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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Interviewee: Mary Rae Johnson
Interviewer: Edward Troupin
April 9, 1987
J: This is an interview with Mr. Edward Troupin in his office in the music building on the
University of Florida campus. Today is Thursday, April 9,1987. It is 3:00 P.M. My name is
Mary Rae Johnson. The interview with Mr. Troupin today is for the University of Florida
Oral History Project, to research the history of the Music Department. Mr. Troupin, we
would like to begin by getting some background information on you because what we are
trying to do is to take a look at the outstanding people in the department in terms of
knowledge, insight, and longevity based upon each person's heritage and their experience.
Then from that we want to build a history of the Music Department. So rather than just
looking for facts, we want to this project to be a living history of the people and personalities
who have created the Department of Music. So Mr. Troupin, would you please give us your
T: Edward Charles Troupin.
J: Where were you born?
J: How did it happen that your family was living there?
T: When my father came to this country that is where he settled. He went to medical
school and set up practice.
J: Where did he come from?
T: He came from Russia.
J: Was he born there?
J: Was you mother Russian also?
T: No, she was born in this country.
J: What was your father's name?
J: What was your mother's name?
J: Did you have any brothers or sisters?
T: I have one sister.
J: Is she older or younger?
T: She is younger than I am.
J: What is her name?
J: Where does she live?
T: She is living now in Atlanta.
J: Is she married?
J: Does she have any children?
J: Are both of your parents still living?
T: No, neither of them is.
J: Have you ever gone back to Russia?
J: Do you have relatives living in Russia?
T: No, they have all scattered. Several of them came to this country.
J: Let us go back to when you were a little boy, how long did you live in Boston?
T: Actually, for twenty-two or twenty-three years. But I was away at school some of the
time, and I was away in the army for some of that time too.
J: What are some of your earliest memories as a child?
T: Oh my gosh. I do remember some musical things; there was always music in the
household. My mother was a pianist and the whole family liked music. So I do remember
sitting and listening to her practicing at pieces which I have since come to abhor. She was
pretty good, and she had a very scholarly kind of teacher. Then I remember when I was
three, some uncles of mine--my mother's brothers--went to New York from Boston, which
was a big trip for a weekend in those days. As was their habit, they brought back presents
for everybody. And mine was a toy-sized violin strung with metal strings. I was fascinated
with this thing. And I think that my interest in the violin really began at that age. But my
mother, who was pretty wise about such things, insisted that I study the piano for a couple
of years before I started studying the violin. There were struggles in those days, since I
began the piano at age four with her teacher who was too old and too strict to do a good
job with me. But after I dutifully put in my two years on the piano, then I was allowed to
start studying the violin.
J: It was just the opposite with me. My father was a violinist and I had to study violin for
about a year and a half before. I guess I was in first grade and I had to study violin. I
remember the day I put the violin in the case and it broke because the case was not closed,
it was one of the happiest days of my life. (laugh) Was your father also musical?
T: No. He liked music but he did not play anything.
J: What about your sister?
T: She studied the harp for several years when she was in grade school and then in high
school. She has not kept it up. She headed into scenic design and execution for theater.
J: When did you actually start studying the violin then?
T: At age five or six, I cannot remember exactly. I am not sure whether there was any
time in between the piano lessons and the violin lessons or not.
J: Did you like to practice?
T: Sometimes. I really did not mind the practicing except when it interfered with other
things like playing baseball or something of that kind.
J: That was what I was going to ask you, what did you like to do most when you were
T: Most? I do not know.
J: You liked baseball and sports?
T: Tennis especially. We were lucky enough to live across the street from some public
tennis courts--and that helped a great deal.
J: What did you like to do least?
T: I really cannot remember anything of import.
J: Tell us about your early school years, where did you go to school?
T: I went for nine years to the Brookline, Massachusetts, public schools which was a very
highly reputed school system. I think my education was darned good. For instance,
seventh and eighth grade, I had French class. And by the time I got through there I had a
certain kind of elementary conversational ability in French. That was a real help.
J: Did you ever study Russian?
J: Can you speak it?
J: Did your father ever speak it at home?
T: Not that I remember. He died when I was seven so I do not have very many distinct
memories of him or his activities. He was an obstetrician which meant that he was forever
leaving the house. And in those days, group practices did not happen in the medical
profession. So he was perpetually on call.
J: How old were you when your mother died?
T: That was relatively recent, that was six years ago.
J: Did your mother remarry?
T: No, she never did.
J: You said that you went to Brookline, Massachusetts, public schools for nine years. Did
you begin in kindergarten?
J: And then?
T: And then to Andover.
J: Andover what?
T: Phillips Academy in Andover.
J: Was that a private school?
T: Yes, a private preparatory school.
J: Would you tell us a little bit about that?
T: It is of a long New England yankee kind of a tradition. And even then, it was not a
snobbish as some of such schools like Groton and St. Mark's and so on. It was however,
academically really a pretty high-powered place.
J: Did you enter that in ninth grade?
T: Ninth grade through twelfth.
J: When you graduated from that in twelfth grade, what year would that have been?
T: June of 1942.
J: Did you live there when you went to school there?
J: When did know you were really interested in music, when did you start studying it in
earnest, or felt you had a vocation in music?
T: I always studied it in earnest but there was no sense that I was going to be a
professional musician until I was a senior in college.
J: Did you have any outside employment? Did you have to work up during this time
before you went to high school, like summer jobs or musical gigs that you did?
T: No, I was lucky enough not to have to work, so I did not. In fact, those summers were
when I did an awful lot of my violin practicing because, of course, I had no other
distractions at that point. That does not mean that I did not keep playing tennis and those
things, but that was good practicing time.
J: Did you ever practice the piano after your mom let you quit?
T: Not until I got out of graduate school.
J: What were your hobbies, just through high school?
T: I was typical of an awful lot of my friends. At one point I got into stamp collecting. I did
an awful lot of reading. This was pre-television days, of course, and people read books,
which was nice.
J: What kind? Novels, or the lighter variety?
T: Loads of novels. I went through the typical series of books for boys which I always got
as Christmas presents: The Boy Allies, and Tom Swift and His Magic whatever, and all of
those things. But then, by the time I got to Andover, we read pretty serious stuff.
J: Did you like school at Andover?
T: Yes, I had a heck of a good time. The atmosphere was liberal in the sense that one
could pursue one's interests, so I did a lot of musical things while I was there. I kept
playing the fiddle, and sang in the choir. And I actually took my first music theory class
there; it was a harmony course taught by an excellent musician so that it was a wonderful
J: Did you take private lessons at this time?
T: Many Saturdays I used to get on the train in Andover and go to Boston to take a violin
lesson. And I studied with the same teacher that I had started with.
J: What was her name?
T: Why do you assume that it was a she?
J: I guess because you said your mother's teacher, I just figured...
T: She studied with a man, sort of. (laughter) Her teacher was really a very brilliant
musician but a very strange guy in all sorts of ways. He was the organist at the Christian
Science Church in Boston, the mother church of all Christian Scientists. And he had had
terrific Germanic hard-nosed style training as a musician. He studied the piano with his
mother, well back into the nineteenth century. His mother would have him learn a fugue
from The Well-Tempered Clavier, and when he would go into his next lesson with her, he
would play it for her. She would say, "Okay, that was all right, now put it G flat." And he
would have to transpose the thing on the spur of the moment.
J: You poor thing, that was your first piano teacher.
T: That was my teacher. He never put me through that kind of thing. Obviously I never got
that far in my two years, but he had had that good kind of training. I am sure that what he
gave me (little of which I can really remember at this point) has put me in good stead.
J: What was his name?
T: William D. Strong.
J: And you studied with him for two years, then you studied violin. What was your violin
T: Joseph Leibovici. He was a Paris Conservatory graduate and he played in the Boston
J: Did you ever want to play in the Boston Symphony, or did you play in the Boston
T: No I never did, and I really did not want to. It may be that he and other musicians from
the Symphony that I knew were always telling horror stories of what a brutal idiot
Koussevitsky was in rehearsals and that sort of thing. He resented the fact that he was just
one of the sixteen or eighteen other first violinists and was obviously not able, in a situation
like that, to be a creative kind of a musician. He was just one of the horsemen. So I never
had the impulse to get into that Orchestra.
J: Did you play any other instruments besides the violin, like the viola?
