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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Interviewee: Joel Stegall
Interviewer: Janet Graham
March 20, 1987
G: This is Janet Graham. I am interviewing Dr. Joel Stegall. Today is Friday, March 20,
1987. Dr. Stegall, will you give us your full name?
S: Joel Ringgold Stegall.
G: Tell us where you were born and when.
S: I was born April 7, 1939 at 10:50 p.m. in Hertford, North Carolina, Perquimans County.
G: Tell me about your family. Do you have any brothers and sisters?
S: I am the oldest of two children. I have a brother who is two years younger. That is
G: Are your parents living?
S: Mother is living. Daddy died in 1969.
G: What was your father's occupation?
S: He was a Southern Baptist minister.
G: Did you grow up in the state of North Carolina? Were you there most of your life?
S: I spent almost all of my life in North Carolina. We took a trip out to visit New York once
when I was twelve years old, but I grew up in North Carolina and moved every two to four
years around eastern North Carolina.
G: Where was your high school?
S: St. Pauls High School in St. Pauls, North Carolina.
G: How about your musical background? Describe your involvement in music throughout
your elementary, junior high, or senior high school years.
S: I had a strange background, I think. Since I grew up in a Southern Baptist country
church, we sang a lot. I also had a year of piano lessons in the fifth grade. But, basically, I
was a non-singer. My mother tells me that even in church when I was a child, they asked
me not to sing in the chorus because it messed them up. I did not think then that I would
ever like music. When my younger brother was eight or nine he used to sit at home on
Saturday afternoons and listen to the Metropolitan Opera. I would go running around the
woods, playing cops and robbers and cowboys and Indians. I did not really know I could
sing. In fact, when I was in the Boy Scouts one of the things we had to do was sing the
"Star-Spangled Banner," and my mother would not even sign off that I could sing. W
moved when I was in the eighth grade from a little crossroads called Fort Barnwell further
east in North Carolina to St. Pauls. This was about the time that I discovered that girls
were built differently than boys and that they were more interesting. There were a bunch of
cute girls in this eighth grade class. We went to music class within a few days after I
moved there. In this class they had a habit of singing songs like "Camptown Races", and
one kid would sing solo the first part and then they would all join in for the refrain, the
"doo-da's". So the teacher asked who wanted to sing the solo today, and one of the little
girls said, "Let's let Joel, the new kid, do it." I was petrified. I knew I could not sing, but I
was not going to let those girls know that. I did not know what else to do, so I took a deep
breath, and, when my turn came, I sang the song. The teacher greatly shocked me by
saying, "That was really good." She wanted to have me try out for the glee club for the next
two years. I knew this was good, but I had to go and ask what a glee club was. I was not
sure what you did in a glee club.
G: What grade was this?
S: It was in the eighth grade. In that year I went from not thinking I could sing to finding
out what the glee club was, trying out, and being accepted as a first tenor. I now know that
my voice was beginning to change and I was up in the cambiata range. It dropped from the
first tenor to the second bass in a year, and I got to go to all-state chorus. That was an
earth-shaking adventure for me because within twelve or thirteen months I went from being
a non-singer to being selected to go to all-state chorus. I was really excited. I still
remember most of the pieces we did. Iva Vee Hiatt conducted. She is probably retired
now, but she was at Smith College for years.
G: Smith College in New England?
S: Yes. It was a lot of fun. And I was hooked into the chorus; I enjoyed that. The next
year I went back to all-state chorus again. This time I had solos fairly regularly with the
high school chorus. When I went back the next year the conductor was Lara Hoggard.
G: He was, at the time I knew him, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
S: At that time, which was 1955, he was living in Hemet, California and working as a
free-lance composer/arranger. He was also chief editor for the Shawnee Press and
director of music at the church there. He began as a high school choir director and was
discovered by Fred Waring at the same time Waring discovered Robert Shaw. So Hoggard
was the conductor for the Fred Waring Pennsylvanians in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
That was when people started to notice him. He and Robert Shaw and Don Craig were all
there at the same time. Anyway, I was so inspired with Lara Hoggard's conducting and the
kind of personal, spiritual impact he had on music and kids. That was when I started to
think I might like to go into music. I thought I had never heard sounds like that, that might
be fun to do. Since my daddy was a Baptist preacher, I kind of thought I should be a
preacher. But I did not understand a lot of that religion business. I also thought my daddy
had a hard time with the church. So I thought maybe I could be a choir director and be in a
church without putting up with the stuff a preacher has to. So it became really important to
me, and I started taking voice lessons and piano lessons again. In my mind I became
really fascinated with the music field. But I was still ambivalent because I really had no
background. I could not even play simple hymns on the piano. The truth of the matter is
that, at that time, I did not want to take the time to practice. I was too much into trying to be
a high school athlete, and pretty unsuccessfully, I might add.
G: What was your sport?
S: I went out for everything. I really wanted to be a basketball player. I wanted to go to
Wake Forest [University] and play basketball. I kept thinking maybe I would grow taller, but
I never did. I played baseball and earned a letter as a pitcher. I got to be a pitcher
because there were only nine guys who went out for the team. I could not throw the ball
hard enough to throw it in from the outfield to home, I was not fast enough to play
shortstop, I was not big enough to play catcher, and I was not tall enough to play first base.
There was nothing left but pitching, so I got to be the pitcher. I could usually throw it
across the plate, but my career ended when I lost a game 43-0. We did not actually lose
the game--one of the guys who would hang around the local service station was the
umpire. I think we paid him off to call the game after four innings on something like bad
G: I wanted to ask you about St. Pauls High School. I just want to clear things up in case
anyone is unsure about the all-state experiences that you talked about. What was
all-state? Who was involved in that?
S: At that time, high school teachers who wanted their kids to participate in mass festival
chorals would get an allotment of so many students based on the percentage of students
enrolled. So the teacher selected the best students to go to all-state. It was held in the
Aycock Auditorium of The Woman's College [of The University of North Carolina] for two
days. Woman's College is now U[niversity of] N[orth] C[arolina] at Greensboro. We had
two all-state choruses that year. That year Lara Hoggard conducted both choruses. There
were a thousand kids from around the state who got to take part in one of these
choruses--five hundred in each chorus. They could do things you cannot do with a small
chorus. In my junior year it was conducted by Wayne Hugoboom. Wayne was a really nice
guy, but he let the kids get out of control. When some of the guys discovered--not me, I
really was serious about it--that it would get to him, they would do a chant: "Hugo!" and
then "Boom!" I do not remember who conducted the other chorus that year. In my senior
year Noble Cain conducted one chorus and Don Craig conducted the other. Don had been
with the Fred Waring Pennsylvanians.
G: Where was Wayne Hugoboom at the time?
S: He was at Marshall University in West Virginia. He later became the first executive
secretary for the American Choral Directors Association.
G: Well, let us get you from high school now to college. Did you search for a college
because of music or a combination of factors?
S: My parents wanted me to go to a good, safe, Baptist junior college. They did not really
approve of Wake Forest [University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina], which was the
Baptist senior college of the state at the time, because they had heard there were liberals
there who did not believe in the virgin birth or that the Red Sea really parted for Moses and
his band of people to cross over. Moreover, Wake Forest was not reputed to have a great
music department at the time. Daddy wanted me to go to Wingate [College in Wingate,
North Carolina] because he had gone there and the town of Wingate is where the family is
from. I kind of wanted to go to Mars Hill [College in Mars Hill, North Carolina] because it
had a reputation as the best musically of all the Baptist colleges at the time. I later
discovered that that was true. It really was the best. My parents liked it because it had the
reputation of being the most Christian. I never did figure out what this meant. This was the
mid-1950s and, at that time, Mars Hill had a rule of no hand-holding; they also had a
six-inch rule--always six inches of daylight between couples. But, money talked. I really
wanted to go to a name school and I was starting to get some recognition in high school. I
applied to Wake Forest and got a scholarship which paid just enough for tuition.
