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A Salute to (My) Teachers

Ken Radnofsky
June 2012

Description  |  1. Introduction  |  2. Early Teachers  |  3. Teachers by Example  |  4. Conductors, Pianists, Composers and other related inspirations  |  5. Composers and Other Inspirations  |  6. Colleagues, Family and Friends, and mostly, just working hard  |  7. 'We get by with a little help from our friends' - thanks to The Beatles

2. Early Teachers

'Chapter One' Duncan Hale
The First Lesson Can Be The Most Important One


I had taken a music test in school, with all of the fourth graders in my school. Miraculously, we all passed and went to the school auditorium to choose an instrument. I wanted to play the oboe but it was determined that I didn't have the 'ears' to play it, based on the test results. I remember the music store person (someone reminding of Prof. Harold Hill of the Music Man) tugging on his ear, shaking his head and advising my parents otherwise. Next I saw the trumpet, and loved the golden color. Again I was advised no, as I had 'buck' teeth, and the trumpet didn't fit my mouth. The tester felt it would be too difficult to play. Finally, I chose the saxophone, and it was allowed; it had lots of buttons/keys and I would be able to play more notes. It also fit my mouth. A relatively unimportant decision at the time led me on my current path. Had I chosen one of the other instruments, I have no doubt the outcome would have been the same, as it doesn't matter the vehicle, but simply that we find some instrument or way to express ourselves. Soon it was time to go to the music store.

I won't forget that day. Duncan Hale sold my parents a 'DeVillier' Alto-Saxophone. He gave me a memorable first lesson, in which he showed me how to wet the reed and put it on the mouthpiece and produce a tone on the saxophone. It was a very, very good lesson. He brought great joy to my life. We stayed in touch for many years, and after I graduated from New England Conservatory, and began teaching there, Duncan, who was then with the Selmer Company, arranged for me to become a national clinician, and as I travelled the country doing clinics for the Selmer, Duncan would occasionally be in the audience. At Cypress Fairbanks High School in Texas, many years later, I spotted him in the back, introduced him to the crowd, and said, 'That is the person who gave me my very first lesson, the best lesson and the most important one'. And Duncan chimed back 'And I don't even play the saxophone, I played horn.' I was really shocked. But Duncan had been a music educator in Texas, he knew how to play and teach (and sell) all the instruments. I still think of him fondly, and when I received a request for my 'dream' performance as soloist with the New York Philharmonic in 1995, I added Duncan's name to my biography, where it has and will always remain. Thank-you Duncan.

Fourth grade was relatively uneventful, as Band Director Jimmy Foster started us playing in a beginner band, but we moved to Seabrook, Texas, where NASA was located, at the beginning of its permanent location for the Space Program, of which my Dad was an integral part, as head of Crew Systems Division. Gordon Richardson was the band director and group lessons teacher at Seabrook Elementary School. I remember him as very very patient. I think we wore him out, but he never showed it. But just to give an idea of my ability, I repeated beginner band in sixth grade, because I forgot how to play F# during the summer! I did see him 20 years later; he looked the same, and he said we DID wear him out, but it was with a smile on his face. To me that is an example of the selfless giving of all the Texas Music Educators I have known. I am so glad we moved from Philadelphia, to Seabrook, so I could receive the best possible music education!

Terry Anderson