Bits of Stone for Sunday, April 14
By Dean Stone | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Three artists from Young Pianist Series in 2013 Van Cliburn competition
First, more about the Evelyn Miller Young Pianist Series which began in 1980 at UT as the result of the untiring efforts of piano teacher Evelyn Miller.
Miss Miller was the first soloist with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra in its inaugural concert in 1935. She played again for the 50th anniversary season. She died in 2006 at age 96.
In 1980, piano teacher Dr. David Northington performed in the first series. He is now professor of piano at UT and on the Young Pianist Series board of directors.
Sandy Stewart Murphy was leader
For 22 years the late Sandy Stewart Murphy, director of music at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Maryville, was executive director of the series. Before her untimely death a year ago of lung cancer she was able to move the series to the Clayton Center on the Maryville College campus.
Sandy was the daughter of Jack and Kathleen Stewart. In his early 90s, Jack is a professional musician retired from ALCOA who still plays the violin in the Maryville-Alcoa orchestra.
Local members of the board of the Young Pianist Series are Fred Tolhurst, Donna Swan and Steve Radford.
Needless to say, it is very rare to have three pianists who have appeared in an organization’s programs reach the Van Cliburn competition in the same year.
The three who have performed in the Young Pianist Series and are in the Van Cliburn competition May 24-June 29 in Fort Worth, Texas:
Steven Lin, a 23-year-old, who performed here Jan. 27.
Eric Zuber, who performed Jan. 29, 2012.
Sara Daneshpour, who performed January 2008 and 2009 before the Young Pianist Series was moved to Clayton Center.
Both Lin and Zuber were house guests of Fred and Jane Tolhurst when they performed here. The Tolhursts showed them the area and enjoyed some of their relaxed practice sessions in their home.
Van Cliburn’s Soviet victory recalled
We are not particularly well informed on the arts but anyone alive in April 1958, the time of Van Cliburn’s triumph in the Soviet Union, will remember that name. (Van Cliburn died Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, at age 78).
His moment of musical triumph occurred only six months after the Soviets had flaunted their technological might by launching the first sputnik satellite. The Tchaikovsky competition was supposed to display their cultural superiority as well.
The lanky 23-year-old Louisiana-born, Texas-bred pianist with the wavy pompadour, soft drawl, prodigious technique and golden tone, against all odds performed the Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto and the Rachmaninov Third Concerto at the competition finale.
It brought him a standing ovation which lasted for nearly 10 minutes. When it was time to choose a winner, the judges were obligated to ask permission of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to award the first prize to an American.
“Is he the best?” Khruschchev asked. “Then give him the prize!” He won the gold medal in the first year of the Tchaikovsky International Competition, propelling him to an overnight sensation and a phenomenally successful and lucrative career.
Garnet Manges at Knoxville concert
Dr. Robert Bonham, piano professor emeritus at Maryville College, recalled Van Cliburn’s concert in the Knoxville Civic Auditorium was probably in the late 1960s.
I remember the concert quite well. Carol Ann Smalley was able to help me recall some details. At that time, Miss Garnet Manges, a well qualified and dedicated piano teacher, wrote a regular column on music for The Daily Times.
She lived in a house at the front door of Maryville’s Sam Houston Elementary School and many neighborhood children walked to her house to take lessons. She was a demanding teacher.
Miss Manges idolized Van Cliburn. His Knoxville performance was an extremely big and successful event for her because we were able to assure that her consuming desire to meet Van Cliburn was met. She was granted a private audience with him backstage.
Van Cliburn continues to affect the quality and opportunity in piano music.
Money is often key to getting elected
It takes money to get elected to any major office.
MapLight, a 501(c)(3) nonpartisan research organization has found that on average each House of Representatives member in the 113th Congress who won election in 2012 raised an average total of $1,689,580, or $2,315 every day during the 2012 cycle.
It found that senators, on average, each raised a total of $10,476,451, or $14,351 every day during the 2012 cycle.
Navy gunner escaped capture in Japan
We were intrigued recently to read the story of Oliver Rasmussen’s adventure in Japan at the end of World War II.
There were thousands of Americans who were prisoners in Japan, but from July 14, 1945, for 68 days until the war ended, he was the only American serviceman in Japan who was not in prison.
The 23-year-old part Chippewa Indian from Wisconsin was a rear gunner on a Navy Curtiss SB2C when his plane crashed into the side of an extinct volcano, Mount Tarumae, in extremely heavy fog. The pilot was killed and Rasmussen severely injured.
Using skills he had learned as a child while camping and hunting, he managed to escape capture until the war ended. His story was so amazing American officials seriously questioned his story. After a month of questioning, he convinced authorities of his story and was able to see his family.
He stayed in the Navy, flew combat missions in the Korean War, survived two more airplane crashes, one of which killed the pilot. Still a flying enthusiast, when he retired from the Navy in 1962, he bought a Cessna 140 with a friend and learned to fly. He went to night school and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
Shortly after he had soloed, at age 56 he was photographed while enjoying skiing with his family on Mount Reba, Calif. A few weeks later, he “caught the flu” and couldn’t get rid of it.
Diagnosed as lung cancer, there was no remission. After a year of treatment, he weighed only 70 pounds, the same as his worst days on Hokkaido, 35 years earlier.
A few days later on March 7, 1980, he died in his sleep. Following his wishes, his ashes were distributed by his wife in the woods he loved in Bad River, Wis.
Dean Stone is editor of The Daily Times