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Marginal Notes and Articles


 
 
 
Music at Coe (Fall '91)
It was two summers ago when I was a dinner guest at a party that included several Coe alumni. During the course of the evening it was revealed that I taught at Coe and was currently chair of the Music Department. We had a wonderful evening as they recalled stories about attending daily chapel and singing for Prof. Ray. There was no question but they had gained some beautiful and rich experiences as Coe musicians, even if majoring in other fields.

During the conversation, there were occasional comments to suggest that, from the alums' perspective, not much was happening any more in music at Coe. Things just weren't the same as they had been in the good old days. That sense of loss is certainly understandable, perhaps even inevitable. Coe was fortunate to have had a remarkable music faculty through several golden decades, so beautifully remembered by Alma Turechek elsewhere in this newsletter. And like all times, those times have passed.

I must admit, however, that the pit bull side to my character finds many reasons for defending the present. Despite changes in personnel and programs, an undeviating commitment to the finest in music education and performance is at the center of our department's mission. Music at Coe is alive and thriving. I want people to know that. Our faculty, facilities, and curriculum make Coe one of the best colleges in the Midwest for exploring music and the other liberal arts.

One step we have taken for reminding people of our existence is the initiation of a Coe Recital and Concert Series, comprised of 30 programs for the 1991-92 season. The Series encompasses Faculty Recitals, an Ensemble Series, and a Special Guest Series, including such groups as the Minnesota Opera, the U.S. Air Force Band, and the Cedar Rapids Symphony Chamber Orchestra. We hope the attendant advertising will remind people that music is deeply embedded in the life of the college, providing an excellent sampling of musical experiences for both our students and area residents.

One further innovation is the substantial expansion of our scholarship audition dates for prospective music students. Traditionally the scholarship competition has been held in February. We have discovered, however, that many colleges are offering scholarships during the fall term, sometimes before students have even applied to the college. The on-campus auditions in October and November, plus the December instrumental auditions in Chicago, should enable us to compete more effectively for the decreasing number of students choosing music as their major field of study.

No single innovation or gimmick will ensure the further growth of our department. But I can assure you that the current faculty is determined to build on the traditions established by such great teachers as Alma Turechek. When you come back to campus for the Homecoming concerts (or for any other occasion), we hope you will find a college that will make you proud--and a Music Department where it's clear that things are really happening.

--Margie

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Self-Evaluations (Spring '92)

It is always difficult to ascertain the appropriate criteria for judging ourselves. How do we know when we are doing a good job? What are the best standards for confirming our self-worth, enabling us to comfortably assert, "that was a job well done"? Despite the dis-ease that inevitably attends those questions, improving an educational program usually involves revisiting and assessing the past: to know where we are going, we need to know where we have been.

One dangerous tendency is to begin thinking we can best understand the history of an educational program, such as a liberal arts music department, in terms of dollars and numbers. When the budget is balanced, we are doing well; when it isn't balanced, we are not. When student enrollments are high, we are a success; when the numbers are low, we have failed.

Of course, if the numbers were the sine qua non for evaluation, Coe should immediately throw in the towel and quit. The University of Iowa has 30,000 students and Coe has 1,000 students; therefore, the University of Iowa is thirty times better than Coe. Despite the immediate fallacies of such thinking, the empirical attractiveness of numbers is hard to resist.

And, of course, when it may be to our advantage I am tempted to pull out the most appealing numbers: (1) the Music Department is enjoying a fourth consecutive year of increased numbers of students competing for music scholarships; (2) participation in music ensembles is the highest in at least ten years; (3) our freshman music theory class is the largest in recent memory; and so forth.

While accumulating the right pile of numbers is an inevitable administrator's strategy for defending our future existence with budget committees, I would like to think that what really counts is the department's ability to exert a significant and positive influence on the lives of our students. Rather than be judged by the number of graduates, let us be judged by our commitment in providing each student the best educational experience we are capable of providing.

One message that I hope permeates this issue of "Music at Coe" is that we are proud of the many music students who are doing very well, both musically and academically. The third page of the newsletter details some wonderful accomplishments and honors earned by Coe students during the fall term. The faculty has consciously taken a more assertive role in helping our students become involved in off-campus activities and performance groups; we think that the effort is beginning to have a substantial impact on how those students feel about themselves.

I want to close by offering a special congratulations to those music majors who made the academic Dean's List this past fall:
Laura Arbore (Sophomore from Cedar Rapids)
Jennifer Lillig (Freshman from Aurora, Colorado)
Ellen Smith (Senior Non-Traditional Student from Cedar Rapids)
Thomas Vana (Freshman from Des Plaines, Illinois)
Considering the burden often placed on music students because of the many hours they must spend in ensemble rehearsal and private instrument and voice studies, it is always gratifying to see our students succeed in the classroom.

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Visitor from China (Fall '92)
While our February 1992 newsletter indicated that the month of March would be filled with several special solo song activities, we were surprised and honored in April to be host to an authority on traditional Chinese folk music. Guiwen Ding, Dean and Professor of the Vocal Department of Shenyang Conservatory of Music. Professor Ding had lectured and sung at Harvard University before coming to Cedar Rapids to visit his daughter and her husband, Zhe Jiang, who teaches violin at Coe.