T: I first started to play the viola when I was at Andover. I roomed in a dorm, and the
house master of that dorm was an amateur violist. He and some other faculty people there
put together a quartet to play for some local women's club (I cannot remember exactly
what the club was). They were to play the Mozart Oboe Quartet and this guy, I suspect,
got cold feet at the last minute. Perhaps he could not keep up with the oboe player or
something like that. In any case, he asked me to substitute. I had never played the viola at
all before. He lent me his viola and taught me a fake system for reading alto clef because I
had never encountered alto clef before either. I played that concert, and from then on I
considered myself at least partly a viola player. And it was years later that I really learned
to read the alto clef.
J: You were brave.
T: No not brave, naive and stupid. (laugh)
J: I would like to know what that fake system for the viola clef is.
T: You play it as if you are a violinist and playing in third position. Figure it out and it
works. Middle line is B, which violinists play as a third finger on the D string if you are in
third position. But on the viola, play in first position, that middle line is middle C and you
play it on the G string. That is the third string over, so it is the equivalent of the violin.
J: Do many people know that?
T: It used to be a very well known fake. The darn trouble is that you never know the name
of the note you are playing so when you run into accidental in the middle of the piece, you
are disoriented. So it is really something that I have always avoided telling anybody about.
As a piano player, you are not going to start reading alto clef by a fake fiddle system.
J: No, that would not work for me. When did you become interested in composition?
T: Not until I was in graduate school. In my youth I had occasionally written down little
ditties, some of which I discovered when my mother died. She had stored away some
pieces of manuscript paper that I had scribbled on. Now that stuff is embarrassing, it is not
only full of mistakes, but it is also very unimaginative.
J: When did you start studying composition for the first time?
T: In graduate school.
J: As you were growing up, I know that your father died when you were seven, was your
family pretty close--you, your sister, and your mom?
T: Yes, very much so. And not only that, but my mother's family-- her mother and father
and four brothers and sisters that she had-- all lived just a short distance away. We often
were together for weekends, holidays, that sort of stuff.
J: So they lived in Boston?
T: Actually it was in Lawrence, Massachusetts.
J: What about your father's family, did they get close?
T: No. He had one brother who lived in New York. But as I said before, New York was a
heck of a distance then and we did not get there often. His brother did not often get to
Boston. I did know him, but not well.
J: I forgot to ask you, when is your birthday?
T: June 22. I expect a present. By the way, where is that cup of coffee that you were
going to bring me? I should mention in answer to another question that came awhile ago.
In my last year at Andover, I studied with a new teacher, a man named Frank MacDonald.
MacDonald was a darn good fiddler. He was not a Boston Symphony guy, but he played
just as well as a lot of those people. And he had a remarkable knack for analyzing what the
heck is going on--which has since turned out very important for me because he transmitted
some of that to me--not only in terms of the mechanics of playing the violin but also the
mechanics of the way music is put together. He was superb and gave me a whole different
concept of the intellectual aspect of playing the instrument and of playing music. He was
important to me.
J: And you studied with him your very last year?
T: At Andover. And then, I suppose it will be later in the chronology, when I got through
college, I took a year off before going to graduate school. And during that year I did a lot of
intense work with Frank MacDonald. That year, as much as anything else, made a fiddle
player out of me.
J: Did you ever do that kind of violin playing that they call fiddling?
T: No, I never did. I was taught to scorn that sort of fiddling.
J: After you graduated from Andover in 1942, what did you do? I would like to know about
your college experiences, where you went to college and with whom you studied, and some
of your important musical experiences. How did you decide where you wanted to go?
T: I did not go where I wanted. My family, in their infinite wisdom, was always very
impressed by the fact that Harvard was just across the river from where I was living. They
sort of assumed that I would go to Harvard. I did not want to go there. Sometimes it feels
good to get away.
J: Did you go to Harvard?
T: Yes. And, I wanted to get away. In fact, the place that I wanted to go more than any
place was the University of Chicago. But it did not work that way, the family pressure was
great and they cajoled the headmaster at Andover to have a heart-to-heart talk with me.
He convinced me that Harvard was the best educational institution in the country and if I
could get in there, then I should darn well go. So I did and I did.
J: That was in the fall of 1942.
T: Actually I started in the summer. This whole time period was all screwed up because
World War II had just started. And I was getting to be of draft-eligible age and we were
encouraged, in all sorts of ways, to speed up the educational process to whatever extent
we could. So I started in the summer.
J: Who did you study with there, privately?
T: I was not in music at all. I started off with pre-med ideas, following in the family's
footsteps. It was not long, however, before I realized that I really was not that interested in
becoming a doctor. What I did like was the mathematics that I was picking up then. I
started off doing calculus and analytical geometry. In those days, you never got those
things in high school. It was always college-level work, and I was fascinated by it. I
decided that I would become a mathematician. So it must have been the beginning of my
sophomore year that I changed my major to mathematics and I took math and physics
courses, and some other things besides, but that was the area that I was most interested
in. The draft board put that to a screeching halt, of course, and I went in the army in the fall
of 1943. With the summers, I had finished about two years worth of college work. I went in
the army then.
J: Tell us about that.
T: For unimportant reasons I wound up being a radio operator and a waist gunner in a
B24. When I got overseas in Italy. It was, luckily, near enough to the end of the War so
that I flew on fourteen missions and then the war ended. We did not know what was going
to happen, of course, the war was still going on in the Pacific and we thought we might get
sent there. Then they came out with a point system for getting out of the army and there
were a whole bunch of us who were on the border line; we did not have quite enough points
to get out. They finally, in the summer of 1945, put us on a boat in Naples, and we did not
know where we were going. We were very happy when we sensed that the boat turned
right instead of turning left when we got down into the main part of the Mediterranean.
Finally about two months later, I got out of the army and home. The story is too long, but
very humorous. It involves those of us who were on borderline, with not enough points for
discharge but too many points to get overseas again. We got shunted back and forth
between furloughs at home and replacement centers they called them in those days where
we might get assigned to some other place. They kept sending us back and forth, I used
up all the money that I had on train fares between Boston and Greensboro, North Carolina.
It was all kind of weird. Finally in the fall I got discharged from the army. So I put in two
years, one month, and two days. (laughter)
J: How did you celebrate when you got out?
T: I had done all of the celebrating while I was home on furlough, so I did not really
celebrate. What I did do was start practicing the fiddle again. Unfortunately I got
discharged to late to get into college for that term. I had to wait until February to do that.
J: So then you went back to Harvard when?
T: I went back to Harvard in the winter of 1946.
J: And you graduated in?
T: At the end of the summer of 1947.
J: That was fast.
T Once again, I used the summer sessions. So I had two years before I went in and then
two years after I got out. In those days, even Harvard was doing an interesting sort of
thing. I got some credits toward my degree, what they called war service credits. In other
words, I cannot remember whether it was because I had been involved in some
quasi-technical stuff with my radio work, that enabled me to get through even quicker.
J: What was the name of your degree?
T: Artis Baccalaurii, A.B. In those days, Harvard was printing their diplomas in Latin.
J: Then I take it you studied Latin.
T: I studied Latin at Andover.
J: And at Harvard too?
J: You already knew it then.
T: I did not know it, but I had three years.
J: During this time when you were at Harvard, did you study violin at all?
T: No. I did take a couple of music courses. I took Doc Davison's Music I, which was a
music history survey. It was superb because he was superb. His name was Archibald, but
everybody called him Doc. Archibald T. Davison. His real claim to fame was bringing the
Harvard Glee Club and the Radcliffe Choral Society out of the doldrums of the "bullfrog on
the bank" and "the bulldog in the pool" kind of singing. They sang superb choral literature
and, in fact, annually sang with the Boston Symphony for some big wing-ding like the
Beethoven Ninth or the B Minor Mass or something like that. [Ludwig van Beethoven,
1770-1827, a German composer]
J: Did you sing with them?
T: No, I did not because I was playing in the orchestra and I could not do both.
J: So you played in the orchestra at Harvard?
J: Did you ever combine and play with the Boston Symphony?
T: No, the Boston Symphony did not need us. (laugh)
J: I guess not. After you graduated from Harvard, what did you do?
T: I have to tell you about one other music course I had because that turned out to be very
important too, not necessarily because of its subject matter, but because of my becoming
aware of some aspects of academic music that I had never encountered before. This was
a course that I saw in the catalog and liked the looks of, so I enrolled. And it was taught by
a guy named Edward Ballantine. Have you ever played Ballantine's variations on "Mary
had a Little Lamb", in the styles of different composers?
J: No, but I have heard of them.