G: Was that an academic scholarship?
S: Yes. I often tell prospective students and parents that when I first started thinking about
music, both Mother and Dad asked how I was going to make a living, which is a reasonable
question. I told my high school music teacher, Faison Powers, who took me to all-state
chorus and still lives in St. Pauls in the same house, that I was thinking of becoming a choir
director. And I thought she was going to be delighted. She asked me how I was going to
make a living. "Are you going to support a family?" She said that, in view of my academic
record, and all of that, that I ought to go to Princeton and be an engineer or something. I
had no idea what an engineer did; I thought they ran trains. I heard that there were other
kinds of engineers, but I had never met one. The idea of going north to school was
completely out of the question. She encouraged me to at least go to North Carolina State
and do something that will start by making some money. She was right.
G: What years were you at Wake Forest?
S: 1957 through 1961.
G: What did you study?
S: Everything. I thought I wanted to major in music, but every time I took a course in
something interesting, I wanted to major in that. I started in music and very quickly
discovered that music was not very important at Wake Forest. There were no other kids in
my class majoring in music. The teachers were pretty good, but the program was "zip",
they did not have enough students. They had a half dozen music majors total. So the I
decided for a while I would be a philosophy/religion major. That also helped me get a
hundred dollar loan one year. Then my sophomore year, I took an introductory course in
psychology. The teacher had been brought over from UNC at Chapel Hill (which was just
called Carolina then) to start a department of psychology. He was a brilliant man,
seventy-seven years old at the time. He was brought out of retirement. He had been big in
the early behavioral school of psychology. His name was John M. Dashiell. I really
enjoyed the course. Immodestly, I made very high grades and he encouraged me. He was
interesting; at lunch he would sit there and talk about his theories about things. I enjoyed
that, so I was going to be a psychology major. I was still studying singing and such. I
remained a psychology major until my junior year, and there was a new professor hired.
He was a young Ph.D.; his last name was Beck--I believe his first name was David. I
discovered then that all professors of psychology were not brilliant.
Dr. Beck, more than any professor I have ever known, had a knack for obscuring
information. I took his course in statistics, which I did not like and did not find easy. But if I
read the textbook, I could gradually figure out what to do. I would go to class and get
confused, it was just bananas. In fact, I thought that it was the first class that I had ever
failed because when I looked at the grades posted at the end of the semester, my grade
was not there, and neither was my name. I went into a major depression because I knew I
had failed the class. He had just forgotten to post my name--I made an "A."
I do not know how I made an "A," because I went into that exam knowing that I
did not know anything. Anyway, he got to talking about how great it was going to be in my
senior year because we were getting all these rats in--these Skinner boxes to do
experiments in--and how wonderful it was. Because when he was in graduate school, he
and his fiancee spent most of their dating time sitting in a laboratory watching rats run
around. I could just see myself running around with a little pan, cleaning out rat cages. I
did not want to do that. It seemed that what you had to do was work with rats for a while
and then you worked up to cats and dogs. Then, after a while, if you were really good, you
could get to humans. I thought humans might be interesting, but I did not have any interest
in rats, cats, or dogs.
G: Especially not in your senior year.
S: My first big trauma as a musician in college, there is more than one, was that I did not
get into the touring choir my first year. Some kid who did not really care, but who had a
sweet voice, got in. I was an alternate, and that really depressed me. I thought that I was
not good enough for this. But I stayed around and went to the rehearsals and did all those
But when school started in September, the music department head, Thane
McDonald, was interested in the fact that I was interested in music and that I had already
had a year of choir directing when I was in high school. I had taken a one week course in
conducting at a Baptist camp and had started a choir at our country church near St. Pauls.
And he told me that the Southminster Presbyterian Church in Winston-Salem was looking
for a choir director. One of his organ students, Connie Weston, was the organist there. So
he sent me out there, and I tried out and got the job. I made fifty dollars a month directing
the choir in this Presbyterian church. I needed the money, my parents did not have any.
That job plus the scholarship made it possible for me to finish college.
After two or three weeks Dr. McDonald was going to miss a rehearsal of the college
touring choir, and he left word with me to take the rehearsal that afternoon. So I said,
"Fine"; at age eighteen and a half, I was just stupid enough to do it. The other kids in the
choir did not know me from anybody. It was a repeat choir, the same kids left over from the
year before, and they quite literally did not know me. I just walked up and told them that Dr.
McDonald had asked me to take rehearsal and I was going to take rehearsal, so I did. I
noticed that the altos were missing some notes in one place. It was a spiritual and there
was a syncopated rhythm they were not getting right. So when we got to the place I
stopped and corrected it. After rehearsal I discovered that the senior girls were most upset.
A couple of them attacked me after rehearsal and asked what was I doing there and so on.
It really hurt my feelings. But the worst thing was that next day one of the older guys told
Dr. McDonald that it was one of the best rehearsals that they had had, and the altos finally
got that part right. I never sang with the choir again.
The next year I did not get into the choir at all, not even as an alternate. That did
diminish my enthusiasm for the program. Then I was discovering all these other things,
and psychology which was really interesting to me. But I kept directing the church choir
and became active in the Baptist Student Union.
Then just as I was about to decide to major in psychology and get my Ph.D. in clinical
psychology (if I ever got beyond rats), Dr. Beck, whom we called "Rat," came back, and
that discouraged me. Then I got put up for director of the North Carolina Baptist Student
Union choir. This choir included college kids from all the different schools. They had these
conventions and they would get together, and this was a big ego trip for me. I did not know
how to say no, so I got elected. There was a big election and my campaign manager
explained to the Baptists who had never understood Presbyterians that it was okay
because I was a missionary to the Presbyterians. I got elected and I spent a lot of time
promoting this choir and getting kids to sing. I got a lot of attention--the girls were cute, and
they hung around, and it was a lot of fun.
All of this stuff happened after my sophomore year. I went to summer school that
summer and sold pots and pans, Kitchen Craft cooking utensils. Besides selling pots and
pans, I took a course in botany and drummed up business for the BSU choir. I wrote 200
personally-typed letters to kids all over the state. Given my poor typing ability, that was a
chore, but I was going to have a big choir. I had seventy-five or eighty kids show up for the
fall convention. They had never had that before, and it was exciting.
At the same time, I was asked to be managing editor of the school paper, The Old
Gold and Black. I never thought I could write until I got to college and people started
saying I could write. I had written for the paper a little bit in the spring of my sophomore
year, but this time I was asked to be the managing editor. The idea was that I would be
training to be the editor for my senior year. That would have meant I was the biggest of the
big men on campus, because at that time, the editor of the paper was the most powerful
student on campus, even more so than the president of student government. I was
seduced by power. To top it off, they said that I would probably make $2,500 my senior
year--$2,500 then would probably be like $10,000 now. I just could not pass that up. So, in
my junior year, I was directing the Baptist Student Union choir, getting disillusioned with
psychology, and managing editor for the paper.
Writing for the paper was a big mistake. I learned I could write; I learned how to go
do a story. I would compose it pretty much in my head and write it the first time, a big skill.