Professor Ding, who specializes in western opera, presented an interesting lecture on Chinese opera and folk music. While his spoken word was translated by Zhe Jiang, his expressive face and gestures needed no translation as he demonstrated stock characters and his ability to completely transform instantly from one character to another. On May 4 Professor Ding gave a recital in D-K Auditorium with Coe faculty members Zhe Jiang, violin, and Kris Denton, piano. He performed several western opera arias in addition to Chinese folk songs arranged for recital performances.

In addition to sharing his musical expertise and native culture with the Coe community, Professor Ding conferred with me for an hour or so before he left Cedar Rapids on his return trip to China. We compared teaching techniques as he expressed his desire to learn more about western teaching techniques, his desire to apply them to traditional Chinese singing, and to invite qualified western visiting teachers to help.

While I am always striving to grow as a teacher and singer, I am not sure that I would have the courage to continue as he has. How would I react if Coe College had been completely closed down for ten years during a Cultural Revolution, all of the equipment, instruments, books etc. were removed, and I was sent to work in the countryside and not allowed to sing or teach? Could I successfully return after ten years and start over again, rebuilding a music program with virtually no resources?

As we begin another school year, the memory of my conversations with Professor Ding helps renew my faith in the sustaining powers of music. I feel less burdened by our minor problems when I recall his cheerful manner, his willingness to share with others, and his tenacious desire to continue growing as an artist and a teacher, even though he had seen all of his previous efforts destroyed by Mao's Cultural Revolution. He came to Coe to talk about music, but I suspect we all learned much more than he ever intended to teach.
-Margie

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Six Months in London (Spring '93)
In June my family and I returned from spending six months in London where my husband and I had been co-directors of the ACM London Program. While working with the students absorbed substantial time and energy, we managed to enjoy many opportunities only available in London.

During my first encounter with London as a student in 1966-67, after having lived for 22 years in Kansas, I attended the theater and concerts to the limit of my constrained budget. Now, over 25 years later, it was so exciting to return to this wonderful city and again have that opportunity, night after night, to see plays and hear great musicians: Rostropovich, Perlman, Battle, Galway, Wild, Menuhin, Borge, and for me the most exciting discovery of this trip, the soprano Sarah Walker.

London will always be my favorite city, though it has certainly changed in many ways. In the '60s there were no fast food restaurants-in fact we Rotary Scholarship students spent months futilely searching for pizza. The vast range of eating establishments in contemporary London suggests how the city has become more Americanized (Pizza Hut and Big Macs throughout central London) and ironically more culturally diverse. Signs are now in many languages other than English. And, of course, there are the nervous eyes looking for suspicious packages on the subways and the frequent security searches, non-existent in the '60s.

One of my most satisfying experiences was observing my son's violin lessons with Kato Havas, one of the premiere violin teachers in the world. Several years ago I read Tensions in the Performance of Music-a symposium, edited by Carola Grindea, which collects writings by musicians who shared Grindea's interest in coping with tension. The first entry is "The Release from Tension and Anxiety in String Playing" by Kato Havas of Oxford, England.

Ms. Havas is a lovely person who treats all levels of students with gentleness and respect. After retiring as a professional violinist at age 18, she has focused her teaching on understanding why the Hungarian gypsy fiddlers that she heard in her youth could play with such beauty and ease though they had never had formal lessons or long hours of practice.

In her teaching, Ms. Havas communicates a strong love for the violin, not as an inanimate object but as something alive and beautiful. One of Aaron's practice assignments was simply to hold his violin lovingly in his arms while reading, watching TV, etc. The hard texture of the violin tends to create a static response in a player's hands. She wanted Aaron to discover what it is like not to be in a battle with one's instrument. In lessons she would uncover the sources of problems which restrain the player from communicating freely with the listener.

The inability to communicate is certainly not due to a lack of desire to do so, or a lack of ability, or of talent (as has so often been proved to me by violinists I have worked with), but it is the result of physical tensions, faulty mental attitudes, and social pressures. Whether it is the physical tensions which create the faulty mental attitudes, or the faulty mental attitudes that create the physical tensions is as difficult to answer as the question as to which came first, the chicken or the egg. One thing is certain, the physical and mental aspects of violin playing are so interrelated that it is impossible to separate them.

Ms. Havas emphasized that if the mind and body are to work in harmony, we must be extraordinarily careful in our word choice for describing how we play. During one lesson, she commented that the word "hold" has quite the opposite meaning from the word "flow." Is it possible to "flow" with the music while "holding" the violin?

As a parent often frustrated by my inability to communicate with my own son, it was exciting to observe how powerfully Aaron's playing was affected by introducing new ways of thinking about playing-and about living. While I know in working with my own singing and the voices of my students that changes never come easily, I felt myself reinvigorated by this rare opportunity to observe a master teacher work on the roots of a problem, rather than to be content with glib solutions that will themselves later become new problems.

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Rehearsing in D-K (Spring '94)
When I was hired by Coe in 1978 to teach voice, voice-related subjects, and music theory, it never occurred to me how difficult it would be to protect my commitment to singing a few hours each week. Serving as Chair of Coe's Music Department since 1987 has broadened my self-education, but the demands of the job are never ending: lobbying for departmental needs with appropriate campus administrators; functioning as accountant, mediator, and organizer of innumerable office tasks; writing recruiting publications and pressuring Admissions to remember that Coe does indeed offer a Bachelor of Music degree; filling out interminable reports requested by the college and our accrediting body, the National Association of Schools of Music; hiring new faculty and determining teaching assignments; reading memos, writing memos, dreaming of memos. It's easy to feel like I've been caught in a Cathy cartoon. The temptation to scream becomes very strong.