T: He was a very witty man. This was a course in analysis, and it was mostly formal
analysis of the classical string quartets: Haydn, [Joseph Haydn, 1732-1809, Austrian
composer] Mozart, [Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 1756-1791, Austrian composer] and
Beethoven. We got the scores and listened to the records and we really dug into those
pieces. I was doing this on the basis of only a half a year's harmony course at Andover; so
I had some troubles with it. But in terms of understanding musical structures and that kind
of stuff, it was really the first time that I had the opportunity to do that. I wanted to mention
that because that really has been very important in the way I think about music.
J: When did you take that course?
T: It was in the second half of my Harvard career--after I got out of the army.
J: Then after you received your Artis Baccalaurii, what did you do?
T: Then I took that year off that I mentioned before.
J: So that would be from 1947 to 1948 that you took off. And that is when you studied
T: That is right. Because it was during the end of my college days that I realized that if I
were going to be a mathematician, I would have to resign myself to being a third rate
mathematician. I realized that I really did not care that much about mathematics. I decided
that music was the vocation in which that I wanted to spend my time. That was quite a
wrench for my family, too, because they really had thought of me in terms of medicine or
science or something of that kind. We had some little struggles about that. But the year I
took off really was ferociously valuable. In the first place, I audited at Harvard because the
people over there were very nice and congenial even though they did not have to be. I
audited courses in harmony, counterpoint, and orchestration. They were with people that I
considered great teachers: Irving Fine who was a composer, and Walter Piston [American
composer and teacher, 1894-1972]. These were first class musical minds and I learned a
ferocious amount. I was also studying at home at great deal; I read a lot of music history
because I had never really taken a thorough-going course in it. I worked harmony and
counterpoint exercises just as though I were enrolled in those courses. And every once in
a while Irving Fine was willing to look at them to see if I was tripping all over myself or
whether I was doing it right. An overall very informal and friendly basis, but it was terrifically
valuable for me.
J: Why did you decide to audit rather that take them for credit? Was this because you
were deciding for sure what you wanted to do?
T: No. In the first place, I would have to be admitted to graduate school. And somehow I
never got around to even considering that possibility because I figured on going to graduate
school someplace else.
I do not know if you are aware, but Harvard does very, very little in the line of practical
music making; you cannot study the piano there or the violin or anything else. They
concentrate in the areas of music history, music theory, and composition. When it comes
to playing something, they considered that academically unsound and they sent you to a
conservatory. That is the Ivy League view of academic music. So I was sort of imbued
with that, but I wanted to play the fiddle and I wanted to conduct; I wanted to do all of those
practical things. So I never dreamed of graduate school at Harvard. Besides which, it
would have cost a heck of a lot of money. And I was not in financial shape, at that point, to
be doing something of that sort.
J: What was Walter Piston like as a teacher?
T: In the first place, incredibly thorough. One of the great thing about him, which you can
see in his textbooks that I am sure you are familiar with, is that everything that he says in
the books or in the classroom is musically impelled. He was not the kind of teacher that
gives a blueprint every time you play five-seven, it has to go to one. Life is not like that. So
there was an attempt on his part, which I think by and large was successful, of allowing a
level of artistic understanding in spite of dealing with rather elementary aspects of the
particular subject. He was always referring to great pieces, not some contrived examples
out of a theory book. In the orchestration class, we looked at scores continually: Mozart,
Stravinsky, [Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky, 1882-1971, Russian-American composer]
Brahms. You can see that if you read his book; that Piston orchestration book is really a
digest of the course that I audited. It came out after I took the course. We had no
textbook; he said it all. To look at it a different way, the textbook was the scores that he
had us buy.
J: So you took Orchestration with Walter Piston?
T: With him. And the Counterpoint and Advanced Harmony I audited from Irving Fine.
J: This was for one year. Was it hard for you to make the decision to go into music when
your family wanted you...you said there was conflicts in things. Did you have anybody on
your side encouraging you to go into music or did you pretty much have to battle it alone?
T: Nobody in the family was really on my side. One uncle, for whom I was sort of a
favorite nephew I suppose, at least took the attitude, "Well let him do it and he will learn the
error of his ways". And my sister was on my side. But, heck, at that time I was about
twenty-two or twenty-three years old and she was not yet twenty.
J: Then what did you do after this year that you audited?
T: Then I went out to Michigan to graduate school.
J: At the University of Michigan or Michigan State?
T: In those days, Michigan State was considered the cow college. (laugh) No, the
University of Michigan.
J: This then would be?
T: The fall of 1948.
J: What did you study then?
T: I was a major in violin and a minor in music theory. J: Who was your teacher at this
T: My teacher there was Gilbert Ross. Ross had been a student of Leopold Auer.
[Leopold Auer, 1845-1930, Hungarian violinist] Auer was also the guy that taught Heifetz,
Milstein, Mischa Elman and all sorts of the great violinists. So I was getting the Russian
tradition of playing the fiddle. But Ross filtered through a very fine musical mind who
combined in interesting ways two teachers that I had had previously: the rather impulsive
and highly expressive intention that Leibovici had tried to create with me and a very solid
analytical approach very similar to what I had got from Frank MacDonald.
J: So it fit right in.
T: It fit in beautifully.
J: Did you study with him the whole time you were there?
T: Yes, two years. There is another thing that I ought to mention. Since I had only a few
courses in music, I went there behind-hand. I had a heck of a lot of undergraduate
deficiencies to make up. I know that it is common when one changes institutions. But I felt
even more behind the eight ball because I really had no academic credentials in music at
all. Why they ever let me into the place without any great difficulty, I do not know; but they
did. Gilbert Ross was my teacher, and he was very valuable for me.
J: If you were there two years before you got your master's, taking a lot of make-up
courses sure did not slow you down. It is normally two years anyway for a master's. You
must have really worked hard.
T: Actually they had things planned so that if you stayed up with everything and came in
without those undergraduate deficiencies, one year and a summer could do it for you. But
it took me two years and a summer.
J: And then you graduated from there when?
T: June of 1950.
J: And what was the name of your degree?
T: A master of music.
J: This is when you said you studied composition for the first time and became interested
J: What sparked that interest?
T: That is a little strange too. Somehow serendipity seems to have had a lot to do
with several aspects of my existence. At one point, the School of Music there wanted to
put together a string quartet of graduate students who would get paid on some sort of
assistantship basis for playing music by the student composers. I was asked to play viola
in that group, which was my first real contact with the people who taught composition at the
Ross Lee Finney was head of the department at that time. Also a man named Homer
Keller, who was a good composer--I do not know if he is even still alive--unfortunately left
Michigan around the same time that I got through and went out to teach in Oregon. I have
lost contact with him. They were the two people who were doing just about all the
Playing in that quartet was my first contact with Finney, with him sometimes sitting in on
rehearsals when we were working at his students' music. I think what impelled me to study
composition more than the idea of becoming a composer probably was his teaching, which
was probably better than anybody else I had. He was a superb teacher, but he did it in a
subtle way. He never gave you long lectures on anything. He always found a key three or
four word phrase which would elucidate an entire process. In those rehearsals, I sensed
that when I heard him talking to his students about how they could have done a certain
thing better or differently.
I wanted to be in contact with that guy. And so the next summer (the summer in
between my two years there), I asked him if he would take me on, which was smart.
During the year he had too many students, but in the summer, I knew his load would be
lighter. So he did take me on; and I worked with him at composition that summer and the
next two terms. That is all the composition that I have ever studied, really. But it was
J: What a great opportunity.
T: It was fascinating. One lesson, I brought in a piece for unaccompanied violin and it was
sort of an exercise. I had a few other unaccompanied fiddle pieces just to get this process
started. He looked at it and played through it on the piano; he is an even worse pianist
than I am so listening to him whack away at this stuff was always painful. But he said,
"Okay, there is no point in trying to mess around with this piece anymore. I want you to
start writing a string quartet." A string quartet? I had always heard that composers only
wrote those in their maturity and that they contained the most profound thoughts and so
forth. And here I had been a composer for maybe two months at that point. So I said,
"How do I start?" He said, "Here, I will show you how you start." And he went over to the
piano, and on top of his piano there was a huge mound of various printed scores--printed
scores, not his music but everybody's music. He shuffled through that stack of stuff, and
then he finally opened up a score and he said, "Here's how Beethoven started." (plays
something on the piano) I knew the piece already; he was going to play Opus Fifty-nine
Number one. He said, "What does that do? It sets the tonal center and it gets the motor
going. Do the same thing." And then he proceeded to play, because he loved music, that
was one of the great things about Finney: he really loves music. (plays a song on the piano)
But, you know, he did not have to give me a lecture about how you sit waiting for
inspiration or any of that nonsense, he just played me the beginning of a piece. He said,
"Get the motor running and write a tune." And that is the way that I have thought about
music ever since. That is why I have admired the guy.
