Saturday, August 8, 2009

A Walk With a Composer

I had totally forgotten about this episode until just a few days ago; and so, I thought that I might share it with you before I once again forget it:
I was in high school at the time; about 16 or so, and taking lessons at Eastman with my beloved teacher and second father, Jerome Diamond, whom I have written about in a previous blog.
I had been going with a girl, whose father was a judge and patron of the arts, and who was responsible for my having met the late William Kapell after his first recital at the Eastman Theater.
My girl friend told me at school one day that her father would like me to meet a musician of note at their home, and so I jumped at the opportunity.
Arrangements were made, and I found myself being introduced to none other than David Diamond (no relation to my teacher), who had come into town to hear one of his compositions. Incidentally, Diamond had been born in Rochester and had gone on to become a recognized composer after quite a personal struggle of many years.
Well, after a rather brief exchange of pleasantries and chat in the judge's living room, Diamond said that he had to get down to the Eastman School to be present at a rehearsal of his
composition, and invited me to accompany him on his walk to Eastman. I instantly said "yes" to his invitation, then realized that we were on the opposite side of town from Eastman, which would constitute quite a walk. Before I could utter any kind of sound, he interjected by informing those around him that he walked a great deal, which allowed him the kind of time needed to utilize his thought processes about music and other issues, and then asked if I had the time to walk with him.
To walk with a well-known composer was all I needed for ANY walk anywhere.
And so ( and I remember so vividly) we started out from Canterbury Road, turned left on Culver
Road until reaching East Avenue, then turned left once again all the way into the center of town; namely Gibbs Street, where the Eastman School was located. How many miles, I cannot tell you, but it was a good, long walk, during which Diamond, with limitless kindness and empathy informed me about the multifaceted aspects and issues connected with any question about the possibility of my going into music as a profession; the obstacles and struggles looming as possibilities in my pursuance, if I so chose music. Very quietly, he spoke and also asked me questions. I remember that he was on my right throughout the entire walk, and he was quite short, shorter than I was, even though I had not yet reached my towering height of about five feet, nine inches a bit later on in life.
His insights and warnings were of incalculable value to me as time went on, and I am forever grateful to this quiet, gentle man whose art-songs, from my view, made him a kind of American Schubert during his tenure as a recognized composer.
I cannot remember the end of this walk, and just how we parted. I never saw him again; however, judging from his broad and easily perceived perspectives I encountered, he must have been a wonderful teacher at Juillard, where he taught for about a quarter century.
A walk not to be forgotten.

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