After that I never, except for my doctoral dissertation, all the papers I wrote after that were
typed the first time. And I always got "A's" on them. But I hated working on the paper. I got
stomach cramps all the time and my grades went down. I was really loving directing the
choir. So at the end of the year I quit the paper. I finally had the good sense to quit. I took
a tour with the choir that summer, sponsored by the Baptist Student Union at the state
By this time, however, it was too late to finish the major in music at good ol' Wake
Forest. I figured out that in spite of a couple of teachers who had really taken an interest in
me, it was really not a top program to begin with. So I looked around for a major I could
take to finish the degree and get out. I finished in English, because in the liberal arts
program I had to have so many literature courses that I only had to take about two more
courses each semester to finish the degree. So I got an English degree.
G: Was this a bachelor of arts in English?
S: A bachelor of arts. Then I discovered motivation. By this time, I still thought my skill
levels were very low, which they were. I had only had one year of theory, and I thought,
"Goodness, I am going to go to grad school, and I do not want to start over." So I got the
old Allen I. McHose book [Basic Principles of Technique of Eighteenth and Nineteenth
Century Composers]. He was on the faculty at Eastman [School of Music of the University
of Rochester in Rochester, New York] and wrote what was the classic book on theory for
years and years. It was dull, but it was the classic book. I got that book and the book of
the 371 Bach Chorales. Every morning I showed up in the practice room at 7:00 and
practiced sight singing and reading. I went to grad school at North Texas State College, as
it was called then.
G: Where was North Texas State?
S: Denton, Texas. I applied to several grad schools: Northwestern [University in Evanston,
Illinois], Florida State [University in Tallahassee, Florida], and Indiana [University in
Bloomington, Indiana]. I wanted to go to North Texas because Kenneth Cuthbert, who
used to be dean at East Carolina [University in Greenville, North Carolina], went to be dean
at North Texas. And one of my piano teachers at Wake Forest had a close friend on the
faculty at East Carolina and he told me about the school. I later discovered that they were
really close friends, so I remembered the school and went out there. It was cheap, really
cheap, to go to school there.
The result of all this was that when I got into the program, they gave us this entrance
exam called "aural perception." It was one of those tests where they would play melodies
and chords and certain notes and you had to identify them. Out of thirteen students who
took that test, I was the only one who passed. And all these other people had bachelor of
music degrees--there were even some of their own grad students. I just knew I could not
do it, but it was all motivation. I was not all that smart, I just worked and worked at it
because I felt I had to do it.
Probably I was somewhat motivated because between my junior and senior year I
got married. It was a mistake. The woman I married was an organist and one of these
people with a natural ear and perfect pitch. It was extremely intimidating. She could look at
a score and sing all the pitches. I could play chords on the piano with her back turned and
she could name all the notes. And I was still trying to figure out what a perfect fifth
sounded like. I was motivated to at least be able to do something with her.
G: So that was 1961? You went in the next fall, then, right after you graduated from Wake
G: Were you admitted, then, into the master's program in music?
S: Master of music education. This little test was a placement test; it was no big deal. It
taught me that just going through courses does not tell you a lot. Since I became a teacher
I have discovered that just for a student to pass the course does not in itself mean anything
except they passed the course. A lot of students, I have found, study only what they will
have on the test. What I learned was that I could do a lot of things without someone there
to tell me everyday what to do, once I had the urge I went on to what I needed to do.
So I got married the year before and then went to North Texas. Actually, another
factor was that my wife got an graduate assistantship as an organist there. Before we got
out there, we spent the summer working at the North Carolina Baptist Assembly at
Southport. I had a job directing the staff choir and she was the staff organist. We also
worked at the desk during the week. We made a little money and they gave us room and
board, so we saved a little bit. She started noticing that she was getting a little pudgy
through the stomach and there were certain other physiological things that were beginning
to change. She thought she was irregular because she had always been. Well, by the time
she finally decided to see a doctor she was four or five months pregnant. So that changed
the plans. She could not do the assistantship, so they found an assistantship for me. That
was a pleasant year.
G: Did you get to conduct?
S: My assistantship was teaching voice to non-majors like piano students, organists, and
others who had to take two semesters of voice. In other words, I got the students that the
regular faculty did not want to teach. I taught seventeen students; seventeen half-hour
lessons a week for thirty-seven dollars a month. I learned that I did not like teaching voice;
it was not my thing. I learned to do it, but I did not really like it because it was boring to me.
North Texas had open admission. If you were a "Texan" and a graduate of a Texas
high school or had an equivalent, you could get in. I understand why they do this, but in
some ways it was very sad because a lot of the kids would get in wanting to major in music,
but the flunk-out rate was enormous. It was in the interest of the University to keep this
going because it generated more tuition monies. It kept the enrollment pumped up.
One student, Mattie Franklin, a freshman, had great difficulty with eye-ear
coordination. Mattie could not tell whether the note was going up or down. I did the classic
Italian songs out of the yellow book, or some similar one. But I remember it had little turns
where the phrase would arch up, and she would go down every time. She never could pick
up the difference. I felt sorry for her. She was black, and this was 1961. I thought she had
a lot of moxie even to try. I really tried to help her and be sympathetic with her. She got to
herjury, a voice exam before a jury of faculty members, and just failed it flat. And that was
the best she had ever sung.
I remember piano student, a bright young man, who thought it was really the pits to
have to take voice lessons. He did not practice, and after about three weeks of his coming
in and not being able to sing pieces, I finally told him to leave and not come back until he
learned the music. That is when I learned that sometimes in order to motivate you have to
kick butt. It was kind of sad, because I am sure this kid resented studying with a graduate
student who was no more than about three years older than he was.
Our son was born later that year, pleasantly between semesters. Just a few weeks
before he was born I got word that my military deferment was going to be recalled due to
the crisis with the Berlin Wall in August of 1961. By December 1961 this was a big crisis,
and President Kennedy called for mobilization of the armed forces. There was grave fear
of fighting the Russians.
I was told I could get through the year without having to go on active duty. So spring
semester I took a very heavy load for grad school then: fifteen hours. My wife had a job
playing the organ at a church in Dallas, which was forty miles to the south. I had a job
directing two or three choirs at a church forty miles to the east. Wednesday afternoons, I
directed choirs in McKinney, Texas at the First Presbyterian Church, and Thurdays I would
take my wife and baby--we could not afford a babysitter--to Dallas where she played organ.
I sat in a room and babysat and studied while she did a rehearsal. Then on Sunday
morning I would go south to Dallas and drop her and the baby off and then drive northeast
to McKinney, which is a forty mile trip. Then after church I would drive back to Dallas to
pick her up, then go back to Denton. And she was taking lessons, too. She took about two
weeks off to have the baby and then started lessons again. She did not take any regular
classes, but had lessons in composition. So she got her coursework done and we could
both finish the coursework by the summer so that I could go on active duty. I was so afraid
that if I got away for two years, it would be very difficult to come back. So I had the degree
and she had all but the recital and thesis for her degree. It was a good year, but hard.
G: That was a master's in music education?
S: I got a master's in music education in August 1962. I had about three months with
nothing to do and then I went on active duty with the army.
G: Where did they send you?
S: Exotic places. I went to the transportation officers' orientation course at Fort Eustice,
Virginia. It was a cold winter. I had gone through R[eserve] O[fficer] T[raining] C[orps] at
Wake Forest also, so I was a privileged second lieutenant. They paid expenses to move
me. I was a transportation officer assigned to Camp LeRoy Johnson in New Orleans. The
heaviest action I saw was on Bourbon Street. It was a post that was closed down before I
got out because the military cut back on its budget, which they were doing in 1964. They
had identified several military installations which were not up to speed, and this was one of
them. Except for two periods where I was away for five or six weeks on military exercises
in Georgia and the Florida panhandle, it was just like a regular job except I had to wear a
uniform to work. My specialty was transportation.
G: What did that entail, moving others around?