J: At this point you had written for unaccompanied violin and you had written string
T: Whoa! That string quartet that I started with Finney at the end of that summer actually
got finished about seven years later. I started writing the first movement of the quartet and
I kind of ran out of gas. But I had gotten an idea for a slow movement. I actually wrote and
finished the slow movement of the quartet and it got played on the composer's forum
program by a bunch of my friends. Finney would not let me play it myself. He said, "I want
you sitting in that audience and sweating when you feel the people around you react." And
that is a scary experience. The first few times it happens, you feel like a patient in an
operating room with all of the medical students looking down from the balcony, watching
the operation. J: I have never thought of that.
T: It is ferocious. Of course, I hate to play my own music because I am sitting there
worrying about why the heck I wrote that piece a certain way. At the same time, I would
rather be doing that than sitting in the audience and cringing. Anyway, that string quartet I
never did finish until many years later.
J: What was the audience reaction, by the way?
T: You have been in the business long enough to know that you cannot trust student
reaction. The students will give you a pat on the back and say something appropriate but
you know damn well that they are sitting there really being music critics--and not very nice
ones. I do not know. I know that for me the piece came off very much the way I expected.
I know that the people who played in the quartet, sort of enjoyed playing the piece in spite
of the fact that it was a slow movement and, by no means, an easy piece to put together
well. I know that Finney was quite satisfied with it.
J: How would you describe the style of composition of your first efforts?
T: In those days, Finney was only himself just beginning to experiment with twelve-tone
music. And what he was huckstering to us was tonal music, the "all-American" school,
loads of open fifths and so forth. He had been a student of Nadia Boulanger, and at that
time she was dwelling on tonal stuff just about entirely. It is funny, when I first came here
and we started our faculty string quartet, we played that piece on a concert over at P.K.
Yonge Auditorium. And David Chalmers, in the history department, came back stage
afterwards and said that he had enjoyed the piece; it sounded to him like Bartok. So there
is an element of that. It is tonal music, it had got some rhythmic energy to it. But the
peculiar thing is that I realized that after Chalmers made that remark, that the same time
that I started writing that piece, all the composition students would get together one evening
a week and we would study some piece--Finney would direct it most of the time. And that
year, we were doing all of Bartok's string quartets. So it is not a question of conscious
imitation but there sure was some unconscious absorption of style, I suppose. Chalmers
heard that. I had never recognized it; but it was sort of interesting.
J: Why do not we go on with your composition for just a minute. What is your favorite
medium to compose for?
T: My favorite medium is any instrument the player of which will play the piece. (laughter) I
do not care. I do like to write for people. That is one of the reasons why I have never
written an electronic music piece even though I am supposed to be teaching electronic
music. I did one; but it was as a gag. It was not serious. I know how to operate the
synthesizer; but when it comes to making a piece, I would rather write for real humans to
J: Do you ever write with specific people in mind?
T: Oh sure. That piano sonata that they played down in Fort Myers this year, I was sure
thinking of my wife.
J: And they are going to play it again Sunday?
J: Your wife is a beautiful pianist, and she probably plays a lot of your compositions.
T: That is the only one, really, that has a piano part.
J: Do you write violin and piano sonatas?
T: You do not realize how few pieces that I have actually written. I have got one piece for
violin and piano; but it is a first position piece that I wrote when my older daughter started
studying the violin years ago.
J: Did you write it for her?
T: Yes. And I did write another piano piece for a dancer, a friend of my family's up in
Connecticut. But the piece never really came off well as a piano piece. And when I got
down here, something gave me the idea--it might have been somebody on the faculty, I do
not know--of setting it for wind quintet. So I just transcribed it for wind quintet without really
doing any rewriting at all. And the faculty wind quintet has played it many times; it is called
"Introduction and Dance".
J: Was that the same name when it was a piano piece?
T: No, when it was a piano piece, I think I called it "Dance Piece".
J: Is it published?
J: Are any of your works published?
T: Only one.
J: What is that?
T: That is an eclogue for alto flute, unaccompanied.
J: Has it been performed here?
T: Yes, Mrs. Fouse has played it many times. I wrote that for her. She had wanted a
piece because she had just bought a new alto flute. I liked the alto flute so the piece was
J: Going back to graduate school, are there any other experiences that you would like to
tell us about at the University of Michigan--whether musical or non-musical?
T: Yes. I think one of the most valuable things up there was real intense study of playing
string quartets. That was expected of every graduate student in strings. I had a couple of
very good teachers to coach us in those things: one was a man named Paul Doktor who is
one of the older generation but still well known violists today around New York, and the
other was Oliver Edel. And they were both, in rather different ways, darned good at
coaching. Edel had been cellist with the Manhattan String Quartet before he went to teach
at Michigan. He had a big backlog of experience there. And Paul Doktor is the son of Carl
Doktor who was in Vienna, the violist, I believe, in the Kolisch Quartet of Rudolph Kolisch.
And that goes back to the first performances of Schoenberg and Alban Berg and all that
sort of stuff. So he came out of a very strong tradition too, and out of the Viennese musical
J: What happened after you got your master's degree from the University of Michigan?
T: Like most people, that particular year, I had been unsuccessful in finding a job.
J: Did you want to be a concert performer?
T: No. Gilbert Ross rather discouraged that. And I had no great illusions about it. I
realized that my serious work at the violin did not come until I was really too old to have
amassed the kind of command of the instrument that you need to do that. I wanted to play
chamber music which is technically much less demanding. Conducting had always been
very important in my ambitions. And I had it in mind that if I could get a teaching job, I
could get some kind of an academic conducting position which I wanted.
J: Did you study conducting, when?
T: Never did.
J: It just came naturally?
T: No, I do not think that it comes naturally to anybody. I really mean that. And some
people look more at ease as conductors than others. But you cannot just stand there and
flail about as the result of your own internal emotional turmoil and expect people to follow
you. I played in orchestras an awful lot. And, yes, I had a chance while I was in graduate
school, for instance, to wave a stick in front of a group of players every now and then. But I
knew that it takes more than that. For instance, I had never really done any reading of
books on how to be a great conductor or anything like that. So I did some of that, but
mostly after I was out of graduate school. But that is part of this next chapter that you are
Anyway, I had been looking for a teaching job and did not find one. So I went back to
Boston and, through some friends, I got doing something rather peculiar. There was a guy
who was subcontracting out the assembly of what turned out to be the memory coils of the
Mark II computer at Harvard. And he needed somebody who would solder these toroid
coils together according to a set pattern and who could do the work--not necessarily
quickly--but with no cold joints. So I convinced him that I could do that and I went to work
for him. Of course I was making nothing to speak of, enough to buy a glass of beer.
Another friend, a horn player from the Harvard orchestra, said, "Listen, I am working for an
outfit downtown and we need an electronics technician down there. At least you could
make yourself a decent salary." So I quit assembling toroid coils, and I went to work for an
outfit called Tracer Lab.
Tracer Lab was very interesting. Their stock in trade was applications of atomic energy.
They made, for instance, thickness gauges that by means of focusing beams of electrons
and other kinds of radiation particles would determine the thickness of material--for
instance, photographic paper. I worked for them for several months. I would take the
commuter train in from home. It was a real eight to five job which I liked because it had
some vague recognition of my scientific interest, but it did not have much to do with music.
J: Now then, you went back to Boston. Take the train in where? Were you in a different
T: We lived in Brookline and we were far enough out from Boston so, rather than try to
drive a car that was the easiest way to do it. Anyway, that went on for several months.
And then, suddenly, I got a telegram from a friend out in Ann Arbor, Michigan saying, "We
are starting a theater company. Come on out and manage the theater company and be
music director of it."
J: I bet you liked it.
T: Well, it was sure better than shoving a soldering iron around all of the time. So I went
back to Ann Arbor. And I stuck with that theater company for awhile; it was called the Arts
Theater Club. I do not know whether they are still operating now under that name or any
other, but it was a bunch of people that had a lot of vitality to them in terms of the creative
process. It happened to be in drama instead of in music. And their petty bickering after
awhile got to me, so I quit.
J: What years were you there then?
