Friday, July 15, 2011

How I Spent my Summer Vacation, Part II

I said I attended a 4th of July concert by the Hartford Symphony and I meant it. I know a wide variety of people read this so I will say to some of you, Hartford, Conn., not Hartford Tenn. (Or Wis.!) Enough Lady Vol fans read this so that some must surely be acquainted with the city where the UConn Huskies play some of their games. (UConn’s campus is about an hour east in Storrs).

I attended the U of Hartford for undergrad; back then Hartt was one of the “13 best music schools in the country.” There were a lot of opportunities and it was a half-hour drive from my parents’ house. Notable graduates of Hartt include Dionne Warwick, Richie Havens, and conductors Neal Gittleman (Dayton Philharmonic and a guest conductor here in the spring of 1999) and Apo Hsu. At the beginning of my junior year (see Feb. 25th blog re the maestro there), I was one of two cellists to win auditions with the Hartford Symphony, the other being a classmate and good friend of mine, Eric Dahlin from Minnesota. My tenure with the HSO was only three seasons, but they were jam-packed with new tunes and I effectively tripled my repertoire beyond what we played in the Hartt College Orchestra.
I visited Eric, his wife and two sons in rural Simsbury the day after their concert. I was astonished that he seemed not to have changed a bit, but he (and everyone I saw from the orchestra that I knew back in the day) seemed taller!! It was scary.
Simsbury figured prominently that day, because it is also the home to my first real cello teacher and high school orchestra director, Josef Treggor, and I got to see him and his wife also! He retired from teaching in 2001. There was a grand party for him, a la “Mr. Holland’s Opus.” Richard Dreyfuss, however, would not very aptly portray Joe. Think Jimmy Stewart meets Bill Murray with a beard.

Joe was a cellist, and had what my parents would call an “artistic temperament,” a term which was lost on me until I acquired one. Growing up he was friends with Peter Tork from the Monkees, and when I first started lessons with him he had (in order) a 1965 Saab, a 1967 VW bus, then a 1969 MGB. He was married to my piano teacher, so I had piano and cello lessons on alternate weeks.

Musically he was ambitious and our high school orchestra (Newington, Conn.) rocked. While I was there we went to DC, Ottawa, and New York on trips for contests, but more importantly, we achieved high levels of artistry and the concept of a chamber orchestra was brought home to me. In 6th grade we were tackling Corelli’s Christmas Concerto, in 8th grade Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 and Bach’s 6th Brandenburg Concerto, and through high school Beethoven’s 1st 3rd, 5th and 8th symphonies, Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture and Reformation Symphony, and Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony.

Joe added a feather to his cap in the mid 70's, acquiring a marine biology degree. His love for oceanography took him to sea, and he eventually voyaged with Jacques Cousteau and spent a good deal of time at Woods Hole on Cape Cod. (Poor guy). He was instrumental (ouch) in protecting a small, but beautiful waterfall that was threatened by a road construction project in Newington. His second wife, Kumi, is a former classmate of mine and Eric’s at Hartt College. How’s that for ironic?

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