Somehow, in the midst of this job, plus bussing children and remodeling a kitchen and fighting cat fleas, I perform one or two song recitals each year. This column will attempt to clarify for myself the personal and professional reasons motivating me to continue this annual ritual. What impels me to keep at it?

Part of the motivation derives from my situation as a teacher: most students entering Coe have never heard a song recital. While they may not develop a passion for the classical art song, I still believe some familiarity with European and American song literature should be a part of most students' musical education. Such is definitely the case for any student intending to graduate in music.

For students pursuing the Bachelor of Music in vocal performance, giving their own solo recitals is a degree requirement. These students need to hear live examples of what they will soon be doing themselves. Despite temptations to experiment with my programs, I usually follow a traditional format, performing songs in three or four languages. During classes and lessons, I share with students what is involved in preparing a recital, emphasizing the necessary attention to detail.

Beginning music students are seldom aware how secure a performer must be, vocally and musically, before the performer knows the music, before imagination can really begin to flourish. Voice students need practice and performance models. Singers are accustomed to performing in an ensemble (an important and invaluable experience for them) but are often unaware of the personal discipline needed, and the rewards earned, by working carefully and intensively on their own.

As a musician and teacher, I have also discovered the necessity of continuing to stretch the boundaries of my musical world, exploring music difficult to understand or appreciate on the first reading, or even the tenth time through. I remain attracted to the joys derived from working with a difficult angular melody line by a contemporary composer, learning to hear and sing it as easily as a Mozart or Brahms melody. I still savor the challenge of trying to give listeners insights into song lyrics which often use poetry not always obvious in its meanings. I would like for my students to know that some programs expect the audience to think as well as be entertained.

But maybe what is best about a recital are the rehearsals. Closing the departmental office and escaping into D-K auditorium. It's there my colleagues and I discuss, prepare, perform great music for ourselves. Dean Karns at the harpsichord or Anita Bullard playing the cello or Sharon Kay Stang at the piano. No one need listen. Just us and Monteverdi or Schubert or Rorem. This was one reason why I came to Coe sixteen years ago. I'm not ready to give it up yet.

--Margie

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Out of America (Fall '94)
Early this summer Georgia Marlow, a long-time friend and supporter of Coe's music program, brought a fascinating item into my office. It was a copy of a program for a recital given by Eleanor Steber, soprano with the Metropolitan Opera Company, at the Ministry of Culture Auditorium in Bangkok, Thailand on February 22, 1957.

While reading the program, I was particularly attracted to a group of songs by five American composers: Gian-Carlo Menotti, Aaron Copland, K. K. Davis, Edwin Biltcliffe and Celius Dougherty. These are composers whom I myself frequently sing or teach--except for Biltcliffe, who was Steber's accompanist for the recital.

The most intriguing feature of this printed program was a copy of a poem entitled "Out of America" and written especially for Eleanor Steber. The poet was Paul Engle ('31). So far I have been unable to discover the history of the poem and how Engle may have known Steber. With the gracious assistance of Hualing, Paul Engle's widow, I have ascertained that the poem was never included in any of Engle's books. If any readers have knowledge about the history of this poem, I would appreciate your sharing it with me.

Printed below is a copy of the poem as it appears in the printed program for the Bangkok concert:

OUT OF AMERICA

Now in a world where dark and light
Quarrel in the heart like day and night,
Where all men hunger for something more
Than fear of fear and fear of war,
I bring you a better thing than wheat
For hand to bake and mouth to eat:
To all the world where all belong
Out of my mouth I bring you song.

Out of the long American land
I bring you song like a loving hand,
Nothing but hope and trust I bring,
A singing mouth for all who sing.
I give you now for heart and head
Music, music, I give you music.

The discovery of this poem has come at an especially appropriate time for me (and Sharon Kay Stang, my accompanist) as my schedule for this October includes performing and teaching in China, Hong Kong, and Japan. Our resident composer Jerry Owen has agreed to compose a song setting of Engle's "Out of America," a piece we hope to be premiering at the China Conservatory in Beijing.

While in no way trying to compare my vocal performances with Eleanor Steber's, I hope that like her, I could "give music" to those whom I meet, people with cultures and traditions far different from my own. Is there any resource more vigorous and resilient than music for transcending cultural barriers and sharing our dreams for harmony, for beauty?

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Teaching in China (Spring '95)
The Asian trip foretold in my last column has come and gone. After weeks of daily phone calls and faxes to Chicago, Washington, and Beijing (all caused by bureaucratic delays in issuing our visas), Sharon Kay, my husband, and I finally managed to leave for Hong Kong on October 1. Although we spent two weeks in Hong Kong and Japan, I'll limit my remarks in this short column to a brief summary of our seven days in China.

