105. So, why am I not a lawyer?

I am related to a long line of preachers dating back to the very first congregation of Quakers in England, and perhaps it is in my DNA since, apart from the subject matter, there are important similarities between a good preacher and a good teacher. I certainly had a considerable amount of experience in public speaking during my early years, beginning while in grade school in having had to take private “Expression Lessons.” This concentration on public speaking continued and resulted in a number of medals for debate in high school, including a silver medal for being the second best speaker in a national student congress held at Stanford University.

So, with this background in public speaking, how come I did not become a lawyer? I knew well-known lawyers who attended the same church and I observed their work in the small county court house, but it looked rather boring and I noticed that at that time lawyers did not seem to have better cars and houses than anyone else. Before this, my first career goal was to be an army officer. A large army base, Fort Sill, was adjacent to my town and I knew officers again in church, but they all strongly advised not to make a career as an officer because no one ever gets promoted in peace time, the Korean War having just ended, and everyone believed there would never be another war (Vietnam was not yet in sight).

So where did Music come from? My mother was of a German family and she was a piano major in college and was a brilliantly talented artist in oil painting. But all these activities ended in 1926 when she was married, for at that time a wife was not expected to have an independent career. She did, for some reason, buy me a cornet when I was in the 8th grade and I began taking private lessons from the local band director, James T. Matthews, who later became the director of bands at the University of Houston.

He requested no specific fee for these private lessons, but he charged 5 cents per mistake! Hence I immediately learned that in Music, every note counts!

Before introducing the real turning point in my interest toward Music, I must point out that I lived in a period before TV was known, and before most people had records and something to play them on. Consequently, by the time I was in the beginning of the 10th grade in a small town in Oklahoma I did not even know orchestras existed. My elder sister had left at home a little spring driven record player and during the 10th grade one day a girl friend, Ann Lyons, gave me a recording of the Fourth Symphony of Tchaikovsky to take home and listen to. Tchaikovsky‘s Fourth! The reader can easily imagine the profound reaction upon my hearing this, my first orchestral music. I listened to it a couple of times and decided this was a world I had to become part of!

That summer I attended a then famous school music camp in Gunnison, Colorado, where I sat as first horn in a band conducted by the then famous, William D. Revelli, of the University of Michigan. He offered me a scholarship to attend the university after the coming year, but unknown to him I was only going to be in the 11th grade in the next year, not a Senior. Thus I had to make a choice, either to stay two more years in this small town in Oklahoma and finish high school or to skip the last year of high school and go to Michigan as a Music Major at age 17. It took about 5 seconds to make that decision.