Stephen Broyles’s Personal Pages

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Mary Lee, Jo, and I. They already knew what snow was.


2. Growing Up

I came into a family that already had children. My sister Mary Lee had arrived ten years before I did, and Jo had come four years after her.

I was happy having older sisters. They read me Pogo from the funny papers and Madeline from the public library. They told me jokes, even if I did not always understand them right away. Mary Lee told me a knock-knock joke when I was six that I did not understand until I was thirty-six. The chronology is astonishing, but right: I was six, because Eisenhower was president, and I was thirty-six because both my children had been born.

Both of my sisters went away to college at Birmingham-Southern. In the case of Mary Lee, this did not help me at all, for I was too young to follow. But when Jo went, I was old enough to ride the bus down to see her. I liked this very much. It felt collegiate to see an avant-garde play on campus, and to go into Smith and Hardwick Book Store, and to eat barbecue and lemon pie at Ollie’s.

When my turn came to go to college, I went to Indiana University to study music. My parents drove me up there in the car. I remember their parting advice as they left me in the dormitory. My father said, “Now, Steve, some people think that Sunday is their only day to sleep late. But Sunday is their only day to go to church.” Then my mother said, “Now, Steve, I want you to get up every morning and eat a good breakfast and stay regular.”

I loved my music studies, but being in the Midwest bothered me. It seemed to me like being on another planet. Everyone talked with an accent, and they were always in a big hurry about everything.

Then I went to the University of Alabama and studied music some more. I think at both Indiana and Alabama I got really good teaching.

One of my teachers at Alabama, David Cohen, took me to his house one time. His study had newspapers glued to the wall like wallpaper. He showed me his electric eraser. In those days, notation was all done by hand, and we had all kinds of tricks for correcting mistakes.

Dr. Cohen gave me a pen nib which I still have, the old-fashioned kind that you put in a pen holder and dip into an ink well. It is a special kind of pen and was designed by a man named George W. Hughes. His name is stamped right onto the nib. It is made especially for writing music notes. You can turn the pen one way and make the note-heads, and then turn it the other way and make the stems. It is very fast, using this pen. I once used it to copy, in a short time, a music manuscript for another professor, and he paid me enough money to buy a new plaid coat from J. C. Penney.

After four years of this sort of thing, I graduated with a bachelor of music degree with a major in composition.


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    Copyright © 2002, 2007 by Stephen E. Broyles. All rights reserved.
    Created November 5, 2002. Last updated January 6, 2009.