On October 8, after seven days in Hong Kong, we flew to China on Dragon Air, landing in Beijing after sunset. The dim light at the airport gave us an eerie feeling, leaving no uncertainty that we had arrived in a truly foreign country. After waiting an hour for our luggage, we proceeded into a waiting room where we were greeted by three representatives from the China Conservatory of Music, including Hong Wei, a young musician who would serve as our charming, inseparable guide for the next week. After arriving at the dormitory for foreign visitors, we were given the week's schedule, which included four hours of "lecturing" each morning. Only after several conversations involving many mistranslations, did I discover that lectures could mean what we call "master" classes.

Since we had a concert on Monday evening, we had hoped to use Sunday for rehearsing. But Sunday morning we found ourselves traveling by car to the Great Wall. We had a marvelous driver, skilled in negotiating among the cars, trucks, bicycles, flat bed bicycles, pedestrians, mules and carts. Despite several hours in traffic jams, we eventually climbed the Great Wall, experiencing a moment impossible to describe. Later in the week Hong Wei led us to several other remarkable sites: the Imperial Palace, Tiananmen Square, the Summer Palace, and the Temple of Heaven.

On Monday we practiced in the recital hall and confirmed that the recital began at 7:15. Since the hall was only a three-minute walk from our rooms, we left our dorm about 7:00 p.m. As we entered the back of the hall, we were greeted by cheering students, a standing room only crowd. We quickly discovered that we had been given the wrong starting time: the recital was to begin at 7:00. We gathered our wits, tried to communicate with our page turner who spoke no English, and proceeded onto the stage. Although it was a challenge performing before a Chinese audience (they tend to talk and move around during a performance), the recital went well and the audience became progressively more attentive. They particularly enjoyed Michael Moores' arrangements of American folk songs.

The next four mornings I taught eight students chosen by the conservatory, working with each student in two sessions. They were wonderful students, with gorgeous voices and all responsive to new exercises. It was exciting to hear the progress they made with only one lesson. Communication was occasionally difficult, but we had a marvelous translator, Prof. Yaxiong Du, a musicologist and renowned expert in traditional Chinese music. Since he has lived in the United States (he studied Native American music in Wisconsin) and is married to a professor at the University of Illinois, his English is quite good.

After my last class, Wang Bing-Rui, the vice-president of the conservatory and the head of the opera division, invited us to a special banquet featuring fresh snake. By then we had sampled dozens of different foods-eel, cow stomach, fish stomach, duck feet, and many never identified. This final banquet, involving 20 different courses, was a perfect ending to a remarkable week (though I'm glad only my husband was called upon to drink the snake blood).

A special highlight of the China trip was the evening we spent with the family of Ai-ze Wang ('89), a Coe voice student who has recently graduated with a Masters' Degree in Opera Performance from Temple University. Ai-ze had performed several miracles while making this trip possible, and her sister had proven invaluable in assisting with our visas. It was a lovely evening, meeting Ai-ze's parents in their Beijing home.

As I finish this narrative, I'm sadded by how little I've managed to communicate. I know it's futile to suppose names of people and places will capture any significant portion of an experience. This trip was one of those rare instances in life when everything worked beautifully. And while I enjoyed Hong Kong and Japan, it was in China that I felt a special closeness with the people, perhaps because the teaching situation enabled me to work more intimately with their young singers. The Chinese are eager to learn new ideas about singing, and there are great opportunities for the future. Needless to say, I'm already making plans to return.

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A Trip to the Newberry (Spring '96)
Now in my 17th year at Coe, most of my professional life is confined within a few familiar rooms: my studio, the department chair's office, and two auditoriums, D-K and Sinclair. One unexpected pleasure of this past year's sabbatical was the opportunity to work in new rooms, most notably in three libraries: the Newberry Library in Chicago, the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., and the Pierpont Morgan in New York.

For several years I have been wanting to visit the Newberry. While reading one of Ned Rorem's essays, I encountered a reference to Janet Fairbanks' collection of music manuscripts housed in the Newberry. Fairbanks was a well-to-do singer who lived in Chicago and had the money, plus appropriate social/musical connections to commission composers in the 1930s and 1940s to write songs which she would sing at her recitals. The manuscripts she donated to the Newberry include pieces by most of the pre-eminent American art song composers of this century. I've always had a strong interest in contemporary art song literature and thought it likely that she had manuscripts of some rarely performed songs. Using the Internet's wonderful resources, I obtained a catalog listing the collection's holdings, which convinced me it was time to go see the Fairbanks collection for myself.

So this past June my husband and I drove to Chicago and spent several hours looking through four heavy blue boxes of manuscripts in the Newberry. We leafed through dozens of songs, some printed (often by obscure, long-forgotten publishing firms), others handwritten. It was exciting to hold John Cage's manuscript of the "Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs". The manuscript, quite unexpectedly, was easier to read than the published version, enabling me to answer some unresolved questions I had about the text. Although our one day at the Newberry didn't provide enough time to read through all the manuscripts, the trip confirmed my hunch concerning the unique value of this collection, one which will certainly provide the foundation for one or more future vocal recitals at Coe.

While I had long been contemplating a trip to the Fairbanks collection, my other two library visits resulted from an accidental convergence of recent reading with personal travel plans. This past winter I was reading Margaret Cobb's The Poetics of Debussy, which reprints the texts of Debussy's songs in French and English translation. Included in the volume is the text for "La fille aux cheveux de lin" (The girl with the flaxen hair) which attracted my attention because I was familiar with Debussy's piano prelude of this title. Cobb's notes indicated the unpublished manuscript was on deposit in New York's Pierpont Morgan Library; she referred to two other manuscripts of unpublished Debussy songs, both housed in the Library of Congress.

