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Meave Remembers Bill

March 8, 2013

This is a guest post from Meave Cox, a masters student of Bill’s at the conservatory who graduated in 2003.

“I was fortunate enough to study with Bill during the last year of my masters’ program at the conservatory, from 2002-2003.  I had originally moved to San Francisco from Boston to study with Eugene Izotov, who moved to New York to play with the Met during the summer after my first year.  I was on tour in Russia at the time, and immediately placed a (probably quite insane) call to Rob Sheena, my teacher from back in Boston.  I called from a pay phone in St. Petersburg (God only knows what time it was in the US), and asked him what I should do.  I’m a massive symphony nerd, and had really fallen in love with Bill’s artistry, but he was not on the conservatory faculty at the time.  Rob, who had grown up in San Francisco and knew Bill, gave him a call and asked him to take me on as a student.  I have no idea what Rob told him, but he agreed to it.

Shortly before my first lesson with Bill, the admissions office somehow coerced me into allowing a photographer to attend, to take pictures for the next year’s course catalog.  I was already nervous as hell about playing for Bill, and the photographer definitely hyperbolized the whole thing.  She kept interrupting us to fix my hair, add/remove jewelry (?!!), and try to get me to take off my glasses.  I’ve always been a quintessential ragamuffin, so this was somewhat… startling to me.  After awhile, Bill just started laughing.  And I soon followed.  It really was pretty hilarious.

And the laughs continued throughout the year.  At one point, I went over to his house for a lesson shortly after a classmate had passed away.  I was having a really rough time with it.  Before taking out the oboes, he pulled out this absolutely amazing video advertisement he had made in college for a performance of Mahler 2.  It was completely hysterical.  I didn’t think I was capable of giggles at the time, but he managed to get them out of me.  In droves.

Preparation for my first recital with him was interesting, to say the least.  I had signed on to play the Mozart and Vaughan Williams concerti, which was a big program for me.  Instead of using piano reduction for the Mozart, Bill insisted that I use a string quartet instead.  Unfortunately, during rehearsals, I realized that leaving out the other winds was a bit of a mistake, but he just calmly told me to cover the horn parts by ear.  And it worked.  Well.  During the week leading up to the recital, the weather changed, and my reeds went straight to hell.  I had gouged my entire supply of cane during sunshine-ey times, and, all of a sudden, the city was plagued by enormous storms and icy winds.  Nothing would work.  I spent entire days in the reed room, desperately trying to come up with something, but was having absolutely no luck.  It was quickly becoming a ridiculous situation; someone (Bill?) went so far as to put a sign on the door that read, “Do not feed the Meave.”  I finally caved in and called Bill, admitting my folly.  He invited me over to his house the night before the performance, and calmly helped me get it together.  Due to his supportive attitude and my resulting confidence boost, the recital went off without a hitch.  Well, except for one of the violinists discovering he had left his part in a bar the night before (yes, I spared Bill the details on that one).

I could go on and on about Bill.  There’s no way I could quantify how much I got out of the year that I spent with him.  In lieu of a final lesson, he took me to Howard’s Café on 9th Ave. for breakfast.  We ate eggs and bacon and talked about my future.  Being on the precipice of finishing one’s education is a terrifying time for any student, but, true to form, Bill was nothing but supportive and encouraging.  He told me I’d have to do what was necessary to pay rent for awhile, but that eventually it was possible that I could achieve some kind of career in music.  Whether that’s true or not remains to be seen, but, yet again, his incredibly supportive and caring attitude really made me believe that everything would somehow be ok.  Which is something that I will always carry with me.

I will remember Bill forever.  Not only for his exquisite renditions of Mahler and Brahms and Beethoven and the like, but also for the way he inspired me to achieve the absolute best that I could.  And for the way he was always able to make me laugh.”

If you’d like to share a story here please email me at sydnesullivan@gmail.com

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