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26th AMENDMENT SIGNING | MEMORIES

*Humility

As posted in previous "memories", my earliest involvement in music had been with instrumental music (piano, clarinet, oboe, saxophone) I had always participated as a singer as well. Solo vocal study while in high school was limited to brief coaching from instrumental teachers and only after entering University was I able to seek private vocal instruction. I had, however, collected recordings of some of the finest vocal performers in the world. I was particularly infatuated by the singing of baritone, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (1925-2012) and soprano, Elisabeth Schwartzkopf (1915-2006.)

After entering the University of Kentucky I was fortunate to be able to study voice with Aimo Kiviniemi (tenor) and also Phyllis Jenness (mezzo) both outstanding musicians and vocal teachers. Upon graduation from University, I studied with Hans Joachim Heinz at Juilliard in New York City and eventually with Luigi Ricci and Renata Heredia Capnist in Rome Italy. (To read more about these and other excellent musicians' influence upon me, click here.

During my early vocal studies, it was obvious to me that regardless of my intense dedication and practice that my native vocal instrument was lacking. I had already been accused of having "perfect pitch," rhythmic sensitivity, resilient musical attitudes, and passion for performance, my personal instrument was, from my point of view, unable to be elevated to professional quality. As a result of this realization, I chose to follow a career as a conductor rather than as a vocalist. In spite of this, I managed to be moderately successful as a singer.

My assessment of vocal inadequacies was always in my mind and was once the subject of a humorous night-time dream. I had been fortunate to have been selected as one of the soloists at the Carmel Bach Festival. The Musical Director of the Festival was the magnificent Maestro Sandor Salgo who was the focus of my dream (nightmare?) In my dream I was speaking with the Maestro following a performance and had sought his evaluation of my performance. He answered, "It was adequate." That was the single most important thing that happened in my dream - and the only thing I remembered.

During the Festival there was an opportunity for the performers to participate in a "roast" of the Festival and, specifically, Maestro Salgo. I was asked to speak. I thought (perhaps ill-advised) that I would share my dream about "It was adequate." Because the Maestro was not known for showering others with compliments, those listening to my story laughed and applauded generously. After the "roast" ended, Maestro Salgo approached me and in his heaviest Hungarian accent said, "Bill, it was more than adequate."

After a performance in New York City under the baton of Maestro Thomas Dunn, the conductor and soloists were greeting well-wishers backstage. One person, whom I did not know, approached me, shook my hand and said, "Your performance was wonderful. Congratulations!" I disagreed and made some disparaging comment attempting to excuse a high "F" that I deemed was less than perfect. The person then said, "If I take the time to come backstage and stand in line to shake your hand and tell you how meaningful your performance was to me, at least you could say, 'Thank you' and generously accept my congratulations."

At that moment, I learned another very important life-lesson - not all people comprehend things in exactly the same way, so be gracious and accept comments - both positive and negative - with appreciation. I probably never truly developed the ability to be fully accepting of my own talents, but I did try to be gracious.

Selected singing reviews can be seen here.

* Originally Humility and How We Achieved It was to be the title of a book by Craig Jessop and William Ramsey but we couldn't agree on the author order based upon who was the most humble.

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