it yearly expecting excellent sales.
Worcester in 1939 was a lovely city with a multitude of beautiful parks, excel¬lent schools, an effective and extensive public transportation system, and ethnic neighborhoods with great shopping opportunities. We moved into an apart¬ment at 84 Elm Street. The house was about thirty years old and we lived on the ground floor. The place was not large, but we managed well with the four rooms plus a kitchen, a bathroom, and two porches, one in front and one off the kitchen. The latter we shared with drying racks for the laundry since there was neither a washing machine nor a dryer. Temple Emanuel, where my father was to be the cantor for the next sixteen years until his death, was located at 111 Elm Street only a block and a half away from the house, and our school was always within walking distance. This was true of the elementary and middle schools as well as the high school.
As we arrived in Worcester towards the end of August, my father became immediately absorbed with the preparations for the High Holy Days, and Mari¬anne and I started school a week before Labor Day. Naturally we knew very few people, but the members of the congregation were exceptionally friendly and generous with gifts as well as invitations to come to their homes. My mother's English skills were quite wanting (to say the least). When she “confronted” someone in person, she was able to communicate quite well with a mixture of pidgin English, German, and gesticulation (with an emphasis on the latter). However, when the phone rang, she refused to answer since this would usually eliminate the chance for her to use her hands, feet, or any other portions of her body to make herself understood. So we compromised. She would try to speak as well as she could to anyone she met personally, but Marianne and I would take care of the phone. My father's English was a bit better since he took some classes during the months we lived in New York; his daily reading of the news¬paper from cover to cover also helped him with his English language skills, and, not being afraid to make mistakes, he used the newly acquired tongue without reticence in his conversations.
The first few years of the 1970s turned out to be some of the most turbulent years of my time at the Eastman School, and I was deeply involved. The fiftieth year of the founding of the Eastman School was to be celebrated during the 1971-72 season. In early 1970, Walter Hendl called me and asked me to have lunch with him. As always it was a very pleasant and fruitful meeting of the two of us. He wished to discuss his plans for the anniversary season, and I was flattered that he wanted my opinion. First of all he suggested that the composi¬tion department come up with a list of composers to commission to write new works to be performed during the year by all of our ensembles. Providing some ideas himself. Then he told me that during that season he was going to conduct all the orchestral concerts. The commissioning project was the easiest to realize for two reasons: one, all the composers on the Eastman faculty, including those who were not in the composition department itself, would be commissioned, and he had some suggestions as to the kind of works he would like to see cre¬ated for the project. The other reason Hendl received great support for his suggestions was that his ideas of composers to commission outside the school were excellent.
I went back to my colleagues, and we divided up the list of works that Hendl wanted created for the anniversary, we divided them up between us and then gave the non-composition faculty members a chance to pick what they wanted to contribute. All of this went very smoothly and in the pro¬cess I picked the opportunity to write an organ concerto for my dear friend and colleague David Craighead and the Eastman Philharmonia. Many fa¬mous and not so famous outside composers were commissioned, Ameri-cans as well as European composers. Among the Americans were William Schuman, Peter Mennin, Vincent Persichetti, and Ned Rorem; among the Europeans, the most renowned one was Krzysztof Penderecki who was asked to write a work for harpsichord and orchestra. This work turned out to be the Partita, written especially for the anniversary and was to be pre miered by Felicja Blumental, a woman of Polish descent, but who made her reputation in North America and in Brazil.
Now at the end of my formal teaching career, I can safely say that my position at Eastman and then at Juilliard added up to the two best jobs anyone could ever hope to have. I have dealt with hundreds of students who went on to excellent positions in the music world. At Eastman, and then at Juilliard, I have had the privilege of instructing and mentoring students whose lives I hope have been enriched by our work together. Milton Babbitt once said to me: “You know, Sam, I think we have had more composition students than any other two com¬posers in history. If they have not studied with me, I am sure they have studied with you.”
Besides the many wonderful things that have happened to me since 1990 there have been some disappointments that I would like to discuss since they have affected me in certain ways. I would like to mention four of these simply to get them off my chest and because I have learned important lessons from these setbacks.
The first instance I want to mention was probably the strangest for me. After teaching at Brigham Young University, I received an inquiry from Jerry Ottley, the director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, asking if I were interested in writ¬ing an anthem for them for choir and organ. To me the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has always been one of the finest choirs in the world, and I immediately answered Jerry that it would be the greatest pleasure for me to write such a work for him. He told me that the choir's committee would first of all have to approve of the text and then, after I had written it, that committee would have to approve the work itself. I thought that these were reasonable requests and put together some of my favorite Bible verses and added a few verses written by Yehudah Halevy, a Jewish poet from the Middle Ages. I sent the text to Salt Lake City and within a few days heard from Jerry that the committee loved the text; I should go ahead and set it. I did so and wrote a work with a prominent organ part since the organ as well as the organist of the Tabernacle were superb.
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