Fun_People Archive
16 Mar
William Austin, 1920-2000

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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Thu, 16 Mar 100 14:48:24 -0800
To: Fun_People
Precedence: bulk
Subject: William Austin, 1920-2000

X-Lib-of-Cong-ISSN: 1098-7649  -=[ Fun_People ]=-
Forwarded-by: "Blech, Kerry E" <>
Forwarded-by: Paul F. Wells<>
From: "Stephen M. Shearon" <>

 Dear Friends,

 I forward this because I was knocked out by it, and perhaps you too will
 be.  Chris Freitag is an editor with McGraw-Hill and is in charge of the
 next edition of Willoughby's "The World of Music."  He was here on campus
 last week.  William Austin is a well-known scholar of twentieth-century
 music who just passed away.

 Stephen Shearon


 From: "Freitag, Chris" <>
 Subject: RE: William Austin, 1920-2000

 I was very saddened by this news. One of my fondest memories of my graduate
 work at Cornell is working as Dr. Austin's teaching assistant for the
 Intro to Music class.

 I met with him a few days before the first class. I had taught my own
 appreciation course at Temple U. and so of course thought I knew
 everything. I asked him how I should prepare for the first meeting. He
 said "Oh, just be there about 5 minutes before we start."

 We met in the auditorium at Barnes Hall, a small performace space in an
 old brick building near the center or campus. There were about 150 students
 lounging in the seats with studied indifference. On the stage was a grand
 piano and a rollaround stereo cart. It was the fall of 1984.

 Dr. Austin entered from a door at the side of the stage. Without a word,
 he went to the piano, sat, and played the first page or so of the slow
 movement from the "Pathetique" Sonata. The students were quiet and
 attentive; clearly this was going to be a course about great
 music...exactly what they expected.

 At the end of a passage Dr. Austin stood and walked to the stereo and
 turned it on. The music absolutely was dance club loud. The
 selection was Prince's "1999" and the abrupt change electrified the room.

 He played a minute or so of the song, turned it off, and walked to the
 front of the stage. In his quiet voice he said "The purpose of this class
 is to help you learn what those two things have in common."

 He had us all in the palm of his hand for the rest of the term.

 I learned more about teaching music appreciation in those five minutes
 than I had learned in two years of actually doing it.

 Chris Freitag

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