Manhattan School of Music in Great Falls

Originally posted to FB December 21, 2012

This evening, I had a fun little gig playing "solo bassoon" with a clarinet quartet started by our Principal Clarinetist.  It was at a local nursing home, performing Christmas tunes for their annual Christmas dinner.  As I was warming up, a gentleman at the table closest to us remarked, "That sure looks like a bassoon!"  Since most people can't even identify my instrument, I was delighted to discover he had a background in music.  He told me he had played "a lot of bass drum and cymbals" but that he had occasion to be around bassoons quite often while studying at the Manhattan School of Music ...more than 60 years ago. 

His name is William "Bill" Dolena, a native of NYC, who was a piano major at MSM in the early 1940's.  When WWII broke out, specifically the attack on Pearl Harbor, he enlisted with the Marine Corps band and was sent over seas.  It was then that he played "a lot of bass drum and cymbals" but wasn't often able to get his hands on the piano.  By the time the war ended and he returned to the states, his piano skills had deteriorated substantially.  Sadly, he was never able to finish his studies at MSM with the difficulty of the war.  There's much more to the story, but he ended up in Great Falls, MT where he made a living as a piano technician until the passage of life placed him in a care facility, with his wife - which is where I met him this evening - now 97 years of age!

I can't express how touched I was, discovering another New Yorker, MSM alum and fellow military musician, in such an unexpected place.  My story, though 50 years later, was quite similar.  I was a student at MSM when I joined the Army National Guard Band in New York.  Fortunately, I was able to finish my degree (B.M. 2002) before choosing to go on active duty to perform with Army Bands after the sobering events of September 11, 2001.  It was a joy to perform simple Christmas songs for him, which brought him, and all the residents some holiday cheer.  As I packed up my bassoon to leave, he asked for my name again and said, "I'm going to look you up so us two New Yorkers can go out partying together!" 


Popular posts from this blog

Six bassoons later: what I've learned, where I'm at.

Légère Synthetic Bassoon Reed

That "New Bassoon" Smell...