T: No, not years. I was there less than a year. That must have been during 1951. It
became clear after a while that the theater thing was not going to support me or give me
the kind of musical activity that I wanted. I quit the group but I stayed in town. I loved Ann
Arbor. It is a lovely town; not so nice in the winter but the rest of the year is beautiful. I
had a very good time. I worked selling records in a record store and I also played classical
disc jockey on one of the local radio stations. And then realizing that this would never
further my career in any sense, and as the result of talking with some old family friends who
knew their way around the music business, I wound up going to New York. And I lived
there from 1951 to 1954, three years. And again, serendipitously, I came in contact with a
superb lady. Her name is Alberta Masiello. She was a Julliard graduate pianist. She was
a fine enough singer, a mezzo, so that she had sung with the New York City Center Opera.
She found herself physically unable to cope with the rigors of public performance,
especially the New York pressures. And so she quit doing all of that and she began
J: This is a continuation of the interview with Mr. Edward Charles Troupin. We are once
again in his office in the music building at the University of Florida. Today is Friday, April
10, 1987. And my name is Mimi Johnson. Mr. Troupin, you were telling us how you were
in New York and studied with Alberta Masiello for two and a half years. The dates on that
would have been 1951 to 1954.
T: That is right.
J: You said that she is a graduate of Julliard and that she was coaching opera singers and
that your work with her involved studying scores of all kinds of operas.
T: Yes. Her interest and her concern is primarily in opera. She graduated from Julliard as
a pianist, but she also sang professionally as a mezzo with the New York City Center. So
she had a very strong background in the whole operatic scene, particularly the Italian
operas, of course, since she was born and schooled in Italy.
With her I studied piano, but the study was not of the typical piano literature; it was the
accompaniments to opera scores. Besides playing them and getting to know them that
way, I also conducted them while she would sit at the piano and sing. We had some
impressive performances of things like: "L'Elisir d'amore" and "II Trovatore", and so forth.
This led, after a couple of years and through her good offices, to my traveling around with
the Charles Wagner Opera Company. We toured much of the country doing fifty-nine
performances of "ll Trovatore" in sixty-three days.
That was a very enlightening experience for me, but it was not a comfortable one.
Riding 400 miles on a bus and then getting off just to be dumped at the theater to do a
performance without having had chance even for a cup of coffee was a frequent
occurrence. And nobody likes that kind of thing. In terms of knowing what the opera
business is about, there is nothing like fifty-nine performances of the same piece. And you
really get to sense everything that can go right as well as what can go wrong. But I knew,
at that point, that I did not want to spend the rest of my life traveling around the country.
And the doors of the Metropolitan Opera House are pretty hard to beat down. So I kept
looking for a teaching job. And finally, in 1954, I was hired by Ithaca College to teach violin
and in particular, the Ithaca College equivalent of our strings skills classes. And gradually
my load there increased. I got working in the area of music history and literature. And after
a couple of years, became conductor of the Ithaca College Orchestra. Which is something,
of course, that I had always been wanting to do.
J: That was in 1957, wasn't it?
T: I think that is right, I am not exactly sure. Yes, it was right because it was also the year I
got married. So that is a good guidepost.
J: Would you tell us how you met your wife?
T: She was a student at Ithaca College. She was not a student of mine, I should hurriedly
say that. But I saw her around the school of music and found her very attractive. One
thing led to another in a not uncommon sort of way.
J: What is her name?
T: Carolyn. Her maiden name was Bailey.
J: I noticed that everyone calls her Honey; how did she get that nickname? Is it because
T: No. That started well before I knew her. She was around three years old and
apparently had great difficulty in saying her own name. So everybody began calling her
Honey and she began calling herself that too.
J: Where is she from?
T: Ithaca, New York.
J: Her family lives there then?
T: They do not any longer, but they did at that time.
J: Tell us, just a minute, since we are talking about your wife. What kind of a family did
she come from? Was she an only child or did she have lots of brothers and sisters?
T: She has one brother and one sister. None of the family is involved with music except
for fun. Apparently, there was a strong family tradition of sitting around on Sunday
evenings and singing. Her mother has a marvelous ear but almost no schooling as a
musician. She can sit down at the piano and play tunes and harmonize them quite
correctly. It is remarkable because it is all a self-taught or inherited kind of skill that she
J: When were you married?
T: November 24, 1957.
J: At this time you were still at Ithaca?
T: Yes, we stayed there three more years.
J: At this time you were teaching music history, conducting, string skills, and violin majors
T: Yes. We had some other interesting things. There was one course, I think it was called
"Music and the History of Western Culture" or something like that, or that might have been
the name of the textbook. But we were trying to relate cultural history with specific
reference to musical things. And it was an interesting kind of intellectual discipline, as far
as the faculty is concerned. I do not know how much the students got out of it. It was
trying to get beyond the mere history of music which can, in some ways, be kind of dull.
J: And then why did you leave Ithaca?
T: I got awful tired of those winters. You have been in Rochester so you know how you
never see the sun from October until May. I just got tired of that. And I was not altogether
happy there. I felt that I was working incredible hours and it was not the most satisfying
J: I wanted to back up for a minute to 1956 when you said that you made a new translation
of Bastien and Bastienne and that you translated it and conducted it. Would you tell us
about that Mr. Troupin?
T: That performance was rigged up as a kind of celebration of the 200th anniversary of
Mozart's birth. That was an opera that he wrote when he was twelve or fourteen or
something like that. It is an incredibly polished piece to come out of a child that young.
The English translations that were available (we did want to do it in English) did not "sing"
very well. There was an Austrian lady in town there and she and I sat down (I had studied
a little German in college) and translated the opera. And then I essentially put it into what I
hoped would be reasonably sing-able poetry. It worked pretty well. I also had to rewrite a
few of the recitatives because the words that we could come up with simply would not fit
what recitatives were printed in one of the scores. So we did a thorough-going new
performance version of the libretto.
J: Then in 1960 you decided to leave Ithaca. What did you do at that time?
T: I came to Gainesville.
J: Why did you decide to come to Gainesville? T: In the first place, I was offered a job.
For people with my interest in conducting, there are not that many jobs around. The
University of Florida presented an opportunity, as well as an interesting kind of possibility. I
have always enjoyed trying to increase the level of the musical culture in my present
environment. Gainesville in 1960 was not musically impoverished, but it was not nearly so
active as it is now nor as I would liked to have seen it. I remember being told, for example,
that the year before I came down here some violinist had played a recital in the University
auditorium and the students spent the evening, instead of listening to whatever that fiddler
played, rolling Coke bottles down the sloping isles of the auditorium. I do not know whether
that story is apocryphal or whether it is a good repetition of the facts, but such a musical
environment is not conducive to music making or musical understanding that is possible
any place with just a little education. So I considered that a challenge, and it was an
J: What was your position?
T: I was assistant professor of music. I started out as associate conductor of the Fighting
Gator Philharmonic, which I named after awhile. I was also teaching violin and playing in a
string quartet that had been organized. And I think very soon thereafter I was also teaching
the Survey of Music History that every student in music takes.
J: Who were some of the members in that string quartet? Was Russell Danburg playing
the piano, or did he play cello in it?
T: Neither. The Wirtala's were both in it; Grace was playing the viola and Arnold was
playing the cello. Woody Keister was playing the second violin.
J: I did not know he played violin.
T: Sure. He is both a violinist and a violist.
J: You came in 1960, who was head of the department at that time?
T: Very shortly after I got here, Reid Poole [M.A., Associate Professor of Music and
Director of Bands] became head of the department. When I arrived, Harold Bachman was
J: What did you know about the music department or its faculty before you came?
T: Just about nothing. It was sort of strange, when the Wagner Opera Company was on its
tour, we played in Gainesville. We played in the gym which was set up with a semblance of
an operatic stage. At that time, I was told that there were about 6,000 students in the
University. When I got here, it was already somewhere in the neighborhood of 12,000
students. As far as the music department is concerned, I knew nobody in it. Harold
Bachman's reputation was a nation-wide one and I had heard of him, although I had never
met him or anything of that sort. So I came in quite fresh and innocent, but not quite naive.
J: So that answers that next question; you had not met any faculty members prior to
T: No I had not.
J: What were your first impressions of the University and the music department after you
T: As far as the department is concerned, I saw in the faculty people as I came to meet
them and get to know them at first, an awful lot of musical vitality. Everybody, however,
tended to run a little scared. The department seemed to me in a funny way to be trying to
justify its own existence. We were always painfully concerned with the number of students
that we were dealing with. And sometimes that numbers business tended to get in the way
of insisting on a high level of quality in what we were doing.
