As musicians, it seems that we have unique relationships with
our teachers. For one thing, we spend our time one-on-one having lessons instead of learning our subject in classes. When we write our bios, we always include the people we studied with, and it’s the first thing we want to know about another organist when we meet them: who was your teacher? There are so many ways to approach the organ, often it’s easy to tell what school an organist belongs to without even asking them. Do they use the Gleason pedal technique? What kind of fingering do they use for their Bach? How do they stretch musical time in order to make phrases? Often (though not always!) these things are passed along from teacher to student. Many, if not all, organists are fond of tracing their lineage back to Bach. Why? Perhaps it’s a bit like tracing your family history: this proves my point. We have a special relationship with our teachers such that we trace our organ teachers’ lineage just like we trace our family’s!
My organ teacher from my undergraduate days passed away just recently. Clyde Holloway was his name- and in case you were wondering, he (and I) have a direct lineage going to J.S. Bach! When I went to school he made me spend six months doing nothing but pedal exercises and scales on the piano (though the piano thing probably didn’t come from Bach). Naturally, I’ve forgotten all that and my pedal technique now is pretty sloppy, but I really do appreciate his effort. He was a great teacher, and a true teacher who built his students one step at a time. He didn’t just coach us on a few pieces and then leave us wondering what to do next.
I imagine that chemists and historians have influential teachers as well, but they certainly don’t talk about them as much. I’m making a great effort right now not to write sentimental pages about Clyde. I will miss him. I hope I’m missed as much when I’m gone!