S: Theoretically, if we ever got into a war, we would move equipment. At one point I was
assistant batallion operations officer, and then I was assigned to a company as a platoon
leader. I would say that they were the dumbest people I had ever been around. A lot of
these guys were scary; I am glad I did not have to live in the barracks with them. They had
sergeants who made a career out of just keeping them in line--they were like dorm
mothers. Much more loco parents than the university where we were. They were people
who made sure you got up in time, ate, got clean, got some sleep.
In the movies--especially the World War II movies--you often see scenes where the
boats go up to the beach and the ramp drops down and the guys run off of the boat. We
were the guys running the boats. In 1962 and 1963 we had World War II equipment. It
was not a heavy-duty time, except for Castro acting up about that time. New Orleans is not
all that far. I remember the first day I was assigned to this batallion, they were talking about
how they had just gotten back from being encamped along the beaches in Florida. They
were ready to invade Cuba. There are probably a lot of people who do not know it, but the
United States was mobilized and ready to invade long before Bay of Pigs.
G: I was in high school in Miami then, and everybody was stocked up and practicing
fall-out shelters and that type of thing.
S: I remember the colonel. As one of my fellow lieutenants put it, he liked to walk around
and beat on his breastplate. He used to talk about how he wished to hell we could just go
ahead and invade Cuba and get rid of that "bearded bastard" down there. I was just as
glad to stay around New Orleans; I did not want to go to combat.
G: Well, let us get you out of the service. When was your tour of duty over?
S: Let me tell you something musical that happened while I was there--can I do that?
S: It was an important event for me. I was twenty-three years old and went to a church
choir--St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans--and met a really nice guy, who
at the time was young, only thirty, and was a professor and a musicologist. I got interested
in that church choir because I was told that it was the best choir in town and did "heavy
works", like [Igor] Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms, [William] Walton's Belshazzar's Feast,
Well, after being in the choir for a while, this director friend was going to be gone one
weekend for an A[merican] M[usicological] S[ociety] meeting and asked me to take the
Saturday afternoon special rehearsal of the choir for Walton's Belshazzar's Feast. He had
guests coming in from all over the city to sing in this. Here I was, twenty-three years of age
and not knowing any better than to do a rehearsal of Belshazzar's Feast with all these
people a lot older than I was. I guess had I known what I know now, I would have said,
"You have to be crazy in the head!" But I did not know any better, so I did it and got lots of
compliments on it, which encouraged me. He has been a friend and supporter for a long
time. That was kind of a big event, and it renewed my interest in doing something with
G: What was his name?
S: Wallace McKenzie. That is when I discovered my conducting abilities, but that was
really dumb. I should never have done it. I was twenty-three years old. He also did
[Arnold] Schoenberg's Friede auf Erden in the church choir. Then I got out of the army in
August 1964, three months early--they call it an "early out"--to take a job teaching junior
high music in Silver Spring, Maryland. Technically I am a Vietnam veteran of two weeks,
because the Gulf of Tonkin incident occurred as I was waiting for my papers to be
processed so I could leave. Everybody was walking on eggs for fear they would be kept in.
I was really nice to the guys in personnel because I did not want anybody messing with my
Anyway, I did get out. I left the army on a Monday, and by Friday was in a junior high
school in Silver Spring. It was a big transition. In the army I was a first lieutenant. That is
no great shakes, but I was no longer totally new, and when I asked people to do things they
would tend to do it. Not so in junior high--not so! I taught there for a year and planned to
stay there. I had it all figured out: I would be there for three years, then I would move up to
senior high school for three years, then work on my doctorate at the University of Maryland
or maybe Catholic University. Then I would become a music supervisor or maybe even a
I had been there for three months and got a notice from a placement office I had
registered with the year before saying there was a one-year interim appointment open at
Mars Hill College in North Carolina. I thought I should not fail to open a door. So I sent an
application in, and, to my shock, I was asked for an interview. I was given job! I
discovered later that there were only three people who applied. I had the good sense even
then to write or call the dean and tell him that I was going to be in the area and would be
pleased to drop by to meet him. I was interviewed over Christmas vacation and nobody
else was on campus. I was interviewed by the dean and the president. I was hired and the
music faculty had never met me; that is impossible these days. I did not know what I was
getting into. But it worked out to be a big, big break.
G: Mars Hill was one of the schools that you mentioned way back that your folks wanted
you to attend. Is that the name of the town?
S: Yes. It is "nineteen miles from known sin."
G: Oh, really?
S: [Laughter] That is the way it used to be.
G: It is in the mountains, right?
S: It is nineteen miles north of Asheville, seriously. Back when I was thinking of going to
college, it was a junior college. It became a senior college in 1963, I believe. I started
teaching in Silver Spring in 1964, and at Mars Hill in the fall of 1965. It was a one-year
G: What was the position?
S: I directed the touring choir and the chorus, I taught eight or ten voice students, and I
G: Were they music majors?
S: Yes. In addition, I taught two sections of a course for elementary classroom teachers.
Two sections! And I had never before been inside an elementary classroom except as a
student. But in small departments in those days, you did what you had to do. I tried to
read the chapters ahead of the students so at least I would know the material. There were
probably twenty-five hours of contact a week, a load that now you would think was
unreasonable. After being in junior high, though, I thought it was wonderful. And junior
high was easy after the service. When I began teaching at college, I thought, it just gets
better every year! But I also took salary cuts. I took about a fifteen percent salary cut to
leave the army to go to junior high school. I took another fifteen to twenty-five percent to
leave junior high school to go to college, since it was a one-year appointment.
But it was really exciting for me; I really enjoyed the college kids and the music.
There were seventy-something music majors at the college at the time. They really did
have a fine tradition and were attracting outstanding students. I look back and there were
more outstanding vocal and organ students at Mars Hill College in the late sixties than
anyplace I have been since. It was just phenomenal. There were nineteen organ majors.
Most of them went on to good grad schools; some got their doctorates. They just had
outstanding vocalists, too. Frankly, I was disappointed that the fellow whose place I took
came back. But, of course, it was his job. It was interim because I was taking the place of
Dr. Robert Rich, who is now down at Stetson [University in Deland, Florida]. He was at
Mars Hill and had gone back to Eastman to do his doctorate. While he did his residency, I
was hired to fill in for him. He came back, and I had to leave.
G: Where did you go?
S: I spent the next year selling books and other educational materials with a company
known as SRA--Science Research Associates. I did that because the choir was so good
and I enjoyed the work there a lot, but I had completed no work toward my doctorate. I had
never set aside the time to resolve my own vocal problems, so I was not a good soloist. It
seemed to me that people were looking for voice teachers who could also direct a choir. I
was pretty depressed about whether I would find anything without a lot of serious vocal
work. We had two kids then and discovered a third was on the way. Although we had
resigned from having any more children, we had not resigned from the activity that leads to
that! So, we discovered that a third one was on the way about the same time that we
discovered that Bob really was going to come back. There had been speculations that as
he got further along, he would find another job. He did not and he came back.
This was along about February 1966. I had applied for a couple of teaching jobs, but
nothing was opening up. I was not getting any responses at all. I had an offer to go to
Charlotte. Do you know Jim Hall? For years he has been the state supervisor of North
Carolina. At the time he was supervisor of music in Charlotte. I had met him back when I
was at Wake Forest, and he had seen me at Mars Hill. He was recruiting, and they were
opening a new high school, Olympia High School, in Charlotte. He wanted me to come
down and be the choral director. I thought it would be great, but I would have had to take
another salary cut. I am not the greatest financial wizard, but I finally figured out that taking
a fifteen to twenty-five percent cut every year is not the way to go. So I decided not to take
About the time that happened, I got a call from my college roommate, whom I had
not seen since graduation. He told me he had just gotten this great new job working for
SRA. The company was expanding rapidly and money from the federal government was
coming in to help poverty-stricken and racially discriminated schools. It was part of Lyndon
Johnson's war on poverty--building the Great Society. There was money going in for
reading materials to teach kids how to read. This company was one of the few companies
that had innovative, individualized reading materials. They were just making money hand
over fist, and they were expanding, expanding, expanding. I said, "Frank [Glenn], I have
absolutely no interest in selling anything." He said, "Well, you sold pots and pans in
college, and you did okay."
