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Chapter 2: How the Music and I Found Each Other

My family moved from time to time, so my childhood was spent in different neighborhoods and different schools. I know the moving van also moved a piano and a pump organ as we went to the next house. I think it would have been a bit too much to call us a “musical family,” but my oldest brother, Emmett, played the flute, my sister Shirley sang, and I recall that she took xylophone lessons. My other brother, Clarence, was another flute player. I have vague recollections of having piano and violin lessons, but I guess they didn’t take.

There was other music in the house; during the day Mother would often have the radio tuned to WOSU, the Ohio State radio station, which played classical music. The family phonograph played all sorts of music. We didn’t call it mono phonograph, because there wasn’t anything other than mono.

One memory I have is of a trip to the record store on Hyde Park Square with Shirley and Clarence (Emmett, being ten years older than Shirley, was doing something else) and I was going to spend my money on a record just for me for the first time. I do remember that I was surprised and disappointed when Shirley chose a record by Vaughan Monroe. I try not to think about whether this was taste or snobbery working. I’m not sure, but I think my choice was a Spike Jones record.

When I was in sixth grade, Christmas brought me a clarinet, but apparently playing in the Withrow Junior High School band in the third-clarinet section did not inspire me. So at another Christmas, there was an oboe under the tree, and there was another move, so I found myself in the Hughes High School band. The band had lots of clarinets, lots of trumpets, lots of drums, lots of trombones and so on. And it had one oboe. Me.

World War II was over, Harry Truman was president, we weren’t yet worried enough about Korea to do something about it, the CIA was created, and Frank Sinatra was selling a lot of records. I took a look at my high school annual from 1951, my senior year. When I got over the shock of seeing what I looked like, I read some of the things that occupied me other than classes. The Latin Club, the Camera Club, Parlators (we debated), Sages, Thespians and of course Band and Orchestra. And the yearly original musical. How fortunate I was to have such possibilities. And it explains why I get a little bit more optimistic when I read in the news that a school or district has found the funds for a bit more art or music, even if it is only extracurricular. There are those who really need this.

Athletes often talk about the high school coaches who did so much for them. I have to mention Rea Brown, who directed the band. He did a lot for me. And though I wasn’t in any of his big choirs, Bob McSpadden was a mentor for me, and that remained true when I had occasion to talk with him about WGUC things in later years. I probably don’t have to tell you that several life-long friendships were born. Two are left.

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