While I lack the time and financial resources for cavalierly flying into New York or Washington, D.C. just to examine song manuscripts, my summer schedule required trips to both New York City (to pick up my daughter from a summer dance program) and Washington, D. C. (where my son was receiving an award for having won a writing competition). Although I had a long and nervous wait while at the Library of Congress--the librarians could not find one of the manuscripts--eventually they found both manuscripts. And so, for the next hour, I enjoyed the wonderful privilege of examing an original, unpublished Debussy manuscript. I spent most of my time quickly transcribing the songs, since photocopying was not permitted, in the hopes that eventually these pieces would also have their Iowa premiere at Coe.

Alas, once the school year began, my teaching and departmental responsibilities have required that I place on hold any further research efforts. And I must admit that, though I have enjoyed these research opportunities granted by the sabbatical leave, I would never want to be a musicologist. Music libraries are wonderful rooms, but I still prefer the pleasures of singing and teaching. But having a few moments in those bigger rooms, makes the confinement of my studio and office much less confining. It does help occasionally to open the windows and breathe in new air and new ideas.

--Margie

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My Office Door (Fall '96)
According to the Oxford English Dictionary the phrase "commonplace book" first was used in print during the 16th century: "A studious young man . . . may gather to himselfe good furniture both of words and approved phrases . . . and to make to his use as it were a common place booke." This idea of gathering "good furniture both of words and approved phrases" into a common place was expressed in Latin as locus communis. To use a common location for recording important passages from reading was a valuable protection against the inadequacies of memory. But I also enjoy reading others' commonplace books, anthologies of prose and poetry where the dross is washed away, leaving for the reader nothing but pure gold.

Over the years I have been assembling my own commonplace book, collecting quotes on music and teaching, or passages ostensibly on other topics but made relevant to music by my ways of reading. While many of these passages are hidden in desk drawers or miscellaneous notebooks, one commonplace book I see every day is my music studio door. Indeed, the second floor hallway of Marquis Hall is a 100 foot long commonplace book, with faculty doors and bulletin boards as large collages for various cartoons, sayings, jokes, and inspirational advice.

For those of you unable to visit Marquis and read what we have been collecting, I decided to bring my door to you. What follows are a few quotations that are on my door--or have been "published" there some time in the past 18 years. Perhaps a few of them will bring as much pleasure for others as they have brought to me.

This first text is the reminiscence of an 85-year-old Welsh horseman Fred Mitchell. The words are used in a lovely vocal piece by Steven Sametz, "I Have Had Singing," recently recorded on a Chanticleer CD.

The singing. There was so much singing then and this was my pleasure, too. We all sang: the boys in the fields, the chapels were full of singing, always singing. Here I lie. I have had pleasure enough. I have had singing.

Several months ago the following quote mysteriously appeared on my door, an anonymous gift for my collection. The text comes from the final paragraph of Anne Lamott's book on writing, Bird by Bird:

Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. . . . We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It's like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can't stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.

Perhaps my favorite quote on teaching is the following little story that has been on my door for many years. The dialogue is from Anthony de Mello's One Minute Wisdom, an anthology of over 200 parables.

"I wish to learn. Will you teach me?"
"I do not think that you know how to learn," said the Master.
"Can you teach me how to learn?"
"Can you learn how to let me teach?"


The next three quotes were copied from a book on teaching vocal techniques in small voice classes:

Only the bright human beings breathe through their heels . . . the less intelligent breathe through their throats. [Tschuang-Tse]

Good speaking is half the singing. [Johann Adam Hiller]

We may take our personal inspiration from the text, but when it comes to the transmission of that text it's work gloves, overalls and sweat. [Robert Shaw on performing vocal music]

In the summer of 1973 I spent six weeks studying voice in Paris and had the opportunity one afternoon to travel to Fountainbleau and meet the great French teacher, Nadia Boulanger. Although she was at the end of her long and influential career (having served as the mentor for such composers as Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland), my brief encounter with Boulanger was certainly one of the great moments of my life. I have since had a special fondness for the power and precision of her comments on music, on teaching, on life. Here is one small example, from her book Master Teacher:

The only thing you can do is try to understand a person and then discuss with him what he has not done. Really, you cannot develop or change anything in anybody. You can respect what he is and try to make him a true picture of himself. . . . As a teacher, my whole life is based on understanding others, not on making them understand me. What the student thinks, what he wants to do--that is the important thing. I must try to make him express himself and prepare him to do that for which he is best fitted.

Here are a few other miscellaneous quotes, including one "ghost" whose author is momentarily lost.

You may be sitting in a room reading this book. Imagine one note struck upon the piano. Immediately that one note is enough to change the atmosphere of the room--proving that the sound element in music is a powerful and mysterious agent, which it would be foolish to deride or belittle." [Aaron Copland]

It is proportion that beautifies everything, this whole universe consists of it, and music is measured by it. [Orlando Gibbons]

There is delight in singing, though none hear / Beside the singer. [Walter Savage Landor]

Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted. [?]