Finally, I agreed to drive to Columbia, South Carolina one Saturday afternoon and
just talk to them. I thought at least I would get a free lunch out of it. But I was amazed. I
liked these guys. They treated me very well and seemed to be pleasant, well-balanced
people. They were talking about the kind of money I had not even dreamed of. When I
started out, I was making $6,000 in junior high school one year and $5,000 in college the
next year. It was typical for these guys, my age or a year older, the first year to be making
$25,000 to $30,000 in 1966. I said, "This is amazing. I could do that!" There were no
other jobs opening up, so I did it; I signed on with them.
I could not go to graduate school. We had the three kids now and there was no
money in savings--I had not been making enough to save anything. So I went to work with
SRA. Also, in music at that time, there were almost no fellowships being offered. I thought
I would work for a while and then move into management. Everytime I would go to a
college campus and do a presentation, I would get homesick. I really wanted to be a
professor. I had sold my soul for a mess of porridge. I was making money. My wife was
not working and I was making enough for us to live very comfortably and put $300 a month
in a savings account. But then I got this wild idea that I really had to be a professor. So
after a year I quit and went back to grad school.
G: Where was this?
S: Louisiana State [University] at Baton Rouge.
G: So what year are we up to now? 1967? 1968?
S: Let me see. I was at Mars Hill from 1965-1966, and with SRA from 1966-1967, so this
was in the summer of 1967. I went there principally because I had met a voice teacher
whom I liked, and he said he could help me work out my voice problems. So I went to LSU
in June of 1967. I left my wife to sell the house and manage the kids and to move. I went
down to start summer school and get started with voice lessons. I had voice lessons two
times a week for the month of June. On the Fourth of July weekend, I drove back to North
Carolina with a friend. When we returned to Baton Rouge following the Fourth of July
break, we discovered my voice teacher had had a heart attack and I never saw him again
G: What was his name?
S: Loren Davidson. That was a big shock because he was the reason I had gone down
there. They also had a music education program, and I was going to do a Ph.D. in music
education. They had a music education professor that I had heard about, and I wanted to
study with him. He died before I got there and I did not even know it. They had just started
the doctoral program, and my view of it was that they were so insecure that we graduate
students were treated like dirt. I had my own set of anxieties about whether I had done the
right thing to leave a job that was paying well to go back to school. In my view, the place
was run by obnoxious secretaries.
That was one of the worst years I had ever had. Davey [Loren Davidson] died with a
whole studio of voice students. He did not die until October, so they could not replace him.
So they hired a woman from the community who was, in my view, a nice, well-to-do lady
who had a pleasant voice. She was basically a socialite, as I saw her. I was assigned to
her. After a semester of that, I said the hell with it. I was ready to totally leave the field of
music. I took courses outside of music spring semester because I thought I would fall back
on my English teaching certificate. I thought I would go back and get some education
courses and start over. I would be a junior high English teacher. I was really
discouraged--discouraged is a mild word to describe it. We had sold the house, we had
blown the savings we had put together, we had borrowed money, and the guy whom I went
down to sing for had died. He was really a nice guy. I really liked him and thought he was
a great teacher.
It was a major disappointment. And we had three kids, ages one, three, and five.
We had moved these kids every year trying to do a little better. But I decided this is crazy.
I had applied for jobs teaching English and had been offered a job back in Silver Spring
[Maryland]. I had applied there because it paid more than a lot of other places. It was also
a nice place to live. I had already gotten the offer when I got a call from Mars Hill right out
of the blue saying that their enrollments were expanding and they liked what I had done
there. So the faculty got together and went over to the president to ask him to bring me
It was ego-satisfying, but I had said that I was not going to work for pauper's wages
again. I was going to get paid $9,500-9,600 to teach English at this other school. I
thought, at Mars Hill the cost of living is a lot less and they cannot afford that kind of
money, but I would hold out for $8,000. I knew that would cinch it because I was hired for
$5,500 at Mars Hill. I thought they would never go beyond $7,500, but they offered me
$8,200. Dumb me--I learned later that he was ready to go to $8,500 if I had just asked.
When I went back to Mars Hill the department was indeed expanding, and I had the
second choirs and the left-over voice students and conducting class. I became the acting
co-administrator of the department while the department head went back to Indiana to try
and finish his twenty-year doctorate degree; it finally took him twenty-two years to finish it! I
had begun to think I might like to get into administration. I had noticed that when I was
teaching, especially at Mars Hill, that things seemed awfully disorganized to me. I thought,
if I am twenty-six years old and these things seem silly to me, I could do things better than
that. The department chairman had told me the first year at Mars Hill that I should go back
to graduate school to get my doctorate, and then come back and be the department head
because he did not want to do that anymore. I felt complimented, but I did not think too
much about it. Then I got the chance to go back. Being the acting co-administrator meant
that the music librarian and I were going to share the administrative duties of this
department that had thirteen faculty members. It was in a first-class facility; the auditorium
was the best I had ever been in. They had fine Steinways in all of the studios--just
G: Was this Baptist-church supported?
S: That is right. Music was without question the dominant department. So I said, fine.
After about two weeks of trying to work with this woman--who is probably a very fine lady,
but was also stereotypically the "little old maid missionary librarian"--I went to the president
and said, "Look, this is not working, and unless you have a better idea, I would be glad to
do the whole thing." So he made me the acting head of the department. She was going to
have to go back to the library. I was acting department head for two years. The guy who
was the department head, John Adams, had never wanted to be department head, anyway;
when he was hired it was tied in with the job. So when he saw that I was doing things the
way he wanted them done, it all worked out. I enjoyed doing administration, so I got to be
department head and he got to go back and teach piano.
G: Did he ever get his doctorate?
S: Several years later. He completed four years of residency: two years in the early sixties
and two years in the late sixties.
G: Did you get to do some choral stuff, too?
S: Oh, yes. The load settled down after the first two weeks. I taught the second choir,
conducting courses, voice students, and some music education. I also taught hymnology
and choral literature. I even developed a course in ear-training the way I think it ought to
be taught, but, since I am not doing it actively, I have never pursued it. It would be
exercises in score reading in which the student would be presented with a line of printed
music, and then the line would be played, possibly with some mistakes; the student's job
would be to identify what was wrong. I became convinced that that was a skill that
teachers and conductors use. Performers use the sight-seeing or the reading skill. Most
conductors, however, are trained to vocalize the line or perform the line on an instrument,
but they are not trained specifically to look at the score and tell when the note is wrong. It
is a different skill. It is related, of course, but it is a different skill. You can identify an
incorrect note in a score that is much more complex than you can play. I discovered that
that is what singers had to do. Singers had real problems with this when they were trying
to be choral conductors--read one line at a time. Then, after four years, Bob Rich, the
person whose place I had taken until he came back, got the job at Stetson. Then I directed
the second choir for the next four years. That was a really good time for me.
G: What size school was Mars Hill back then?
S: In the late sixties and early seventies enrollment was around 1500 students. By 1975
we had 175 music majors. We had a choir where we took forty kids on tour, and all but four
or five of them were voice majors. One year, in the period 1974-1976, probably a fourth of
the singers in the undergraduate choir went on to get master's degrees in voice
performance at major schools.