As far as the University was concerned, I had not expected much because I had not
known what to expect, so I was not disappointed. I got a little uncomfortable when I began
to sense the emphasis on the success of the football team. Even at Michigan, and they
were a Rose Bowl team year after year while I was there, the town kind of zipped up the
sidewalks so that everybody could go to the game on Saturday. But the perpetual football
fever that I found here disturbed me a great deal. We used to joke sometimes in faculty
meetings about why do not they just hire the Pittsburgh Steelers as artists in residence and
stop this pretense of amateur athletics.
J: Mr. Troupin, do you have any children?
T: I have two daughters; Amy is the older one, she was born just eight months before we
came to Gainesville. And then in 1965, my second daughter was born, Cynthia.
J: How did you like Gainesville, and how did your family adjust to the move?
T: I was so active in getting cranked up as a member of the department that I really did not
have time to stop and assess things. My wife, I will confess, was dreadfully unhappy the
first year that we were here. I am not exactly sure why. This was a totally strange
environment to her; she had always lived in Ithaca up to that point. Even though they are
cities of about the same size, they are very different from each other. We were not
particularly comfortable. We had been accustomed in Ithaca to not only the Ithaca college
environment, but also the Cornell University environment and the level of cultural
understanding, for example, that we found there among the Cornell faculty and a lot of the
Cornell students. Gainesville was very different, indeed. After awhile, however, even my
wife came to like the city much better. In a peculiar way, I think it came from the time she
got interested in playing tennis. And she just started playing tennis after we got here and
she finally got darned good at it. And when she started beating me and entering state
tournaments and that sort of thing, I knew that she had found a home.
J: Mr. Troupin, was it Edward Preodor [Edward C. Preodor B.M., Professor] who
conducted the orchestra before you came?
J: Why did he leave?
T: He was a great friend of Pat Beecher, [Alvah Alden Beecher, Director, Division of Fine
Arts and Professor of Music] who had been head of the department here. And when
Beecher went down to start the music department at the University of South Florida, he
took Ed Preodor with him.
J: What was it like being in Building R?
T: Let me put it this way, we all shared the misery of an unairconditioned and an
inadequately heated building. Misery loves company. So there was a kind of "esprit de
corps" in the department, at that point, that we have lost now that we are in these
quasi-palatial accommodations. It was not fun. The building was just a shambles. Mr.
Poole used to say that if the termites stopped holding hands, the building would collapse.
And I have no reason to question that. (laughter)
J: What about your rehearsal facilities and storage area and faculty?
T: My accommodations were not bad at all. I had a reasonable size room. But it was
sound proofed about like a paper bag; it was impossible. When the band would start to
rehearse right across the hallway from me, I just would pack up and go home because
there was no way to think in musical terms with that band rehearsal going on. We had no
satisfactory place for storage of instruments. So I had a little closet-like space behind my
studio in which there were a half dozen or so double bases and a whole lot of cellos, file
cabinets full of orchestra music. It was just cramped and really quite uncomfortable.
J: Did you perform quite a bit, your quartet?
T: Not a terrific amount, but we did play now and then. Later on, after Arnold Wirtala
[Arnold Ernest, Ed.D., Assistant Professor of Music] took a different position in the
University and became a little bit detached from musical activities, we managed to put
together a quartet that we then named the Florida String Quartet. There is another group
that has that name now, but we were the Florida String Quartet. And Ina Claire Jaeger,
who was then Ina Claire Forbes, played the second fiddle. We had a wonderful violist on
the faculty for a few years there named Bob Schieber. [Robert Ward Schieber, Assistant
Professor of Music] And Marie Henderson, who at the time was working in the library, also
was playing the cello in the orchestra and in that quartet. We played around a great deal.
We did a couple of concerts here in Gainesville every year and we traveled around to
schools in this area: at conventions, in the Cummer Gallery in Jacksonville, things like that.
We rehearsed a terrific amount. To have eight or nine hours of rehearsal a week was not
unusual for us, especially when we had a bunch of concerts coming up. I have got to say,
we were a darned good string quartet. We enjoyed each other and we had none of the
personality conflicts that can mess up an ensemble. So we were very happy with that
group until Bob Schieber left and then we had to substitute other people in and it never
quite was as satisfactory after his departure.
J: When did he leave?
T: I cannot remember.
J: When approximately did you start it?
T: I would guess around 1963 or 1964. I just cannot remember how long Bob was on the
J: I guess I will always think of you as the orchestra director. I remember, because I knew
you then, and when I played this Mozart Concerto with the Gainesville High School
Orchestra and they needed quite a little bit of help. Dorothy Reaves asked you if some of
your members could come and play in that, sometime around 1963. And you let them; you
said yes they could. Otherwise that Gainesville High School Orchestra could never have
gotten through that concerto. That was really nice. When I came back in the fall of this
year, I remember looking at the newspaper and I saw Mr. Chobag's picture in there. And I
thought, gosh, I guess the Orchestra has two conductors now. It was not until quite some
time that I realized that you had retired from conducting the orchestra.
J: When did you stop conducting the orchestra?
T: I think it was in 1980 or 1981. I do remember that I put in nineteen years conducting the
J: Would you just tell us about some of your other responsibilities and experiences in the
T: Do not you want to talk about the Orchestra?
T: I mentioned that because the orchestra, at that time and even to some extent now,
relied a great deal on townspeople, faculty, and their wives to help us out. To me that was
kind of a unique experience and a very valuable one. Running rehearsals when you would
have gray haired people as well as seventeen year old freshmen playing in the orchestra,
and having to talk to them in terms that would unify the group was a fascinating challenge.
It was also a very valuable one because all those townspeople provided a kind of continuity
that you do not usually get in a college orchestra, where the personnel changes every four
years. It is the nature of the college beast.
It was a really fascinating group. And I think I grew up with them and they grew up with
me a little bit, too. It was great fun to be able to rely on those townspeople: Herb Wolfe
[Herbert Snow, Ph.D. Professor of Fruit Crops] who was the ornamental horticulturist; Lucy
Nulton who was teaching at P.K. Younge School; Dorothy Reaves who was always
terrifically supportive of our efforts here; and Dr. Casey, the eye doctor in town, played
bassoon in the Orchestra; and all kinds of people. And that was a kind of stabilizing
influence of something that could have been much more inclined to wax and wane with the
particular bunch of students that were there for any year.
J: It was a beautiful orchestra; I loved it.
T: Beautiful? Well.
J: Yes it was. Have there been any changes in the department or school as a result of
your being here, that you have had a direct influence on that comes to your mind?
T: I like to think so. At some point, not too long ago, I reminisced about the number of
things that I was involved in the inception of in the department.
J: Please tell us.
T: At one point, we had a group that played some early music; we called ourselves a
collegium musicum which I was asked to start. Since then, it has become all sorts of
things, the Renaissance Ensemble, the Baroque Ensemble, the Chamber singers. But
those things really sort of grew out of this collegium musicum. We did all sorts of things
from little solo and ensemble pieces to some string orchestra things. Of course, we were
not dealing with antique instruments. We were using modern ones. But at least that music
of early times was getting played.
J: Were you influential in designing the new music building? Did you have input into that?
T: No. If I had, it would be kind of a different building.
J: How would it be different?
T: We had a few faculty meetings which were involved with creating a list of our needs and
desires. And then after the architects drew up plans, we were shown them in faculty
meetings. And frankly, I was appalled at some of the things that happened. I sensed right
from the beginning that if a new building was to attract the number of students that we
hoped, we would not have enough practice rooms. I think that we could have doubled the
number of practice rooms around the top of the building without any additional cost. The
only thing that would have suffered would be the architect's ego. In otherwords, he plainly,
was trying to make a motif out of the shapes of the orchestra room, band room, and choral
room from downstairs by simply carrying that onto the third floor diminished size. By simply
straightening those walls, twice as many rooms could be put in. I was disturbed at that. I
also think that it is a sin that the forces there allowed the building to be built without a
respectable recital hall for the department. To me that is something, for which the
department has suffered for the fifteen years that we have been here.
J: Are there any plans for that in the future?
T: Yes, Dr. Stegall [Joel R., Ph.D. Professor and Chairman of Music] is requesting now
that a recital hall be appended to the building somehow. But you know how those things
go; it will be a long time before we see it.
J: Was the Music Building built in 1974?
T: No, we dedicated the building in 1972; it was built the preceding year.
J: In 1971 or 1970.
J: Did it take music a little bit longer than a lot of the other areas on campus to get their
T: I do not know. I think we actually did pretty well in that respect. I think (this is
something that somebody might inquire about sometime) Dr. Reitz, [J. Wayne, Ph.D.