The real voyage of discovery consists in not seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. [Marcel Proust]

Alas for those that never sing but die with all their music in them. [Oliver Wendell Holmes]

That which lies ahead of us and that which lies behind us are insignificant compared to that which lies within us. [Ralph Waldo Emerson.]

And finally, no commonplace book on music would be complete without a few examples from the conductor Sir Thomas Beecham, the master of the sarcastic put-down. Here are three of my favorites:

On the harpsichord: Sounds like two skeletons copulating on a corrugated tin roof.

On the public and its music: Music is something that people can get on without, and if it costs too much they will.

On sopranos: Most of them sound like they live on seaweed.

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An Ensemble Tour in Time and Space (Fall '97)
When the Coe Baroque Chamber Ensemble received notification that our lecture/recital proposal had been accepted for the 1997 MTNA convention in Dallas, our original intention was to fly to Texas and borrow a local harpsichord. None of us thought we wanted to spend over thirty hours in a van driving to Texas and back.

But as we talked about the trip, we discovered that we really wanted to perform with Coe's harpsichord. We all love the instrument and Dean enjoys playing it. And, of course, we had no guarantee that we would find a borrowed instrument with an appropriate temperament and tuning. So Dean Karns, Anita Bullard, and I decided we would rent a 15-passenger van, a vehicle large enough for three musicians and one harpsichord.

Once we decided to drive, it made sense to perform at appropriate sites along the way. After many letters and phone calls and e-mail messages, we organized a five-day tour through Kansas and Oklahoma, with the performance in Dallas as the pivotal date.

While the tour's primary mission was sharing our program of Baroque religious music, the trip gained another, more personal dimension for me, an unexpected but pleasant juxtaposition of various people who I have known and worked with in music. During my 40 years as a musician, most of my musical life has revolved around a high school and four colleges: Clay County Community High School and Kansas State University in Kansas; Washington State University in Pullman, Washington; Sam Houston State in Huntsville, Texas; and Coe. In a short span of five days, I found myself reunited with friends and colleagues from all those different lives, all mixed together at various moments in the tour. It was great fun, though occasionally a trifle disconcerting.

Here is a quick introduction to the various people I met again on this tour:
· Linda Selig Marshall was my "sister" whose family I boarded with from 1959 to 1962 when I was attending high school in Kansas. She currently lives in Michigan but by chance was in Overland Park, Kansas, and attended the worship service at Knox United Presbyterian Church where Coe Baroque performed on April 6.
· Joyce McCready, who attended our concert in Wichita, was my roommate for two years in college at Kansas State University. We last saw one another at my wedding in 1967.
· Loran Olsen--a friend, piano teacher, and my graduate advisor at Washington State University (1967-1973)--attended our presentation at the MTNA national convention.
· Also at the MTNA recital were Angelica Lopez and Corre Berry Brusse, good friends and colleagues when I taught at Sam Houston State (1973-1978).
· Two former Coe colleagues also were in Dallas: Kris Denton and Bev Avery-Smoker.

In addition to Coe Baroque's performances in Overland Park, Wichita, and Dallas, we also managed to wedge in programs at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, Oklahoma, and at St. Peter's and Paul's Catholic Church in Clay Center, Kansas. The final performance in Clay Center was for me a real homecoming, since I grew up on a farm 26 miles from Clay Center. Although during the school year week days were spent in my one room country school, my parents drove me twice monthly on Saturday for piano (and later violin) lessons in Clay Center. Music was highly valued as an educational experience in this small town, and the high school during my era produced an extraordinary number of students who continued to study music at the college level. For the final performance of the tour, it was gratifying to see Coe Baroque so warmly welcomed by family members and friends--and those curious about our beautiful harpsichord.

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Another Night in My Office (Spring '98)
It's a Saturday night in January. I have just returned to my office after supper, to once again be surrounded by piles of forms, letters, memos, budget reports. As I sit at my desk, I see a short quotation someone sent me last week: "The Lord respects me when I work, but He loves me when I sing." This will be another night in the respect column.

Everything in my office seems to have a deadline--someone somewhere waiting for something. But in January a Saturday night in Marquis is a lovely opportunity to do some office cleaning. My vocal literature class doesn't meet for another 36 hours.

The memo that currently absorbs my thinking is from our new Academic Dean, a request for all departments to submit a five-year plan describing their major budgetary needs. I struggle to think in terms of the next millennium. What do we want to accomplish by 2003? How much will it cost?

Fortunately we have found assistance--at least with the second question. Because the Music Department is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM), we have access to information from the NASM's database, constructed from annual reports required of all members. This fall I requested that the NASM send us data that would clarify how our program, particularly on budgetary matters, compares with 20 other small liberal arts colleges in the Midwest with a similar number of music majors.

As I had expected, the NASM's data reveal substantial differences among institutions in the amount of money spent in educating music students. Among the 20 schools, one college (no school is identified by name) spent an average of $3,741 per music major; that total includes faculty salaries and all other program costs. In contrast, several schools averaged over $25,000 per year and one reported an annual expenditure exceeding $31,000 per music major.

An expense I was particularly interested in examining was the amount that other schools set aside for student travel (ensemble tours, etc.). Although we want our ensembles to travel off campus, we have almost no money set aside for such purposes in our budget. To pay for these trips, we are always "borrowing" funds from line items intended for other purposes.

