Rosa Parks in Anchorage

Phyllis and I married on June 28, 1958, and immediately left Kentucky to drive across the country (much of our drive was on Route #66) to California. This was Phyllis' first trip to California and my second summer at the Robert Shaw workshop at San Diego State College (now University.) One day after a class Mr. Shaw told me about a new Music Festival he had recently started in Anchorage, Alaska and said, "Bill, someday you should go to the Anchorage Festival of Music." Having never been to Alaska, I was intrigued and hoped that sometime in the future I would be able to go there and sing in Mr. Shaw's summer chorus.

Many years later, in 1994, I received a call from the manager of the Anchorage Festival of Music inviting me to become the Artistic Director and Conductor of the Festival, a position I held for four years. It was a wonderful experience, not only because of the fine dedicated musicians, soloists, chorus, and instrumentalists but also because of our wonderful hosts, Flo and Jim Rooney, and the magnificent expansive scenery, of Alaska.

One Saturday afternoon Phyllis and I were walking around an open market, filled with many wonderful native artifacts, art objects, and all sorts of foods for sale. At one end of the market was a makeshift stage that had been erected. We were shopping near that stage when a couple of people appeared and the public address system was turned on and tested. We were standing at the very edge of the stage when an elderly African American woman was introduced. She spoke quietly and it would have been almost impossible to hear her had we not been near enough to reach out and touch her shoes. It was Rosa Parks, best known for her pivotal role in the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott. What a thrill to hear her say, Racism is still with us. But it is up to us to prepare our children for what they have to meet, and, hopefully, we shall overcome.

In America we are still attempting to overcome and, hopefully, her dream will someday become a reality.

Rosa Parks
Rosa Parks
Alaska images
Some items from the "market"
Gift from the Anchorage Festival of Music
William Ramsey
Anchorage Festival of Music
Conductor, Artistic Director

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