There was one young lady who was clearly the star. There were a number of stars,
but everyone knew she was the one who had the intuitive musical spark that you simply do
not learn. She had had no training before she came. She had only done a little picking and
singing in central Virginia. Ten years after we accepted her as a freshman, she made her
debut at La Scala Opera Company in Milan, Italy, one of the great opera houses in the
These kids were really good. I took them to the Music Educators National
Conference annual conference in Atlanta in 1976. We sang at the Kennedy Center. Your
old director, Richard Brewer [of Pfeiffer College] and I believed our choirs were the best in
the state. Lara Hoggard had good choirs at Chapel Hill, and Richard Cox had good choirs
at U.N.C. Greensboro, but we had the private schools licked.
G: What they had to draw from was a whole different story.
S: The truth of the matter is that I liked our choirs better.
G: I did, too. But I was prejudiced, and I still am.
S: I was the North Carolina A[merican] C[horal] D[irectors] A[ssociation] president from
1974 to 1976, and Lara Hoggard and I organized these collegiate choral festivals.
G: Yes, at UNC [Greensboro] there were a few.
S: We moved around from year to year. I remember one year Lara said to me, "Joel, what
I could do if I had voices like that!" I have great admiration for that man. We really did
have good voices. Certainly in the years 1974-1976 they were highly motivated, and we
had a lot of nice performances. Then, about the fall of 1975, I was beginning to think that I
should finish my doctorate or I would be at Mars Hill forever. I thought the world must be
better outside of the mountains of North Carolina. So I put a big push on and finally
finished the doctorate in education down at Chapel Hill.
G: That was a Ph.D.?
S: It was a Ph.D. in education. It is very similar to the degrees here through the college of
education, but a large part of my work was in music.
G: Was Lara Hoggard still there?
S: Oh, yes, he was there. Lara had known me since I was fifteen years old. He tried to
recruit me when I was fifteen to go to the school where he directed the choir. It was Indian
Springs School in Helena, Alabama. He had the choir there for several years. But I was
not able to go. There was not enough money, and my parents did not want me to leave
home. Anyway, Lara has been really kind to me. He was having a lot of trouble with the
faculty at Chapel Hill at the time. He did not understand why some of the younger faculty
did not want to learn from his expertise. It was one of those terribly unfortunate things
where there were bad feelings--worse than bad, apparently--and he eventually said that he
would not conduct on that campus anymore. He quit conducting the Carolina Choir before
he retired. I suspect that he was not treated well, but there were probably two sides to that.
G: In what year did you finish?
S: I finished the Ph.D. in November 1975, and within the week I had fifteen or twenty
applications out. I had decided I wanted to leave Mars Hill and that I was either going to go
into administration full-time or I was going to be a full-time director of choral activities at
some larger place. I was not really sure which one one I wanted to do more. I finished the
degree in November, and in December Joel Carter called me. Do you remember the name
Joel Carter? He was a choral director and voice teacher and music education person at
Chapel Hill in the music department for years. We just auditioned a doctoral student here
who had studied with Joel. Anyway, he called me and asked if I was interested in being
considered for a position they were going to have open at Chapel Hill when Lara retired. It
was just an inquiry; it was not a job offer or anything like that. But it was a nice, pleasant
thing. I thought, this is really great, I will get to go to Chapel Hill. I got to fantasizing about
succeeding Lara Hoggard and teaching a graduate course and conducting the Carolina
Choir. But it never moved further, and shortly after that I was invited to go to Ithaca College
to interview for the job of dean of music there. That did work out, so I went there.
G: Is that Ithaca, New York?
G: Was Clinton Parker there as Lara Hoggard's sidekick?
S: Clinton was at Chapel Hill as a graduate student. He went there, that is, to UNC at
Chapel Hill, year-round; I was working at Mars Hill at the same time Clinton was down there
as a student. Clinton was exactly what Lara was fond of saying he was not. Clinton was
Lara's "boy Friday." I would not have thought of that term, but Lara had said he did not
want me to think that Clint is his "Friday." Then I began to look around and saw that Clint
was his "Friday." He drove him places and looked after his schedule, which, frankly, I think
is fine. If I could get someone to drive me around here, I would do it.
G: The two of them came to the Century Recording Studios where I worked for Bob Davis
for a few months when they were checking on other choir recordings. Clint drove him, and
that is why I brought it up.
S: Sure. I met Bob Davis the first year I was at Mars Hill. That was when Bob was getting
started, and he came out and recorded. I still have a recording that Bob made of my choir.
G: He did the all-state things that we went to--the state conventions and various things like
that. So it was in 1976 that you went to Ithaca?
G: And you were head of the department?
S: The title there was dean of the school of music. There were 500 music majors there in
1976, forty-three or forty-four full-time faculty members, and ten or twelve part-time people.
When I left in 1985 there were, counting graduate students, probably just under 400
students, and we got to forty to forty-nine full-time faculty members.
G: How large a school was it?
S: About 5,000 students.
G: Is that part of the state system or is it a private school?
S: It is a private school.
G: So how did that compare to rural North Carolina? Or, how did it contrast?
S: It was a big opportunity for me. It was a big move. I was thirty-six when I got the job. I
had interviewed at Ithaca, and a few people knew I was looking, but when I took the tour
with the choir in the spring of 1976 to the Kennedy Center and to Atlantic City, they were
making the decision about who was going to be offered the job. I got the call Saturday,
March 12, 1977 offering me the job. It was a big day. I asked for more money and got a
little bit more when we did the negotiating. That afternoon we had a rehearsal and a
performance. I told the choir during the rehearsal that I was going to leave. There was lots
of crying, but I did not know how else to do it. I wanted them to hear it from me before they
heard it from someone else.
G: In addition to your responsibilities as the dean of the school of music at Ithaca, did you
get the opportunity to do any teaching or choral work?
S: No. I did not do any teaching or conducting there at the college. On occasion I would
do an adjudication or conduct a festival, but I did not do any teaching.
G: Did you miss the conducting part of it? Did you fully enjoy the administration work?
S: Well, I missed the parts of conducting that were fun. I missed the applause and working
with the kids. To tell you the truth, I enjoyed doing the rehearsals at Mars Hill, and I missed
that; it is invigorating. I did not miss all the little petty stuff that you have to do when you
arrange for a choir tour, or the problems kids are always having with each other that you
have to moderate. I began to think that I really liked administration and felt that I was better
at that than I was at conducting. When I was at Mars Hill I noticed some people who were
doing administrative work in larger places and continued to conduct, and it seemed to me
that they were neglecting either one job or the other. I just had this real problem about
doing something that seemed mediocre to me. I am not sure I still feel the same way now,
because there are some times when I would really like to conduct. I enjoyed the festival I
conducted here last fall; they are just a lot of fun. Last spring, in February 1986, I did the
Mars Hill College Choral Clinic, which I had managed for ten years while I was there. That
was a big thrill to go back again as conductor. I really did enjoy that. In 1976 I wanted to
be one or the other; I did not want to have these things mixed up.
To answer your question, the move was to a different climate. It was not just a
change in physical climate--the geography is obviously different. It is a lot colder, and there
is a lot more snow. But the cultural climate in upstate New York is also very different from
the mountains of North Carolina. People basically are the same, but the ways they have
learned to respond in groups is a little different. I guess I felt the influence of the
northeastern labor unions; there was a lot of the feeling that we are going to do what we
are paid to do, but not a lot more than that. Not that everybody felt that way, but there was
that kind of attitude in the air.
