He’ll keep tooting on behalf of the Miss Berryhills, Miss Greys and wind-up Victrolas of days past
Duke Russell and I are not the only high school graduates who look back with gratitude and affection on those patient teachers who taught us “music appreciation.”
We are not the only ones whose musical education rests upon those dreamy hours spent listening to tinny classics played on the school’s wind-up Victrola.
Barbara Moe remembers that her music appreciation teacher in elementary school was a Miss Berryhill.
“She had red hair and she went from room to room with her wind-up Victrola. She was strict and humorless, and her visits were considered a real drag--though that terminology, of course, was not used back then (in the ‘30s).
“But through the formidable Miss Berryhill, I learned to distinguish the different instruments in an orchestra.
“My leanings were always toward the catch-me-if-you-can flutes, though I remember with great fondness the mellow tones of the French horns and the exotic sounds of the oboes. . . .
“Without question, I absorbed more in those early years about music and art than I realized at the time. Maybe it was due to being young or receptive or impressionable. Or all of those things. Whatever the reasons, I mourn the passing of all the Miss Berryhills and wind-up Victrolas.”
Frances Boveia of Brea writes: “What a terrific boost to the ego you gave to all of us who have ever been involved with trying to impart our love of music to the junior high or high school-age young person!
“It was encouraging to read that even bits and pieces from famous compositions still remain with you, and we would all hope that there are a few from our classes who remember portions of compositions we shared and who have learned to love, appreciate and understand the world of ‘classical music.’
“Unfortunately, the ‘general music’ or ‘music appreciation’ class is practically non-existent today. It’s a shame, too, because our music centers are going to need audiences to fill their halls. And without music appreciation those halls may not be full.”
Elaine Wechsler of Pacific Palisades remembers a Miss Grey, her music appreciation teacher in New York City, in the ‘30s, who made her own contribution to the records she played.
“As she played the classics for a roomful of squirming 13-year-olds,” Mrs. Wechsler recalls, “she sang to the music original ditties she had devised to help us remember the titles and the composers.”
For example, as Mrs. Wechsler remembers, she would sing:
This is the SYM-phony that Schubert wrote
and never FIN-ished. . . .
This is the THEME in G he wrote for
vi-o-LIN and CEL-lo . . . so MEL-low. . . .
Miss Grey had ditties to go with every classical record she played, but perhaps the most remarkable was the one she made up to sing with “March Slav,” as follows:
Oy, oy, oy, MAZEL tov;
oy, oy, oy, oy, oy Mazel tov;
This is MARCH Slav, WRIT-ten by Tchai-KOV-sky.
Oy, oy, oy MAZEL TOV.
Oy ve! How could you ever forget that?
Fred A. Glienna of South Pasadena writes: “I’m sure I’m not alone in the sad notion that we are raising hordes of young people who turn their backs on 2,000 years of rich culture and tradition, simply because they are not told it is there, and that it is worthwhile. . . .”
Glienna chides me, however, for anticipating Renata Tebaldi’s career by 20 years, and for implying that “O Sole Mio” was grand opera. (Tebaldi was only 12 years old in 1934, and “O Sole Mio” is only a song, it is not from opera.)
Also, Jack P. Gabriel of Carson writes: “You definitely did not hear recordings by Renata Tebaldi, nor would you have heard her for another 20 years, as her heyday began in the ‘50s, at least in this country. . . .”
I don’t mind losing one or two; but I don’t like to lose them all, and I am not going to give in to Sally P. Davis, who complains that my cousin Annabel could not have “tooted” her trombone in the Shafter Elementary School band because the trombone cannot be tooted.
“I do not believe anyone can ‘toot’ a trombone,” she says. “The only instrument which readily adapts itself to tooting is, of course, the flute. I have tooted my flute for some years now, including a stint in my high school band, and can assure you that trombones do not toot.”
By the way, I don’t mean to suggest that Ms. Davis is being churlish. Her letter is in every other respect friendly and complimentary.
“I am fairly certain,” she adds, “that you include such errors to convince us that you are, after all, merely human and not, as some might think, perfect. Thank you for this facade, but I know better.”
(Actually, I knew Tebaldi was only a child when I was in high school, but I put her in with Galli-Curci just to let Jack Gabriel and Fred Glienna know I’m not perfect.)
As for toot , first, I looked it up in Webster’s New World Dictionary, which says:
toot 1. to blow a horn, whistle, etc., in short blasts --v.t. 1. to cause to sound in short blasts 2. to sound (tones, blasts, etc.) as on a horn. . . .”
Then I looked up horn . It said:
horn , any brass-wind instrument.
Then I looked up trombone . It said:
trombone , a large, brass-wind instrument. . . .
And then I asked my cousin Annabel if she tooted her trombone.
She said: “I sure did.”
I rest my case.