Educating musicians

“Instruments of Learning” (Fall 2005) was an outstanding article. Bill Wagner, Carolynn Lindeman, and the other alumni mentioned are to be congratulated for continuing the struggle to keep quality music programs in our public schools. Even though I live in Canada (where school music problems are the same), I have kept active in finding ways to rally more support for our public school programs, both in the U.S. and Canada. Gallup Polls continue to indicate an extremely high level of support by the general public for quality music programs. And new research shows the value of music in our schools and society. To all the music teachers out there—keep up the good work. The kids will never forget you, your dedication, or your inspiration.

Greg Way ’70
Ontario, Canada

We are all proud of performers, yet it’s the music educators who reach the people who later make up the performer’s audience. As a music educator, I have taught students from preschool through university, both in the USA and for nine years in Botswana. My Oberlin studies prepared me well for this. Oberlin also fostered my enthusiastic belief that music is for everyone, not just for a talented few.

Christine Purves ’40
Bluffton, Ohio

Oberlin Invents

The “Oberlin Invents” article (Fall 2005) missed a great example of “Oberlin thinking” when it relegated Elisha Gray to a sidebar with the flip comment that Alexander Graham Bell beat him by two hours. As a native of Oberlin, I had many years to soak up Oberlin lore. Gray was on his way to Washington, D.C., with the required working model when his train stopped in Pittsburgh. The Washington newspapers were just in, and a front-page story told of Bell’s application for a patent on a telephone. Elisha Gray immediately changed trains and headed back to Oberlin to develop a patentable variation. He then invented the pay phone and went on to found the Gray Telephone Company and build the Graybar Electric building in New York. Through the end of WWII, one could walk into any corner drug store and find a small telephone booth with a Gray pay phone in it. How is that for Oberlin thinking?

William Davidson ’56
Potsdam, N.Y

“Oberlin Invents” stated that I invented surround sound. Let me narrow that a little. Just as Charles Martin Hall didn’t invent aluminum, but instead recognized its potential and provided the key to its economical production, the same goes for my affiliation with surround sound. My invention enabled hitherto stereo mass media to carry the full auditory environment. After a fling as four-channel “quadraphony” in the early 1970s, it went on to bring surround sound to the movie theater and become the defining feature of the home theater. The article also noted that I didn’t become rich from surround sound, and that I still have patents to develop. The two facts are linked, the nexus being the market leader, my patent licensee Dolby Laboratories. The remarkable trip of my license conflict with Dolby to the U.S. Supreme Court is detailed in my memoir, which I may put on line one day. My two current patents relate to the recently introduced second-generation commercial incarnations of my technology, and to realizing a third generation.
Peter Scheiber ’56
Bloomington, Ind.

Student Housing, Oberlin Style?
I do not believe that luxury apartments for a few upper-class students contributes to the “building of community across campus,” or to the development of “habits of citizenship and civility.” I fail to see how a “spacious bathroom” advances Oberlin’s educational objectives. And why do students need kitchens? I must agree with Mohsen Ghanbari that “this is too much luxury for a student.”

Roger Searle ’58
Wagener, S.C.

Restoring the Wright Fountain
All alumni have an opportunity to restore the fountain near the Allen Memorial Art Museum that was donated in honor of Katharine Wright Haskell, Class of 1898, by her husband in 1931. The fountain, a replica of one built in Florence, Italy, in 1555, is made of white Carrara marble and red porphyry and features a bronze figure of a boy with a dolphin. It was glorious. Katharine was key to her more-famous brothers’ legendary success, acting as a support system, communicator, and hostess, later serving on Oberlin’s Board of Trustees before her early death in 1929. The fountain should stand as a tribute to Katharine and as a reminder of the many Oberlin connections to the Wright and Haskell families, including a descendant who is a current Oberlin student. But now the fountain is an eyesore in an important part of campus, and we are seeking to raise $50,000 for its restoration. If we are successful, well-known stone carver Nicholas Fairplay of Oberlin is prepared to do the work. Please send contributions to: Oberlin College Office of Development, 208 Bosworth Hall, 50 W. Lorain St., Oberlin, OH 44074.

Mary Winters Behm ’66
Grafton, Ohio

Correction: The book Black British Writing (Fall Bookshelf) was co-edited by R. Victoria Arana and Lauri Ramey ’74.

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