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Albert Maywood Courtright II

Reminiscences of Maywood Courtright

I Get Interested in Music Theory

My association with Etzel Wilhoit greatly aroused my interest in music theory and when he left the Heights he gave me many of his text books, those he had used at the Institute of Musical Arts in New York, works on harmony, ear training, etc. About the same time a friend of ours, I don't remember who, informed us that some friend of theirs was moving and would like to get rid of an old upright piano, store it someplace, since they would have no place for it in their new house. I jumped at the chance to store it for them. It would give me an opportunity to practice the piano and work on keyboard harmony without using one of the school pianos after school. Besides, I just enjoyed playing the piano. I could have greatly improved my keyboard technique and ability to sight-read but preferred to use the piano more as a form of relaxation. I never became a very good pianist. The practice in keyboard harmony, however, was a help later on when I began teaching music and improvising accompaniments for my students and it also led me to try my hand at composing, mostly short pieces for orchestra. I told MacIntire what I was doing and he suggested I write an overture for the high school band. I had it ready for the band's spring concert. It was an immense amount of drudgery after I had all of the melodies worked out on paper as I had to write out all of the parts for the various instruments by hand and then make copies so that every stand had a part. We had no duplicating machines that could make copies of music at that time. Though I didn't consciously imitate any particular composer, I was told after it was played that it sounded like something by Richard Wagner. I called it "Yolande Overture," not being able to think of a better name. Yolande was nearly a year old and Yvette took her to the concert.

Training myself to recognize chords and intervals would have been simplified if I had a tape recorder but such things were still in the future. I had to play what I wanted to listen to on the piano and concentrate on the sound, trying to keep the position of my hands from giving me a clue about what I was playing.

The grade school music teacher in the Paulding schools had spent most of her time teaching us songs by rote but she had also taught us to sing the major and minor scales using the do-re-mi syllables. We got no training in solfreggio, at least none of it stuck to me, except, perhaps for the do-mi-sol-do of the major triad. So when I started on the book in sight singing I decided to use numbers instead of the do-re-mi syllables to indicate the pitch. The first two parts of America would thus be 1-1-2-7-1-2.

Although I was devoting almost all of my spare time to music, studying theory, trying to compose, practicing the cello, playing with the symphony and the trio, it didn't occur to me then that I might go back to school and get a degree in the subject. It wasn't 'til the next summer when Stuart told me he thought he would go back to Columbia that I mentioned the idea to Yvette. She said if that is what I wanted to do I should do it. She could stay alone. Then a letter from the Hollisters - they had moved to New York where Horace was studying at Union Theological Seminary - clinched the matter. They were going to Long Island for the summer and Stuart and I could have their New York apartment while they were gone. It was only two or three blocks from the Columbia main library and, of course, we could have the use of Horace's Mason and Hamlin grand piano, an ideal set-up for music students. Besides studying music theory and public school music I could also finish my requirements for a teaching certificate.

I had had no academic courses in music which would qualify me for a BA in music but I played the violin and cello and had been working hard on music theory so I decided to enroll as a candidate for a masters degree. The college informed me that I would have to enter as a special student and pass the undergraduate requirements by taking examinations. They also insisted that I take a course in history. I was given two years to satisfy the undergraduate requirements. The credit I had earned in the summer of 1929 would count toward my degree, leaving three more summer schools to attend, four summers being the usual length of time required for the acquisition of a masters degree. I wanted a masters mainly because it would put me in a higher salary bracket.

Yolande was one month over a year old by the time I had to leave for New York. She had started walking at nine months and was beginning to talk, learning French from her mother and English from the kids who came to play in the sandbox. The first big word that I remember her attempting in French was supposed to be "chocolat" which came out "cocholat," pronounced as in French. She thought it was a big joke when we both laughed. It didn't take her long to pick up "that's mine" in the sandbox but she always added her name like the others did and it came out "that's mine Yolande." We had become bosom pals and I took her with me everywhere I could in the little cart we had bought for her in place of a baby buggy. It was a small chair mounted on a platform on four casters and had a detachable handle. As a small baby we had carried her around in a woven laundry basket with two moveable handles. She was only a few weeks old the first time we took her to the beach and sat the basket on the sand under a bush while we went into the water. It was a picnic with the Hollisters and another couple.

I didn't like the idea of being away from my wife and small daughter for the whole summer but Yvette managed to rent one of our bedrooms to a young woman who was working in Muskegon for the summer. That relieved my mind as my small family wouldn't have to be alone at night. When I reached the city the first thing I did was purchase a lot of picture postcards of animals in the Bronx Zoo and enough one cent stamps so I could send a card to Yolande (and Yvette) every day. Postage for a postcard was still only one cent, letters were two. I never saw the girl Yvette rented the room to. She owned a small car and would sometimes take Yvette and Yolande to the beach.

A day or two before the end of the summer session I was getting my things together to pack them for the trip home when there was a knock on the door. I opened it to find Brooks, Cherry and Yvette. Brooks and Cherry had recently been married, August fourth, 1929, and had driven to Muskegon in their Model T Ford for an outing at the beach. They hatched a scheme to surprise me by driving to New York to get me and bring me home. I believe Yvette's roomer took care of Yolande. I can't remember. Stuart was going to his home town in Pennsylvania to visit his mother before returning to Muskegon. We brought his books and some of his clothing with us, stowing them in the back seat as Model Ts had no trunks. Few cars did in 1930 and 1931.

Table of Contents
I Decide to Remain a Teacher
The Beginning of the Depression (1929)

Last modified on 15 April 2021 17:59