Among the 20 schools in the NASM report, the smallest expenditure for student travel was $2,550 per year. At the other end of the spectrum were schools with budgets exceeding $94,000 per year. The average for the 20 institutions was just under $10,000. Since that average is substantially more than what we have been spending, I suspect we will be using the NASM's figures to bolster our case for a new line item to cover student travel expenses.

I doubt that the NASM's charts will automatically convince the Dean to add huge piles of fresh money to our annual budget. But I do hope the data will demonstrate that because our program has expanded so dramatically in recent years, we need additional funding--including, we hope, authorization to hire one or two more full-time faculty.

We have been blessed with a string of successful recruiting years. It is gratifying to witness such a marvelous improvement in the quality of our students and our performing groups. I recall, however, that it took many trips to Coe on Saturday nights for us to make these advances. Apparently it will require more Saturday nights to make sure we don't lose the ground we have gained.

--Margie

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A Trip to Syria (Fall '98)
In the March 1995 Alumni Newsletter I recounted some of my experiences from traveling in Hong Kong, China, and Japan, experiences impossible for me to have foreseen as a young girl growing up on a Kansas farm in the 1950s. Life continues with unexpected opportunities and this past April my husband Bob and I traveled to Damascus, Syria under the sponsorship of the United States Information Service. This wonderful experience came through the efforts of Ann Struthers, a professor in Coe's English Department, who has just completed her second year as a Fulbright Professor in Syria. Bob and three Coe students spent two weeks working with students and professors in two Syrian Universities before I arrived in Damascus at 4 a.m. on April 4.

On the trip I had an eleven-hour layover in London, where in 1966-67 I had my first experiences living abroad in a large city. It seemed an appropriate departure point for the last leg of trip to a city which I knew only through Biblical references. Landing in Damascus was not unlike our landing in Beijing in the fall of 1994. Both arrivals were at night, at dimly lit airfields, with no other air traffic.

My arrival coincided with a week of Muslim holidays when universities would be closed--so my first week consisted primarily of social engagements and traveling. My first obligation in Damascus was a farewell party for the three Coe students who were returning to Iowa the next morning. At the party I met several Syrians who had excellent English skills and were very eager to converse. Their enthusiasm was an accurate preparation for the remarkable friendliness that we encountered throughout the entire trip. Although the Syrians may not be pleased with American foreign diplomacy and our support of Israel, we never encountered any hostility.

My second day in Damascus Bob and I spent five hours walking around the city. The challenge of finding things is magnified by the absence of street signs and the few we saw were usually in Arabic. We did find the Street Called Straight and eventually located St. Paul's Chapel, where St. Paul was lowered over the city wall in his escape from the city. The souqs (markets) sold everything imaginable from spices to wedding dresses. Most unusual and unexpected perhaps was the long neck and head of a camel (still covered with hair) hanging in one of the meat market stalls.

The week of religious holidays provided us an opportunity to travel in a hired "micro" van with Ann Struthers, her husband Mel, another Fulbright family from Harvard, and our friendly but non-English speaking driver. We traveled to Bosra, 140 km south of Damascus, to see a wonderfully preserved Roman theater, which our Lonely Planet guidebook says could hold 15,000 people. Equally fascinating were the remains of the old city, many of which have been claimed by inhabitants scratching out a meager, subsistence existence.

Our next two days were spent in Palmyra, which required a three-hour trip over a bumpy highway through the Syrian desert. Our driver was stopped twice by the police; the first day he paid a fine of 500 Syrian pounds (equal to about $10) for speeding; the second time we think he escaped with a small bribe. We suspected the police were trying to earn a little extra holiday money. As for Palmyra, the ancient Roman ruins were amazing, as was a deserted 17th-century Muslim fortress that overlooks the city. The castle--atop of a rugged, rocky hill--offered us an exciting attraction, full of many rooms and narrow passages. Returning to the Roman ruins, we spent some time sitting in a restored theater and I did fulfill my desire to ride a camel. In the evening we went back to the castle and enjoyed a perfect Syrian sunset. The road up to the castle was quite narrow and crowded; we watched several drivers lift parked cars and move them so that a bus coming down the mountain could pass by.

The next morning we visited several funeral towers. The best preserved, almost 2000 years old, had been designed to hold about 300 bodies. We were able to climb to the top, sharing the small and dangerous pinnacle with a busload of French tourists. On this day we also did some shopping. At one funeral tower I purchased a one-stringed instrument, made by local Bedouins. We also discovered several shop keepers eager to sell us table cloths, jewelry, saddle bags, and rugs (including ones from Iran that Americans can not legally bring into the U.S.). We eventually discovered that our driver was earning a commission for some of these sales--and he also used the trip to buy potatoes and some goods that he deposited in a metal canister. During our return to Damascus, he stopped in the middle of the desert and unsuccessfully tried to sell something from the canisters to a Bedouin shepherd.

On our fourth day of traveling we had three additions to our group: Phil (a young Ph.D. student from Princeton), his Syrian wife Ragda, and her father. This trip began with a journey to the small Christian village of Maalula, where Aramaic is still spoken. Because Phil's father is a Syrian Orthodox priest in the US, he knew the town well and took us to the Convent of St. Teckla, where we had a private audience with the convent's mother superior, a friend of his family's and someone who immediately revealed herself as a skilled, dynamic invidual. She served us little sweets and Syrian coffee, a thick brown liquid whose charms we never learned to appreciate. After our brief audience in the convent, we visited the shrine at the grave of St. Teckla, a disciple of St. Paul.