The faculty was segmented in a way that I had never run into before. I guess when I
left Mars Hill there were fourteen on the music faculty, which was about the largest
department. With 175 majors, we had the largest number of students. But at Ithaca, we
were three times that large in both students and faculty. Budgets were different, we had a
graduate program, and I was close to the top of the organization. Campus politics in some
ways were exactly the same as at the smaller college. But the manifestation of those
conflicts was often different. It was more of what you would call "hardball." For a while it
seemed to me that everything was a confrontation--a hostile confrontation. There seemed
to be little sense of getting together as colleagues and working things out; it was getting
together to see what we could demand from the administration. I soon found myself siding
with the administration, but I did not really appreciate being stereotyped as one of the bad
G: Did that have anything to do with your coming down here?
S: Yes, probably. I had kind of worked through it. I was thirty-seven when I got there and I
thought that administration was the right thing. I was on my way up; I was going to be here
for five or six years and then move up to dean of music at a big school or vice president
somewhere. Well, none of those things worked--for whatever reason. There was a kind of
hostility there that I found very troublesome, even as time went on. There was a gap
between administration and faculty that I thought was unhealthy. But I had decided that
that was the way it was going to be. I was not looking around; I had kind of settled in there.
If something exciting came along sometime, fine.
About the time that this had really settled in--the idea that I was really going to be
here and to take things a day at a time and realize the good things here, and there were a
lot of good things here--I got a call one day from Charles Leonard, a graduate professor of
music education at the University of Illinois who is now retired. He was recommending one
of his doctoral students for a position we had open at Ithaca. In the course of the
conversation, he asked, "Oh, by the way. Are you interested in that job in Florida?" I said,
"Charlie, what job are you talking about?" I did not know what job was open there because
I was not looking. He had written recommendation letters for me before. He said that the
University of Florida had an opening and I ought to look at it. I said, "I do not know
anything about the University of Florida. I do not know who the chairman is or anything
about the school. And it bothers me that I do not know anything about it." He said that
there was some potential there and some good things happening that I ought to look at. I
said, "Charlie, I am not going to apply, but if you feel after this conversation that you want to
nominate me, then fine. But I am not going to initiate anything."
About two days later I had a phone call from Arnold Penland, who was chairman of
the search committee. I had forgotten Arnold was at the University of Florida. I had known
Arnold since I was at Wake Forest; he was a young teacher at Reidsville or someplace
outside of Winston-Salem. I had kept up with him periodically. Arnold directed the B[aptist]
Student] U[nion] choir just before I did. Anyway, he called and told me that if I was
interested he had to have something from me in writing. I said to myself, okay, follow
through; do not close any doors. As things would have it, everything fell into place. Every
week I almost wrote Arnold a note telling him to forget it; I do not have the energy to go
through this. But I never got up enough energy to write it. I came down here and was
amazed. I liked the place. I liked the people I met. I thought, well, here is a big university
and a program that has a long way to go; maybe there is a future here.
Everything fell right into place. It was easy; I did not have to do anything. I was not
working to come here, but all the doors just opened, even down to the move from Ithaca.
We put our house on the market right after I got a firm offer here. On a Wednesday, June,
my wife, left to come down here to look for a house, and Thursday night she called and
said she found a house she liked, but she knew that there was not time because we would
have to sell our house in Ithaca first. Five minutes after she called, our agent in Ithaca
called and said someone wanted to look at our house the next day. They saw the house in
Ithaca at 9:00 the next morning. By early afternoon we had a firm purchase offer, and all
the papers were signed by Saturday morning. At the same time I called June. With the
agents talking together it was assured we would have some money at the time of closing,
and we had to sign the offer contract here.
G: Is this the summer of 1985?
S: This would have been May of 1985. We got a mover who showed up when he said he
was going to show up, and who showed up in Gainesville when he said he was going to
show up. We came in here and I went to work on July 1, and when I came home the
furniture was moved in. What else do you want to know?
G: Are you glad you came here?
S: Yes. Everything has its other side. It has been an adjustment. One of the difficulties at
Ithaca was that the music school there had been the founding unit of the institution. Ithaca
had begun as a conservatory. I had the best office on campus--a higher office than the
president had. It was the central office because the music school was in the center of the
campus. I had windows on two walls which overlooked a beautiful lake, and if it were not
foggy, you could see the lake. Most of the students were very highly motivated; they
wanted to be performers or teachers. Almost all the students at Ithaca were music majors.
We had a full orchestra of students. When I went into an orchestra rehearsal, there were
eighty-five kids sitting there ready to rehearse. We were not doing as much as we should
have with the non-majors. Something I regard as one of the major contributions I made
there was helping them to do some more things with the non-majors, to take a different
attitude about it. The attitude there was "who cares? We are training people to play and to
teach, not to sit in the audience."
Of course, here you have got (roughly speaking) 150 majors. But the problems and
the opportunities are almost a mirror image. Here, a music department was very late in
coming to the University. In my opinion, it does not yet have its rightful place. The struggle
here is to gain acceptance. Some days I would be happy with less acceptance and more
money. It is building here. By the time this department was founded in 1948 or 1949,
Ithaca was already an old school. They were reaping the rewards of a lot of years. That
made a big, big difference. I do not think there is any question that we had the best
undergraduate music education program in New York state. I think it was better than
Eastman's program at the undergraduate level. Here we are still trying to convince people
that we need to do this, we need to do that, and that is a bit of a frustration. But everything
has its problems. We were the oldest school there, and the problem there was to convince
people that we ought to keep it. Other programs were coming along and there was a
constant fight for the money. Here I am trying to get money from somebody else who is
accustomed to getting money. There the music school was accustomed to getting things
and trying to hold on to them and trying to build and change directions.
So, in that way, it is always the same; you are always making adjustments to the
realities. That part of administration I really liked. I enjoyed sensing what was there--I did
have some vision of what we might do--and then trying to shape things so that we can
achieve our goals. In that way it is like a rehearsal. But the difference is that in a rehearsal
you can make changes it right there, usually. In administration it took a longer time, and I
was constantly thinking of not just the present problems, but those of next week, the
budget, the graduate students, the next year and the year after, fund-raising, grants for
buildings. It is almost a mirror image of Ithaca, but this is growth time here, and it is growth
time in Florida. The time I was in New York was decline time, and the job was trying to
maintain enrollments, budgets, and so forth. The doctoral program is different here.
People are about the same, but they act differently because of their cultural differences.
G: Have you been able to tell how much of the control--of money, perhaps or the program
you are interested in boosting--belongs to the state? We have heard talk about FSU's not
being particularly interested in some of the programs here because for many years they
were the music school and still probably have that reputation. Is there still some sort of a
problem with that that you have come across?
S: I think there is in the minds of some people. I do not really subscribe to that opinion. If
you are not careful, you will take a disappointment of fifteen years ago and perpetuate it
forever. Things are changing very fast. I simply remind us that 800 people a day are
moving into the state of Florida. Florida State is a fine school, but we do not have to be like
Florida State. I personally do not feel intimidated at all by Florida State. I do not
understand why anyone would be intimidated or fearful of Florida State. It would be stupid,
in my view, to try to make this program a duplicate of the one there. I have checked it out,
and there are at least a half dozen states that have found ways to have fine music
programs of different characters in at least two major universities, like UNC at Chapel Hill
and UNC at Greensboro.
UNC Greensboro is much like Florida State in its tradition. It was a women's school
that stressed music, home economics, those things that women do because they cannot do
anything serious [laughter]. There is a parallel. Michigan and Michigan State--both of
those institutions have fine music schools with doctoral programs. Charles Hoffer, a
member of the UF music faculty, has his degree from Michigan State. Indiana and Indiana
State, and Ball State all have good music programs. They are not all the same; they are
not all duplicates of Indiana University. University of Texas, Austin is very similar to this
institution; North Texas State is very similar to FSU. I get a little frustrated when I hear
about the monolith of FSU that prevents us from doing anything, because it is starting to
sound to me like personal self-pity, and I do not like that.
