The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #149313   Message #3474160
Posted By: Don Firth
31-Jan-13 - 09:29 PM
Thread Name: BS: Death Trap Schoolrooms
Subject: RE: BS: Death Trap Schoolrooms
My initial ambition was to be a writer. Early on, at the suggestion of one of my home teachers, I ODed on historical novels. She had me reading Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, and when I waxed ecstatic about it, she said, "Well, if you liked that, you'll probably enjoy Rafael Sabatini." Indeed I did!

Sabatini turned me on to fencing early on, when I was fourteen. And that's where another teacher proved important. This teacher, Katherine Modrell, taught fencing at the downtown YMCA. I dropped in one evening to watch the class, and after a bit, she came over to me and we started chatting. I told her that I would love to be able to fence, but obviously with my legs, I couldn't. She said, "Well, wait a minute. Let's just see what you can do."

Rap, a fencer, has heard all this.

It turned out that I could assume a sort of stiff-legged guard position (instead of the springy bent legs) and I couldn't lunge, but I could step fairly swiftly forward (CLICKY). I could also advance and retreat. Katherine reasoned that since I couldn't carry the attack to my opponent, I needed to develop a very airtight defense with parries, ripostes, and counterattacks. It worked!! After a few years I started entering regular competitions and I could hold my own with able-bodied fencers. I don't have any championships, but I have a very satisfying collection of second and third place medals and trophies.

Bless you, Katherine! I am eternally grateful!

I entered the University of Washington with fiction writing as my goal, both historical fiction and science fiction. But after a couple of years, I encountered a couple of people who were passionately interested in folk music (WELL before it was generally popular; this was about 1952). I also met Walt Robertson who really spurred my interest. Subsequently I changed my major to Music.

There, too, in the U. of W. School of Music, I was helped by one particular music professor when I was denied entrance because "folk music is not a worthwhile study and the guitar is not a genuine musical instrument!" Prof. Verrall arranged a special audition for me and Dr. Stanley Chappel decided that I was striving to be essentially a modern day minstrel (tip of the hat to Richard Dyer-Bennet!), and that I would be an interesting addition to the School of Music. The school now has a classic guitar teacher in residence (Michael Partington), and I like to think that back in 1957 I may have helped to kick the door open.

I did not need a degree for what I wanted to do, either as a writer or as a performing musician, so I had a certain freedom as to the courses I took. Advised by Dr. Verrall and later, at the Cornish College of the Arts, by Lochrem Johnson ("I don't care if you want to play tissue paper and comb, just as long as you're serious about your music!"), I was able to take the courses that I felt I needed, with good advice from these two professors.

There are some wonderful teachers in the world, and schools of various kinds can be a marvelous resource.

I can't hear someone putting them down in general without speaking out strongly.


All of which doesn't really have that much to do with the subject at hand. But I felt I needed I had to speak out.

Don Firth