A letter from an alum about the
May 17, 2004
The column in the May 12 PAW about William Scheide '36 and his musical and philanthropic career was wonderful reading, and made me greatly wish that I had known this illustrious Princetonian.
The column is correct in stating that there was no music department at Princeton during Mr. Scheide's undergraduate years. But in my senior year (1929-30), Ralph Downes, the chapel organist, taught a course in music history and theory, which I can truly describe as one of the highlights of my Princeton experience. Only six of us took the course, five from my class and one member of the Class of 193 1. The course had not been offered in earlier years, and I have no way of knowing whether Downes taught it later. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Music, Downes left Princeton in 1935 to return to the U.K., which meant that he was still there during the first three of Scheide's undergraduate years, so that I would hope that Scheide knew him. Just to have heard Downes as an organist was a rich musical treat.
In teaching music history, Downes concentrated on Bach and Wagner. His explanations of Wagner's Ring and die Meistersinger were so thorough and inspiring that I can never hear these works without remembering what Downes had taught us about them.
Two of the six of us went on to become professional musicians. Joe Hawthorne 30, a violist and conductor of the undergraduate orchestra, became conductor of some lesser known but excellent U.S. symphony orchestras, the Duluth-Superior symphony for one. Jim Sykes 30, a pianist, became chair of the Dartmouth music department and also played piano all over the world for the U.S. Information Service. In several of our class's alumni reunions in years ending in 0 and 5, Joe and Jim gave us viola-piano recitals, which were enjoyed both by music lovers in '30 and by other alumni as well.
George E. Immerwahr 30
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