G: You mentioned something about a new wing for the music building. Would that be
perhaps one of your big hopes, or do you have something else that would be classified as
something you hope to happen here?
S: There are a lot of things I would like to see happen here, Janet. I was told from the
beginning that plans for building a recital hall were included but were cut because of
finances. Clearly, we need a good, decent recital hall. There is space right out there at the
south side where you could put a wing that would include some additional office space,
studios, and a recital hall. The building was really not planned for growth; most buildings
are not. Sometime we have to do something about what I regard as the serious humidity
problem. This "open-air Florida sunshine" idea looks great, but everytime you open a
studio door you are inviting the humidity in, and the cost of the damage that it does to the
instruments is another problem. Yes, I would like to see that happen.
Quite frankly, my first concern at this point is getting enough money to pay the
routine bills for the basic things, like making sure the pianos get tuned and getting the
faculty off on reasonable trips for their own professional development. I would love to see
us get funding so that the professors who conduct ensembles do not have to go to student
government to beg and plead for funds to do things. We do not even buy music for them.
They have to go to student government for money for everything they do. I just read in
today's [Independent Florida] Alligator that the philosophy department--that department
over there that has been put into receivership with God knows how many faculty, I guess
ten or twelve--has had their graduate assistantship budget cut from seven to four. We only
have budget for four or five graduate assistants, depending on how you count the OPS
money. The only way we can have the graduate assistants we have now is because of
salary savings. That is a problem. There has been no piano maintenance contract here.
When I came here, I found pianos with strings hanging out and rust on the wires. You have
got to pay someone to do that work. We have to somehow get into serious private
fund-raising for the whole fine arts area.
Funding is a real problem right now. That is without question the single most
discouraging thing. The place has not been set up at first-class level. I do not mean
first-class as in huge, with big programs like opera or a doctoral program in performance. A
doctoral program in performance is much more expensive than just regular lessons.
Doctoral students are expensive, anyway. We need a doctoral program if for no other
reason than because this is a major university that wants to think of itself as one of the top
state universities in the country. It cannot be a top state university and have certain
departments that are operating well below the national average. If you look at the data in
salaries, operating budget, and staff support, we are well below the national average. The
national average includes all those little schools in the hinterlands around the country.
National average means state-supported universities, so that includes schools like Western
Carolina [University in Cullowhee, NC] and Georgia Southern [College in Statesboro, GA].
There is nothing wrong with that, but that is way different from the league of the American
Association of Universities.
In that league, let us compare ourselves with the University of Texas in music. They
also have a department of music and a college of fine arts. They have 3,000 majors in the
college of fine arts. Let us compare ourselves with University of North Carolina in music,
which does not have that many majors, but has a first-class scholarly program. The dean
from the University of Michigan was out here recently. They have got sort of a combination
of a Chapel Hill and an FSU. Their dean told me that his annual operating budget is nearly
a million dollars. We have about $50,000 here. That includes all the piano maintenance,
all the tune-ups, buying equipment, etc. We have a long way to go. I am not discouraged
about that yet because I do think that things change. I have never stayed at anyplace long
without having things change. I expect change; I do not ever think that things are not going
to change. Once in a while you get depressed. Aside from an occasional "oh, we had a
problem today," it just never seriously occurs to me that things will not change.
I suppose that we would have a problem if I got to where I felt that it was not
possible. I think there is an energy here. We have some awfully good faculty members.
Frankly, a number of the faculty who have been here for a long time are a whole lot better
than they get credit for, but they are often not recognized because they have not had the
environment to support them for a long time. They have not had the professional
expectations; they have not had the pressure; they have not had the scholarly support.
We have got an orchestra here that has never been the type orchestra where you
walked in and found the students sitting there ready to play with their parts learned. When I
led the choir at Mars Hill, after I was there for a year or so, I never worked parts with those
kids. After a while I would never even have to say it is not right; I would control tempos,
tone color, balance, etc. But if the altos were singing wrong notes, the alto section leader
would turn around and say, "Look, you bitches. Tonight we are going to be here at 6:30."
This, quite literally, is what she sometimes said. She would say, you be here at 6:30
tonight and you learn this because you are embarrassing me. We have not had a history of
that kind of atmosphere here. I know there are people here who, when I talk about that
kind of thing, say, "Oh, that is frightening." But when it is done, it comes from the students'
morale and the students' pride in themselves, and that is not frightening at all. The
students love it because they do not want to sing in public and not do well. And once they
learn what it is like to sound great, then you do not have to worry.
But we are not there yet; we have a lot of problems to work out. I guess that is a
vision I have. I think you can do those things without the other extreme, which is
frightening to some people. You do not want to make this program like FSU or the Juilliard
of the South. It is a great responsibility teaching hundreds and hundreds of kids who are
not music majors. It is a great mission for non-majors. To me the great challenge here is
all of that. I think we can do it better than places that are
already encrusted with traditions and success. There is nothing quite so encrusting
as success, unless it turns into a miserable failure.
G: Speaking of FSU, we have heard that the proposal for a new Ph.D. program through
the school of music itself--not in conjunction with the school of education--is in the works
here. As a matter of fact, we have heard that it went to the Board of Regents, but that is
about all. Could you tell us something about that?
S: When I got here in 1985, there was a proposal already in process for a Ph.D. in fine
arts. That has been rejected, and we were asked to go back and develop a Ph.D. in music.
The fields we have chosen to work toward a Ph.D. are music education,
composition/theory, and historical musicology. The proposal is now in the hands of the
Board of Regents. I do not know what the chances are of getting that through. My
personal opinion is about 50/50, or maybe a little better than that. I think we can do that
program. I think we have or could have the staff to do that. I think a critical issue is going
to be whether the Board of Regents believes that the University of Florida is going to
properly fund the program. To do this well, we have to have significantly higher levels of
funding. I have said this to everybody. I have expressed my feelings in writing. And a
number of other people have said this, too. I would rather not do it if it means putting in a
poorly funded doctoral program on top of an already poorly funded music program. My
suspicion is that when it comes down to it, if this university has to say yes or no--we will
fund it well or not--it will fund the program pretty well, since I do not think this university
wants to see a Ph.D. program rejected. I think that the key people know that we have
faculty in principal positions who could pull this thing off. I could be disappointed, but that is
G: What are the projected times for this?
S: The earliest time that this could be in place would be in the fall of 1988. Students who
are now enrolled could presumably be "grandfathered" in because the work could be
transferred. I really think the chances are about 50/50--1 would not want to put my hand in
the fire. The fact of the matter is, if they say, "Look, we are not going to fund you at that
level," I would rather know that now than start down the road and discover that we cannot
get graduate assistantships, scholarships, etc. That would be a terrible thing to do. I am
putting all the energy I can into trying to get those things. I think a Ph.D. program at this
University is one of the ways we could get the kind of recognition and clout we deserve,
and get adequate funding for the rest of our needs. We have to get out of the syndrome
that what we have is a program suited only for a few people who are sort of entertaining
themselves because they have nothing better to do. I realize that that is a sarcastic,
emotional statement, and it is exaggerated, but I am trying to do everything I can. I think a
lot of the faculty really want to get beyond that, but there has been a history of it, and things
do not change that fast.
G: Sounds good. I want to thank you very much on behalf of the Oral History Program for
your time. I feel honored, and I thank you for your contribution.