President of the University, 1955-1967] was then president of the University, and his wife
have been much interested in music and in the activities of this department. I think that we
got moved to the upper reaches of the priority list because of their particular musical
concerns. I think that we fared better than some other departments as a result of that.
J: How did the budget of the music department compare when you first came to now?
T: The faculty has never been privy to actual numbers when it comes to budget. I do not
know how much is allocated for capital outlay or something of that sort. What we keep
getting told, and of course I have to believe it, is that the budget has increased at a rate far
lower than the need for money--in terms of inflation, our increased activities and so forth. I
cannot give you specific numbers, so it is really quite impossible. But look, for example, at
the electronic music studio. We equipped the place on a shoestring budget in about 1968
or 1969; we have added just about nothing to it since then. And all of the modern day
digital technology and computer hookups and so forth, we do not have. We do not have
them largely because of money. I should add, though, another aspect of our not having
increased that is that with everybody so busy doing other things, it seems a little inordinate
to sink funds into something that might not be used all that much.
J: Did you start that electronic music studio? I know that you teach electronic music and
that you use it. Was that your idea?
T: It was not my idea. It was another of those serendipitous things. In November of 1968,
the Music Educator's Journal came out with an issue devoted entirely to the subject of
electronic music. That was a symbol of a phenomenon that was occurring all over the
country. The educational institutions, for better or for worse, were embracing this new
technology as a gesture toward bringing interest into the musical field, possibly creating
educational means for use with youngsters. Not to be left behind, Mr. Poole who was
chairman then thought that it would be a proper thing for a department like ours to have a
synthesizer. So he bought one; he got money from the graduate school in order to buy that
synthesizer (it is, by the way, the one that we are still using). So the thing arrived in a big
cardboard box and nobody knew how to do anything with it. There was no instruction book
that came with it, or if there was one, it got lost in the shuffle somehow. Since I had studied
some physics and mathematics and things like that I guess Mr. Poole theorized that I would
be able to figure it out. So he dumped it on my doorstep.
I plugged the thing into an amplifier and with great trepidation, turned it on and began
pushing plugs and flipping switches. I finally figured out how to make it talk. And it was not
too much later that I, all of a sudden, found myself down to teach a course in electronic
music. I confess that in the first couple of years that I taught the course, I had some
electrical engineering students who took the course because they were fascinated with this
kind of sound generation. They taught me an awful lot about how to operate the
synthesizer. I learned my electronics back in the days of vacuum tubes. The synthesizer
was full of transistors. A synthesizer, today, is even beyond that; it has gone to integrated
circuits--the IC chips. So this synthesizer that we have was well beyond, anything that I
had coped with before in terms of engineering. I finally learned to use it with reasonable
proficiency, and teaching the course became easier. But, no, it was dumped on me. That
is not something that I have started.
J: What courses do you teach now Mr. Troupin? What is your title and what courses do
you teach now?
T: I am now professor of music. I have the title of Director of Composition and
Contemporary Music. That means, mostly, that I am the one that organized the annual
Genesis Twenty programs, which are programs of music of the twentieth century.
J: And there is one Sunday.
J: Tell us about that, how you started it.
T: We saw a need for getting more contemporary music, particularly important
contemporary composers like Stravinsky and Schoenberg [Arnold, Austrian-American
composer, 1874-1951 ] and so forth into the air; making it available to our music students as
well as to people around town who might be interested in that sort of thing. We started the
programs in room 120 of the Music Building which seats around one hundred people. And
it was not too long before they generated enough interest, that we moved them now over to
the University Auditorium. And the only real criterion for inclusion on that program is that a
piece should be of this period. Of course, I have picked and chosen carefully. I want to
keep the programs varied; I want to avoid music that I think is just plain bad. And I confess
to using rather heavy-handed tactics sometimes. I am also concerned with the idea that it
does not matter whether somebody is a faculty member or a town person or a student.
Everybody can play. The emphasis is not on performance as much as it is on the literature.
The programs do list the performers names but the first name out there is the composer's
name. My feeling being, that without the composer, the piece would not exist. So that is
the focus. These are chamber works or solo works; we do not get into any of the large
J: When did you say you started it?
T: I think the oldest program that I have been able to recover was from 1982. And there
have been one or two programs every year since then.
J: And I noticed that on Sunday, your wife is going to perform your piano sonata.
T: Yes. Last year I was commissioned to write a piece by the Florida State Music
Teacher's Association. And my wife, in her rather assertive way, said, "Why the heck
haven't you ever written a piece for me?" So I decided that it was about time to do that,
and I did.
One of the things about these Genesis twenty programs is that we perform music by
local people, and in particular, by students--especially graduate students in
composition--because that is a marvelous opportunity for them to get a hearing. Many
times students will write reams of music and never really get a chance to hear it. But here
the performances are quite carefully prepared. The pieces are frequently very interesting.
Of course, as I mentioned before, we do music by well known world famous kinds of
J: Mr. Troupin, when you came to the University in 1960, I know that the first black student
came in 1959 was Daffney Williams of Gainesville. And then by 1962, black students were
in the arts and sciences and so forth. Was the music department integrated when you
T: I do not remember any black students in the music department for probably three or four
years after I came. But that does not mean that they were not here; it simply means that I
did not come in contact with them. At first, I taught some of the music appreciation courses
but my duties got in other areas after a short time; so I did not have those large classes. I
missed black students in those early years.
J: Do you know when the first black faculty members were hired in the music department?
T: I had a faculty development grant leave and I believe that was in 1970 or in 1971. The
person who was hired to fill some of my duties, at that time, was Elwyn Adams. I believe
he was the first black faculty member. He has since stayed with us, of course.
J: If you could tell us Mr. Troupin, about the courses that you teach. And all of your
involvement here in music.
T: I teach viola students now. Carolyn R. Plummer [M.M. Assistant Professor of Music]
has relieved me of the violin student teaching. I have, in different semesters, Modal
Counterpoint and Tonal Counterpoint courses. And once every year or two, I teach a
course in score reading. That is the skill of sitting down at the piano and reading off, not
tremendous orchestral scores (that is what we would like to do ultimately), but several
staves and different clefs. The clefs then can get used for the transpositions of the
instruments. I began teaching that when I was conducting the orchestra and it has sort of
stuck with me. Then I have some students in composition as well, and the course in
electronic music, which we have already talked about. There is one introductory course,
and then there is one on the graduate level.
J: That is a lot of courses.
T: They do not all happen at once, fortunately.
J: What committees are you on? Are you currently on any?
T: The main one that I am on is the MEAC (Music Executive Advisory Committee). I am
serving as coordinator for the strings, voice, and keyboard area of the applied music
faculty, and so I sit on that advisory committee. I am also chairman of the committee which
is searching for a piano and theory teacher.
J: What is considered a full-time faculty load in the music department?
T: That depends very much on the kind of teaching that one does. I would hesitate to try
to define it, that is really the chairman's job, not mine. But if, for example, one's teaching
responsibilities are entirely studio teaching--that is giving lessons on an instrument or
voice--eighteen hours a week of contact with the students is standard. If you do course
work, the story is different and the arithmetic is more complicated because of preparation
time and all that sort of thing. I wish you would get that information from someone else.
J: Have you noticed any difference in the caliber of students in the music department from
when you came to now? Either the caliber of the students or the programs?
T: I think, in general, our program has gotten much stronger. It has also gotten much
larger and I worry sometimes about whether it is not a little too diffuse. It sends faculty as
well as students, for example, off in several different directions at once and makes it much
more difficult to establish reasonable priorities.
As far as the students are concerned, they have changed terrifically. They were not
without talent or anything like that, but when I first came here, they were really musically
very naive. For example, in the music history course that I taught, the first time that I taught
it, there was one student who was embarrassed to pronounce the name Beethoven
conventionally. He made a point, every time he mentioned that guy, of saying
Beeth-hoven. And this, to me, indicated a certain cast of mind. I do not know whether it
was embarrassment at saying a foreign name correctly, or what it was. But there was a lot
of that kind of hesitation about recognizing that, yes indeed, he did have a function in the
cultural scene. And this student has now gone on to have a reasonably substantial career
in music education. But I remember this real diffidence that he showed at the beginning
about such a small matter as pronouncing a foreign name correctly. I think students
worked harder in those days.
T: Present company is always excepted. This is hard for me to phrase because I really am
not accustomed to these terms. We had not yet gone through that terrible period of grade
inflation which increased the preoccupation that students have with the whole business of
grading. And they seemed somehow more fundamentally interested in getting educated.
