Growing Up in Musical Columbus: An Open Letter
You are 200 years old today. As one of your natives, I wished to mark this auspicious occasion with a few recollections and words of gratitude for the musical life I found in you during my tender years. Those years were rich with opportunities to learn and grow in your vibrant musical life. And those opportunities and experiences formed who I am today.
So, Columbus, here are a few things I remember fondly from my early years running around town drinking in your classical music:
Stanton’s Sheet Music was my musical candy store. I remember trekking downtown on Saturday afternoons to browse shelf upon shelf of sheet music. Time stood still as I scanned the notes printed in the pristine music books and gave their melodies and harmonies free rein in my imagination. Not once did I leave the store empty handed, and even today the temptations there are great.
The Central Ohio Flute Association (COFA) was a big deal to me during my years as a young flutist. Through the tireless efforts of the passionate and dedicated volunteer professionals who run it, COFA was – and still is – able to present masterclasses, contests and other performance opportunities to flutists of all ages and levels of interest, and to bring some of the best flutists in the world to Columbus as clinicians and adjudicators.
I performed at a number of COFA events and had the great fortune to be accompanied at many of them by pianist Deborah DeWolf Emery. Debbie is just one of those remarkably gifted accompanists, able to sightread anything at performance level and to adjust immediately to the whims – and mishaps – of the musicians she accompanies. Since my early years in Columbus, I have collaborated with any number of pianists in the U.S. and Europe, but few could compete with Debbie. Every young musician should be blessed to work with a musician of her caliber and grace.
And I must not neglect the fantastic musical training I received from five years of study with Columbus Symphony Orchestra principal flutist Randall Hester. Randy is a musician’s musician and, what’s more, a teacher’s teacher. With talent, dedication and opportunity for study, almost anyone can become an excellent classical musician. But great teachers are born, not made. As distinguished a player as he may be, as beautifully as his burnished flute sound may sing through the orchestra, Randy also has a teacher’s soul.
But young musicians are not developed by private study alone; they must also play in ensembles with other musicians. The Columbus Symphony Youth Orchestra gave me and legions of other young musicians a fabulous opportunity to rehearse and perform the great orchestral repertoire under the direction of a professional conductor. Albert-George Schram brought more than just musical accomplishment to his work with the youth orchestra; he brought humor, wit and, above all, an infectious joie de vivre.
I remember when WOSU recorded one of the concerts of the Columbus Symphony Youth Orchestra for later simulcast on WOSU’s classical music radio service and WOSU TV. When the day of the simulcast arrived, I and a small group of musicians descended upon the home of a youth orchestra comrade to watch the program on TV. Little did I know that the host of that program – one Boyce Lancaster, whom I had heard so often announcing music on WOSU Radio – would become one of my colleagues.
I could go on and on – about hearing live concerts the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra, about having an invaluable opportunity to perform as soloist with the Columbus Symphony, about observing masterclasses with world-renowned artists at The Ohio State University School of Music, etc., etc. But for now, on this, your 200th birthday, I’ll just say thank you, Columbus, for being such a great place in which to grow up musical.