(Looking Back, page 2)            
broadcasts of it; and I borrowed miniature scores from the Music Division of the Chicago Public Library, studied them voraciously, then reproduced much of what I learned in the form of introductory passages to unfinished works for super-sized orchestras that were at least stylistically derivative if not overtly plagiaristic.
This intense activity eventually earned me the traditional paternal admonishment against a career in music. I initially heeded my father's advice by pursuing an alternative ambition in creative writing. I studied books on the craft of writing fiction, produced several short stories and even the beginnings of a novel, submitted manuscripts to such periodicals as Collier’s magazine and the Saturday Evening Post, and enrolled as an English major at the University of Chicago. During this time I worked for two years as an usher at the Oriental Theater in the Loop, which afforded me the opportunity to view over
30 first-run major motion pictures—some only once or twice but many of them as much as 30 or 40 times. This immersion in the cinematic art-form exposed me not only to the music of many superb film composers but also to the screen plays of many fine writers. However, my short-story writing teacher at the University of Chicago, Richard Sterne, observed one day that I seemed to be more at home with music than with words. How perceptive!
During my first two years at the University of Chicago, I continued to write music in my spare time. When a faculty composer, Leland Smith, saw one of my attempts, he encouraged me to register for some theory courses which he felt would be beneficial to me. As this suggestion reinforced my growing interest in a musical career via oboe, the transfer of my major from English to Music was easily accomplished—and my father's advice easily forgotten.
Thus I began, in the fall of 1957 at the age of twenty, my formal training as a composer. I studied harmony, counterpoint, analysis and music history with V. Howard Talley, Grosvenor Cooper, Leonard Meyer and Daniel Heartz. I wrote Palestrina-like counterpoint, Bach-ish fugue and Hindemith-ian compositional exercises. The music building was situated at 58th and Woodlawn, just north of Rockefeller Chapel (where I attended Sunday morning services during 1957-58) and diagonally across the corner from Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural masterpiece, the Robie House, which I was privileged to gaze at through the classroom window while listening to my music professors.
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During this same period I pursued my training on oboe with Ray Still and Earl Schuster of the Chicago Symphony. I was a member of various school and community orchestras—most notably the Civic Orchestra, the apprentice group to the Chicago Symphony. As an usher for the Chicago Symphony and then as a member of the Civic Orchestra, I was able to hear most if not all of the Chicago Symphony’s concerts for two years under Fritz Reiner.
Copyright © 2010 Donald M. Wilson. All rights reserved.