Piano lessons from Florence Hutton
I started taking piano lessons when I was eight. I donít know whose idea it was. My piano teacher was Florence Hutton. I progressed at an average pace and played in the obligatory recitals. One piece I remember was called "Street Parade," which I played in a recital when I was twelve. Aouda Belander and I also played a 4-hands duet in that same recital. I had a knack for sight-reading, which was good. However, it also meant that I could get by without much practicing---not so good. I continued to take lessons and play in Miss Hutton's recitals until I was fifteen.
I played clarinet in the grade-school band and bassoon in the high-school band. I donít recall taking lessons on either of these instruments.
Organ lessons from Joe Lyons
When I was twelve years old, my Dad decided I should also take organ lessons. I donít know where he got the idea, but it wasnít mine. Perhaps it came from hearing Joe Lyons play his daily 10:00 to 10:15 a.m. radio broadcasts on WJOL from the Grand Barton organ in Joliet's Rialto Theater. We went to Joe Lyonsí house (which was on Jefferson street next to Weber's dairy in Joliet) for my audition. I passed because Mr. Lyons gave me things to sight read.
This became a magical time. Three churches in Lockport---First Congregational, First Methodist and Trinity Lutheran---had purchased Wurlitzer organs from the Fowler Piano Company in Joliet. My lessons with Mr. Lyons took place upstairs at Fowlerís. I was introduced to the four families of organ sounds---flutes, strings, diapasons and reeds---and to the techniques of manual and pedal playing. I got to my Saturday lessons by taking the bus that ran on Route 4A between Lockport and Joliet.
Mr. Lyons also gave me popular-music lessons on a Hammond B3. I paid Mrs. Lois Manning, who lived a block away on Madison Street, $1 an hour to practice on the B3 she had in her house. When I was about 15, Grandma Julie bought me a Hammond spinet organ as my "early inheritance." That organ appeared in many High School band and chorus concerts and Lions Club minstrel shows. I played "Shrimp Boats" as an interlude at one band and chorus concert in the high-school gym.
I continued on with organ lessons until I was twenty and went off to Purdue in the fall of 1956. In Florida in the summer of 1957, I received tragic news from up north that Joe Lyons had died suddenly from a heart attack. He was only 44. Surviving were his wife and twelve-year-old son, Richard. Click here for more information about this wonderful musician and teacher.
Cello lessons from Marion Drake, Jeff Ashcraft and Tom May
Forty-six years later I began taking music lessons again. For a long time I had wondered what it would be like to play a string instrument. In the summer of 2002 while working at Interlochen I found a teacher willing to start an adult from scratch. I also located a spare cello in an Interlochen store room. With the cost of lessons deducted from my paycheck, this was an easy path to getting started. Marion Drake was my teacher, and by the end of camp I was hooked. I bought a student cello made in China for $800, and on return to Lockport I began looking for a Chicago-area teacher. A friend recommended Jeff Ashcraft, who was stimulating and fun. Hippyish-looking Jeff lives about 30 minutes from Lockport. My Florida teacher is Thomas May, a member of the Naples Philharmonic and a close friend of son Jim. Tom is very intense and expects me to play totally in tune. It's a reasonable request, but IT'S HARD! Playing the cello is a challenge. I'll never sound as good as I'd like to, but it's rewarding to make progress that I can notice . . . at this age.