I had been trying to remember the given name of Mrs. Bell (who was on the board and in later programs used her husband's initials) because I have an interesting story about her. Clarabelle Bell and my mother attended the College of Pacific together at Stockton (my grandfather was chairman of the board at COP and he insisted that she and my Uncle Harold Jacoby enroll there right after it was transplanted from San Jose). Clarabelle (whose surname was not Bell until she married) had two children whose given names were Joy and Bonnie, and before World War II they lived one block behind us in North Oakland. Our family thought it was delightful to know people with names like Clarabelle Bell, Joy Bell and Bonnie Bell.
Anyway, I am sure it was Clarabelle who persuaded my mother to enroll me in the YPSO, along with another girl who lived about three or four blocks away who car-pooled with us to YPSO practices. In those days Bonnie Bell was only a very small child .... Not many years went by before I ... grew envious, for she also learned to play the cello, married another musician and became Bonnie Hampton, the celebrated cellist.
After the Bell family moved to a very large 3-story shingle house in Berkeley I took lessons for a short time from a young man who lived on the top floor. Then I began taking lessons from Mary Hughson, who had toured with Leopold Stokowski and his All-American Orchestra during a goodwill tour of South America. After we had moved to Walnut Creek in 1942 and Mary had married, I continued to take lessons from her, even though it meant traveling by Greyhound Bus from Walnut Creek to College and Broadway in Oakland, transferring to a streetcar to go to Berkeley and then taking a bus down to San Pablo Avenue and walking several blocks to her new residence. (And then back again to Walnut Creek.)
Eventually she got fed up with the fact that I was not practicing hard enough (my attention was being spread out to include teenage girls, running on the track team, and such nonsense). I didn't blame her, for I knew I didn't have the kind of dedication she required from her students. But no sooner had she sent me away than Mrs. Marcelli wrote that famous letter requesting I be a soloist. My mother tried to persuade Mary to take me on again, at least to prepare for the concert, but she wanted no part of me.
As a consequence, Mrs. Marcelli talked to Margaret Rowell (another member of the YPSO board) and asked her to consider "coaching" me until after the concert. After listening to me play and talking to us at some length, she agreed to take me on. I did well from then on because Mrs. Rowell knew how to communicate, and she made me understand the music--and how to express emotion through music. I have always been an emotional person, but somehow no one before had made me see the connection--I thought it was all about notes and fingering and memorizing--but once I realized I was supposed to be saying something to other people by means of the instrument, I played much better.
I love music today, and when my wife hears an orchestra or an ensemble playing, she (who sang but never was involved with a group of instrumentalists) will ask "what instrument is playing now?" It sometimes takes me a moment to sort it out, because often what she hears is a blend of instruments, but because of my experience in YPSO I find I not only can tell her but actually see the individual players in my mind and know exactly what kind of gyrations they are undergoing or what kind of faces they are likely to be making.
Being a musician was not what I was meant to be, but I was above average, exactly as I was about a dozen other occupations. Many times in my lifetime I have spoken in public, always with great ease, and I have always attributed this to my experience on the stage as a soloist or as a member of the YPSO. Audiences, no matter how large (or even belligerent) never have scared me. I would not like to live in a world without music. Thanks so much for engaging me in this continuing conversation!