In 7th grade, my music teacher, Miss Virgiinia Broche, had me move next to my friend Randy Rowland so he could hear the tenor line of the music we sang, harmoniously in class and concert. In 9th grade, Mr. Fred Nika choir leader and a great fellow gave an award at our final 9th grade school assembly at Ben Franklin Jr. High before most of us moved on and became high school sophomores at Springfield High. It was given to three singers who had achieved the greatest achievements in choir. It was given to me, I always felt, because in addition to being in the choir, I sang in a “barbershop ensemble” 12 fellows who sang great songs like “The New Ashmolean Marching Society and Students Conservatory Band” and “Lida Rose.” I also sang in boys choir and played my Sears guitar “in public” for the first time when I played and sang “You’re Undecided Now” and two other songs for our music class. After the first song, Mr. Nika asked if anyone if they had any reaction to share. My friend Nancy Rose — a babe then and a married babe today — said. “Job, I couldn’t understand a single word you sang!” Okay, so my diction needed work.
As graduation approached, music students interested in singing in Mr. Daniel Sprecklemeyer’s ACCLAIMED Accapella Choir auditioned, one on one, with the legendary vocal director. Of course, I auditioned. It was simply student and teacher, no one else in the choir room. I sang some things and talked with him, almost as I would talk to a favorite uncle: no tension, but it was pretty — and appropriately — formal. When he walked away from the piano for some reason, I glanced at his audition notes. Next to my name, he had written “I or 2.” Very close to the final assembly at Franklin, the list of students who had been accepted as sophomores into TOP choir was posted. My name was on the list along with another male choir student who, by 9th grade, was singing bass. His name was Randy Roland.
The most terrific part of high school was singing in Mr. Sprecklemeyer’s choir. When I was about 40 years old I wrote a song about it which I sing in public with my guitar “at the drop of a hint.” I will post the lyrics to that song — and maybe a selfie video of me singing it — when time allows.
I considered enrolling in Springfield Junior College’s music program when I applied for admission in the fall of 1965. Mr. Eldridge was the music director, a really focused, attentive, nice fellow! At the audition — one on one again, he played a series of scales on the piano and after each one, asked me to repeat (“la-la-la”) the notes he had just played. I repeated each one after he played it. To my astonishment, the audition was halted after he said (words to the effect) “Job, I want to go get Sister (and I have forgotten her name, darn it). I want her to hear you. Again he played the scales I had repeated and a few new ones. The variations were more technical than I can explain. A few included shifts from minor to major and back. It was all new territory to me, and it was all a happy breeze. At the end he explained the place he had in mind for me would track with a voice major and instrument minor, both absolutely necessary. Had I played an instrument before? Yes I had; took piano lessons in second and third grade and played one recital before quitting piano lessons with the MARVELOUS Miss Daigh, who lived in a single story triplex building on South Douglas just north of Ash near home on S. Whittier.
During school days, Mom or Dad would pick her up and bring her to our place with the Chickering upright they had purchased for my 12-years-older-than-me Dorothy. During the one summer vacation I had between second and third grades, I rode my Huffy bicycle over to Miss Daigh’s home for lessons. “Dot” was incredible. She played Chopin and Strauss, Debussy, all the greats. As a child I loved listening to her play. Early on I had WANTED piano lessons, but there were problems in the process. Number one was that I relied on my ears and intuition when getting to know the notes on the page. It was stupid of me, but I was a kid. Miss Daigh drilled me pretty hard over this, and she was smart to do it. I never resented it. But she talked like a heavily sedated William Buckley (though I didn’t know it at the time) and terribly pontifically and worse, when sitting closely to her on the piano bench, her natural aroma was an impediment to the task at hand. She was probably 70 years old at the time, would not have been a big deal with most students, but was with me. I never revealed this to my parents, but I reveal it to you because I am approaching 70 and I KNOW anyone sitting next to me on a piano bench (or a love seat in the living room . . . or bed) would have the same issue with the “old man” version of the “old woman” fragrance. My parents URGED me not to quit, told me I would come to them years later and ask them “Why did you ALLOW me to quit the lessons?!!” and they were right! I have regretted my decision to this day. I still loved to play piano, but I improvised and wrote son gs. I could play Brubeck’s Take Five and It’s a Raggy Waltz and others. Pianists Peter Nero and Andre Previn were musical heroes along with Dave Brubeck. I became a semi-star in junior high with help from Mr. Nika, the pinnacle of which was a song called Chop Suey which he had taught me how to play, and I played to a large crowd during a break at a state-wide choral event. Their applause was incredible! Bottom line, though was that I told Mr. Elderidge that I didn’t BELIEVE I could become a successful piano player, so I could not confidently enroll as a MUSIC MAJOR at Springfield Junior College. We parted on friendly terms, and I became a Liberal Arts Major at SJC. I have regretted THAT decision ever since!
This musical alibi will continue with part two sub-titled How I Almost Became an Also-Ran Folk Singer-Songwriter and a new two-parter I will call How I Almost Became and Also-Ran Journalist. Look for that later this year.
Part two of THIS series will continue late this week. Thanks for reading it.
Love long . . . . . . . . . .and proper.