After seeing the Denison Veterans’ Parade Saturday morning and watching the Denison High School Band marching in their sharp looking uniforms while playing a wonderful medley of patriotic songs, I began thinking about music teachers here in Denison who tried to teach me to make music on the piano.
After seeing the Denison Veteransí Parade Saturday morning and watching the Denison High School Band marching in their sharp looking uniforms while playing a wonderful medley of patriotic songs, I began thinking about music teachers here in Denison who tried to teach me to make music on the piano.
Hearing that patriotic medley of tunes representing the various branches of the armed forces always brings tears to my eyes. I love seeing the veterans stand as the tune representing their branch of service is played and feel their pride to receive the recognition.
Hearing the music played by Denison Highís bandsters was especially a treat Saturday as they played so beautifully as they proudly marched up Main Street.
I didnít learn to play any of the instruments played in the band, but I did take piano lessons as I was growing up from two outstanding teachers, Lula May Hayes and Bebe Bodamer. I think of them and what they went through teaching not only piano, but other instruments to youngsters like me, many of whom were there because their motherís were adamant that they learn to play music.
Lula Mae Hays came to Denison long before I appeared as one of her students. Her studio was at 815 W. Sears and her classes were full most of the time with a waiting list for students wanting to learn to play the piano and learn harmony and theory. She was an accomplished organist, playing at St. Lukeís Episcopal Church. She also had classes in piano in Kingston, Okla., where she was the only music teacher, in addition to her private class, teaching public school music and directing the glee club.
Miss Haysí father was cashier for the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad. She came to Denison after finishing work at Kidd-Kay College and Conservatory of Music in Sherman, where for four years she continued her musical studies under Hans Reshard and Ralph Leopold to receive her certificate as teacher.
Late in life Miss Hayes married Otto M. Melson, a clerk for the MK&T. They lived at 800 W. Gandy, where she gave private lessons. He died in 1969, and she lived until 1976. Both were buried at Fairview Cemetery.
While Miss Hays wanted me to learn scales and learn harmony and theory, I only wanted to learn to play popular tunes and songs I had heard before. So sometime in my early years of elementary school at Central Ward, my parents signed me up with Bebe Bodamer. Her studio was in her home at 218 W. Chestnut, just up the street from the public library.
I took one lesson a week and was supposed to practice an hour a day. Herein lays the problem. I didnít like to practice. We had an old player piano ó one that could do its own thing when music rolls were inserted. It was a lot more fun at that time to listen to the automatic playing music than to try to make my own.
I think that Mother was determined that I was going to be a concert pianist. Now thatís a laugh. She would sit with me on the piano bench and tap out the beat with a fly swatter. The swatter played a duel purpose because she was known to do a little swatting when things didnít go right. Today, she possibly could have been cited for abuse if someone heard my yelling even though she wasnít hurting me. I probably deserved every swat, and it did me no harm. I think a few good swats might do some of the unruly kids today a little good.
I remember Mrs. Bodamer as a feisty little lady who stood beside the piano and tapped out the beat with a point stick. I was never certain that she wasnít going to whack me if I hit the wrong keys and was usually a little nervous during lessons. She could always tell when I hadnít practiced, but she never touched me with the stick.
Mrs. B. was a talented lady and I guess she played just about every instrument.
I learned what a small world we live in when I mentioned taking lessons from Mrs. B. while talking to my uncle, Judge R.C. Vaughan, who had played in her Little Symphony Orchestra many years before I was signed up for piano lessons.
I knew that he had played the bass clarinet in the Denison High Band and went on to the University of Texas to play in the Texas Longhorn Band, but I had never known that he took lessons from ďmyĒ teacher.
He told me that my mother also took piano lessons from her. I guess she had mentioned it before, but I had forgotten. I came by not wanting to practice honestly, because he said Mother and my grandmother would go round and round when practice time came. My grandmother gave up on Mother though and her lesson period was short. Thatís probably why Mother was so determined that I would learn to play.
Mrs. B. played the oboe with the young musicians and also played with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. R.C. recalled that she would ride the Interurban to Dallas for orchestra practice and performances, catching her ride in front of the Katy Depot Station.
While I love to hear music, Iím sorry to say that Motherís determination was pretty much in vane. I played some in my younger years, but was never what you might consider a ďgoodĒ pianist. Iíve always envied those who could ďplay by earĒ and just sit down and play what they had heard played before. It must be a natural talent.
I was pretty young when Miss Hays tried to teach me something about music, so I donít remember her very well. I do remember Mrs. Bodamer as a neat lady, and Iím sure she left her mark on many musicians, including the late trumpet player, Tommy Loy who really put her teaching efforts to work.
She had an annual recital when all her students played numbers we had worked on for months. Iíll never forget my dadís fake pleasure in attending those recital, and, as I got older, I played nearer to the end and he had to sit through the entire recital. The only one he was honest in being proud was when I had a private recital at the Hotel Denison with Shirley Reese giving two readings and Patsy Christman and Patsy Jean Mullendore as ushers.
Just donít ask me to play anything on the piano today, but I still like to hear those patriotic songs.
Donna Hunt is former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at email@example.com.