Now I find that the students in the first place want to be spoon fed; they do not want to
exercise any intellectual initiative. And not many of them do at least in the music
department. They do not seem to have that kind of curiosity about the real stuff of music.
They do not go to concerts unless a friend of theirs happens to be playing or something of
that sort. For example, an elementary theory course which I happen to be teaching a
section of this term, is an essential building block for their whole understanding of musical
structure. And so they goof off in the course. They do not come to classes with nearly the
regularity that I would expect. They even seem to forget that they have paid for those
courses and the least they could do would be to take advantage by coming. So I am
getting a little disenchanted with the students' attitudes.
J: How do the number of music majors compare now to when you first came?
T: Oh gosh, we had very few then. I cannot give you exact numbers but we have
substantially more now. We are down a little bit from what we were a few years ago, but
you can get those numbers from Mr. Hale [James Pierce, M.S. Professor of Music] or
something like that.
J: What changes, then would you like to see happen in the music department? In terms of
students of course offerings or anything?
T: I am one of the people that feels that we are trying to be all musical things to all people.
And I do not think that we can do that without spreading our energies too thin. I would love
to see our course offerings cut down, but the courses that remain, be beefed up in terms of
content and in terms of demands on the students. Of course, we would love to recruit
nothing but red hot musical talents, but even the best music schools are not doing that
nowadays. I think that if we could completely stop worrying about the numbers of students
enrolled in a particular course and concentrate on this business of active mental
participation on the part of the students, I think we would be better off. Those are
motherhood statements I realize.
At the same time, music faculties are made up of people who have gone into their
profession because they are convinced of their own worth as musicians. As a result, they
have developed their own little egos and their own desires for a particular kind of musical
empire to rule over. And when faculties are as large as our's now (when I came I think
there were seventeen and there are now almost twice that), it means that people head off
in different directions all of the time. We do not know what each of us is doing nearly so
well as when we were in the uncomfortable confines of Building R. It also means that when
faculty people want to develop an ensemble or something of that kind, the students are
pulled in several different directions at once, which is unfair to them because most of them
are not mature enough to set their priorities with good reason. So I think a certain trimming
back and a continuation of all of the chairman's attempts to create, among the faculty, a
sense of unity and purpose. That would be great. All of the chairmen that we have had
have shared that desire, some have operated more successfully than others. But having
grown as large as we have grown, it is darned difficult to accomplish that just by nature of
the faculty's size.
J: I think that when Alvah Beecher [M.M. Director of Music] first started the department in
1948, that his main criterion for hiring people was that they must get along with each other.
He wanted it to be like a family.
T: That is an ideal statement. It is not realistic as soon as the department gets to have
more than five people. The intent, however, is correct.
I think that Beecher made one mistake. I never knew him when he was here; I met him
after he went down to USF. But he apparently hired faculty with the philosophy that you
hire the good person and then expect that he would be able to do anything: teach his
instrument, conduct this or that organization, teach any course that happened to need a
teacher that term. That is unrealistic and it is certainly unfair to the faculty member, who
never knows what he is going to have to teach the following semester. We have reached
the point now, particularly with the size that we have, where specializing in a particular area
of musical study seems to me terribly important. It is something that I never had the luxury
of doing and I still do not. I am still that utility infielder that can play any position.
J: You mentioned being here under the leadership of various chairmen. Are there any
particular strengths or occurrences that stand out in your mind as a result of the
chairmanship of any one of those particular individuals?
T: I believe when one tries to evaluate such things, one needs a little historical perspective.
I think that it would be fairest if I mentioned, only, the chairman under whom I worked here
earliest. Reid Poole has always had very high ideals. And it was under his chairmanship
that we began so many of the things now that are strong facets of the department. After he
stepped down from the chair, a man named Donald MacGlothlin came in. MacGlothlin had,
I think, two great strengths. He did manage, particularly in being instrumental in starting up
the Friends of Music Organization, to bring a heck of a lot of money--particularly
scholarship money--into the department which was clearly invaluable. The other thing that
he did (at least this is my impression), was organize. And the department, in terms of the
business that occurs in that front office, always seemed to operate pretty smoothly.
J: Mr. Troupin, could you tell us about the enrollment in the music department, how that
T: I suggested that you get those numbers from Mr. Hale because he has a much closer
approximation. When I first came here, there may have been twenty-five to thirty-five
music majors. It is obviously a much larger number now.
J: You have mentioned various things in your life, but are there any either particular
rewards or honors, recognition or any particular events that you would like to share with us
that we have not already mentioned?
T: In a funny way, because the music business is not an easy one if you are serious about
it, I feel that survival is one of the things with which I am most satisfied. Since I decided to
teach, that has been my main concern. Watching the light bulb going on in some student's
mind at some point seems to be terribly important. Of course, I sure was happy to be able
to write that piano sonata that I was commissioned to do and sensed that it was happily
received by the people that have heard it. That, I think, is the kind of satisfaction that I like
second best. But I am really delighted when former students of mine come by town or call
me up from the northeast, where they are really seeing musical competition. They just
check me up every now and then on what they have been doing and so on; it is that kind of
thing which I think is the greatest satisfaction that I have.
J: How would the department feel about professors teaching privately in the community, in
addition to their faculty load? Do they encourage or discourage something of that nature?
I guess it could be looked upon as either a drawing card for the University or as detrimental
T: You run into the whole business of conflict of interest. There are institutions where a
student will be attracted to come to that school and study with one of the big-named people
on the faculty. And then the big-named person will say something to the effect that you are
not quite ready to enroll in the University yet, but if you work with me privately for a few
years at fifty dollars a lesson then we will make sure that you get set for it. Obviously that
kind of thing is immoral, probably illegal, and certainly dangerous.
We do not have much of that kind of danger here, thank God. I have always taught
some youngsters who were of pre-college age and I have done that unblushingly because
there have never been enough competent violin teachers in Gainesville. I have tried like
mad to avoid in any sense competing with some of the local teachers who are not part of
the music department faculty. And it is always embarrassing when it comes to a question
of setting fees and that sort of thing for such people.
If you look at that kind of thing as a recruiting device for students for the department, it
does not work. In my view, we may have the student whom we would sure love to have
participating in our activities, but if he has lived in Gainesville all of his life, he should darn
well go away from home when it comes to going to college. So I have never felt as though
I could encourage such people to come here, and most of them do not. I hate to see them
go to Florida State because we have always had that terrible competition with Florida State
for the better students, but I cannot mind when they go off someplace else. I think it is
probably, in a holistic sort of sense, the best thing in the world for them.
We are neither encouraged nor discouraged. Obviously if it becomes a question of
somebody devoting too much time to outside teaching, to the detriment of his departmental
responsibilities, then that would be a bad move.
J: How do you like Gainesville? Are you happy here?
T: I can see a lot of the foibles in Gainesville. I am appalled at the way the city has grown
without allowing for proper transportation, and proper infrastructure. Those things trouble
me. But I have been lucky enough to make some good friends here and I think, really, that
is the most important aspect of things. I do not want to shovel snow anymore. I miss a
more viable cultural environment; I have missed that, now, for twenty-seven years. So it is
one of those things that you could simply reply by saying, "Why didn't you leave?" I guess I
got sand in my shoes.
J: It is better than when you came.
T: Yes, it is better than when I came. And, of course, I have to hope that all of these things
that I have done have had something to do with the fact that it is better. Once in a while,
you have the idea that the department, considered as part of the University, has always
been looked at more as a means of recruiting for physicists, engineers, medical professors,
and people like that who want to come to a cultural place. And so at the University of
Florida we have a department of music, we have a department of art and one of theater. I
think that we are more important than that; yet sometimes one gets that feeling a little bit,
but I do not regret it. And as far as Gainesville is concerned, gosh, there are much worse
places to live.
J: That is encouraging Mr. Troupin. Where do your children live?
T: One of them is in Schenectady, New York. She is married to a research chemist for
General Electric, and he is going to be leaving there and moving to Philadelphia to teach at
Temple University in the fall.
J: Is this Ann?
J: And what is her last name?
T: Buese. And Cindy is still in school; she is in art school at the Ringling School of Art and
Design in Sarasota.
J: And what is her last name now?
T: Troupin; she is not married.
J: Then how many grandchildren do you have? You said your little grandson is with you.
T: Just he.
J: How old is he?
T: He is eighteen months.
J: What is his name?
J: Mr. Troupin, thank you very much for your time involved in this interview. And I know
that you are aware that these tapes will be transcribed and kept in the University Archives
as part of a permanent, public collection. Thank you very much.