We then walked through a dramatic crevice in the rocky mountains, a split in the rocks that, according to tradition, had miraculously appeared so that St. Teckla could escape Roman soldiers who were seeking to capture her. At the top of the mountain was another convent/monastery with some ancient icons. We ate dinner at the hotel on top of the mountain--a wonderful meal although quite expensive by Syrian standards. During my two weeks in Syria, I only had one bad meal. The food, whether in simple homes or the finest restaurants, was consistently excellent. Most meals consisted of a series of dishes (hummus, yoghurt, tabbouleh, kibbehs) eaten with large flat disks of unleavened bread followed by a main course that was usually chicken or lamb kebabs.

After our meal in Maalula, we traveled to Saydnaya to visit another convent, including another audience with a nun and another round of sweets and strong coffee. At this convent we were invited into a small shrine which supposedly houses an icon of the Virgin Mary and Jesus that was painted by St. Luke. At the shrine we also saw an oil which miraculously seeps out of the rock walls.

After four days of traveling, we decided to spend our next three days in Damascus. On Friday and Saturday we visited the National Museum (where we came upon a wonderfully restored Jewish synagogue with ancient murals retelling stories from Biblical literature), an Artisan's Market, the Omayyad Mosque (which has a shrine covering, according to tradition, the head of John the Baptist). What we most enjoyed was simply the hours walking through the souqs and observing the daily life.

On Sunday, which happened to be Easter for Roman Catholics (the Syrian Orthodox Easter would be celebrated on the next Sunday) we walked into the Christian section of the city in search of a Catholic church across from the French Hospital. Although we were frequently lost, we eventually found the church, just as a service was beginning. During the 45 minutes we stayed, we understood one word --Alleluia!--though at one point I thought they were reciting the Apostle's Creed or a comparable declaration of faith. The church was full of congregants, with a constant stream of folks entering and leaving the worship service. Everyone was dressed in their best clothes, many young girls adorned in fancy white dresses and carrying decorated white tapers.

After leaving this church and walking by another Catholic church (so packed with people that the service was being broadcast by loudspeakers outside the church building), we decided to find the Chapel of Ananias--the cellar rooms that were reputedly the house of Ananias (Acts 9:11). Searching for this Chapel led us through an endless series of narrow, twisting streets with high walls on both sides. After asking for directions twice (Syrians were always generous in attempting to help us find our way whenever we sought their help), we actually stumbled upon the Chapel. Needless to say we were amazed to discover that the person looking after the Chapel and the souvenir shop was an American priest raised in Chicago.

Coming out of the Chapel, we heard what sounded like a band and eventually, as we wound our way through the city streets, we came upon a drum and bugle corps. They were staging a festive Easter parade and we soon found ourselves walking along in the parade. At a juncture with the Street Called Straight, our band encountered another band. This second processional included four young people carrying a giant Easter egg, covered with aluminum foil, that had broken open to reveal a large yellow Easter chick made of a soft, fuzzy cloth. This was certainly a celebration of the Resurrection that we would never forget.


Our week of holidays, however, was over and it was time for work. During the next two weeks Bob conducted a series of workshops and presentations at the two national universities in Homs and Damascus, as well as workshops for employees of the U.S. Embassy and the American Cultural Center. We also presented a recital/lecture program on American folk songs at the residence of the Foreign Affairs Officer for invited guests from the diplomatic, educational, and musical communities in Damascus. Because we did not think that a keyboard would be available for this program, we chose songs that could be performed without accompaniment. The program included a mix of folk songs reflecting several traditions and themes: "Go Tell It on the Mountain," "The Riddle Song," "Barbara Allen," "Shenandoah," and "The Deaf Old Woman." Later in the week Bob and I gave a similar presentation at the American Cultural Center as part of a special ceremony honoring Syrian students who participated in a writing competition. At both events we were honored by the enthusiasm of the audience and their gracious offerings of dinner invitations, gifts, etc. I have been giving solo recitals for over 30 years, but I have never had such warm and responsive receptions.

Although I could continue this report with dozens of further memories, let me conclude with a brief recollection of a dinner party my second night in Damascus. Bob and I found ourselves in the home of the British ambassador and his wife for tea and dinner (yes, the silver was engraved ER). In attendance this evening were a group of friends who have informally organized themselves into a Dead Poet's Society. The gathering included an English vicar, several ex-pats in a variety of positions, a diplomat from India and his wife, an American writer and her Syrian husband, and Juliet Wurr, our USIS host. We spent the evening with everyone sharing some of their favorite poems and songs (the common theme was that each text should in some way refer to plants or flowers). We heard excerpts from Milton, Roald Dahl, Shakespeare, Homer, American folk songs, the Bible, W. H. Auden, Lawrence Durrell, William Blake, Kathleen Norris (Bob read about grasses of the Great Plains), ancient Arabic poetry, and dozens of more examples. As Bob and I were leaving, we both had the same thought: we would never have an evening more fascinating and enjoyable.

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