Mr. Slocum was a wonderful human being. He was the one professor who, no matter who you were, would cheer you on and always have encouraging things to say after brass juries. It did not matter if you were in his horn studio or not. He always seemed to care about the students. Mr. (Bill) Slocum always took time out to talk with anyone who would listen to his recollections of his remarkable past, and he had a plethora of stories to tell from his experiences! It was through these recollections that I learned of his past performing summers at Tanglewood (under Leonard Bernstein!), his time with the Cleveland Orchestra, and his connection with my Hometown Orchestra of Buffalo NY, the Buffalo Philharmonic, having performed in this organization as well as several others. Sometimes these stories would trail into the next hour when you were trying to leave for class. You’d try to say good bye but somehow could not, as his stories always left you hanging on for more.
He also took time out to help me in a way that I’m not sure the other professors knew how. Although he was not my composition professor, he would give me helpful advice as to which pieces to study, and what I should try next. He also took me aside after a class once and did what most do not do: told me to my face how much potential I had, the good things he had heard around the building, and how he recognized my work ethic. (Sadly Mr. Slocum, I could not afford to go to the festivals that you advised me to go, but I promise to keep my promise to you to keep composing). Somehow, he knew that I needed that confidence boost.(Thank you!)
When he passed away in April of 2015 , I was heartbroken. I can only imagine the grief his students and family must’ve felt upon hearing this news.
At the time, shortly after graduating, I had reluctantly moved to MN to live at my Dad and stepmom’s home, and was broke, car-less and jobless. That day (April 15th), after taking the bus to the next town over to job search for the afternoon, I had some time to burn while waiting for a ride back, so I stopped at a Perkins for some coffee. It was there that I received the news.
Shortly after that bombshell, a theme in 6/8, distinctly played on a horn appeared inside my head. It was a theme fit for a hero! Thankfully I was prepared with some scrap staff paper to scratch it down, and fatefully place my coffee, leaving a ring- or “seal of approval” over the new melody.* This melody would remain untouched for about four years.
*This is also the origin story of how I came up with the coffee seal of approval and why I call my self publishing business Coffee Seal Music, summed up in one sentence!
This past Summer, Bill Richter, who I hadn’t heard from in almost 3 years, contacted me asking if he could commission me to write something for his Master’s recital. This came as a surprise, as the last time I had heard from him, he’d left YSU and transferred schools and as far as I was aware, was studying something completely different. At the (no doubt incessant- he had an almost magical way of making his thoughts and intentions known ) urging of Mr Slocum, Bill had returned to school to study the horn! In a stranger twist of fate- call it serendipity if you will- Bill had requested that I put the ending to Mahler 1 in the piece as this was the last piece that Mr. Slocum had coached the YSU Horn studio on, and, this melody that had been sitting there since Mr. Slocum’s passing fit PERFECTLY alongside Mahler’s melody.
A Well Traveled Rhapsody starts with the hero’s theme, where it morphs into several references to many famous horn lines and solos, of which I am told Mr. Slocum enjoyed on his time on earth. Some of these you may catch are a reference to Holst’s Jupiter (as he exuded Jollity), Mozart’s Jupiter (the piece he advised me to study as it has everything I’d ever need), variations of the opening to Strauss’s Horn concerto and Wagner’s Siegfried Call and , of course, Mahler 1.
The middle section, while not a direct quote, alludes to the melodic horn writing of Jerry Goldsmith as heard in the Star Trek the Motion Picture Soundtrack. As the piece seems to wrap up in the last third, I tried to emulate the feeling of listening to his stories and trying to leave his office, but truthfully wanting to hear more as he’d trail on with his wonderfully interesting recollections. Finally, the hero’s theme rises up gracefully in the piano, octave by octave just as his spirit, as far as I can tell, may have risen towards the heavens upon his departure from this mortal realm. It ends on a plagal cadence because, well, of course it does!
Bill Richter will Be premiering A Well Traveled Rhapsody at his recital on April 19th , 1 PM at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. This piece is written in the memory of William (Bill) Slocum and his gregarious, giving, uplifting, musical spirit.