Obituaries should tell whole storyRegrettably, this writer...


January 06, 1996

Obituaries should tell whole story

Regrettably, this writer read the brief Dec. 28 obituary of Nicholas Slonimsky, the Russian-born composer, conductor and lexicographer who passed away Dec. 25 in Los Angeles.

There was, however, no mention of Slonimsky's influence on the musicians in academia, popular music and jazz.

Rudolph Schramm, who was the chief instructor in the Schillinger System of Musical Composition at New York University used Slonimsky's thesaurus in his instruction on musical composition and made many musicians aware of the work throughout academia.

Nicholas Slonimsky delivered the commencement address at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in 1987. In an interview, he told Henry Scarupa of The Sun that the thesaurus was his triumph over being a failed genius. He received the largest amount of royalties from that work from purchases made by jazz musicians.

Barry Harris, jazz pianist and teacher, introduced John Coltrane to the thesaurus. Coltrane liked the book and encouraged other jazz musicians to practice scales and patterns from it. Coltrane, the jazz saxophonist, was responsible for the heightened interest in the book. Many jazz musicians have thought that the thesaurus was the source of the improvisational innovations that Coltrane introduced into jazz.

Reppard Stone


The writer is a professor in the Jazz Studies Division at Howard University.


Although the Dec. 30 obituary of Shura Cherkassky pointed out that he gave his first recital in Baltimore, it failed to mention the important role that Frederick R. Huber, municipal director of music, played in launching his career.

According to Huber's secretary, Evelyn Cabe, he never turned down a request to listen to a performer seeking advice on a concert career. While fulfilling one of these requests in 1923, Huber discovered the 11-year-old piano prodigy, Shura Cherkassky.

The young pianist and his family had come from Russia to live with an uncle in Baltimore. In a 1977 interview, Cherkassky told me that Huber became his manager.

In addition to setting up the recital, which played to a sold-out audience, Huber arranged auditions with Sergei Rachmaninoff and Josef Hoffman in New York and a performance at the White House for President and Mrs. Warren G. Harding. In 1924, Cherkassky made his orchestral debut with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

Josef Hoffman accepted Shura as a student. Two years later, the family moved to New York.

Although Cherkassky was not a native Baltimorean, we can be proud to include him on the list of other famous performers who got their start in our city, including Cab Calloway, Anne Wiggins Brown, Avon Long, Billie Holliday and Chick Webb.

Richard A. Disharoon

Baltimore County

For and against Mayor Schmoke's golf decision

Since Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke is reneging on his contract with Baltimore Municipal Golf Corp., it proves that the role of government is to take what is working and screw it up.

I think the mayor is out of bounds.

William A. Hottman



Your editorial criticizing Mayor Schmoke's decision to end the city's contract with BMGC misleads your readers. It lacks the historical perspective, dating back to 1985, and facts regarding this issue. Your statement that BMGC "turned the money-losing courses into money makers" fails to note the primary reason for this turn-around in profit.

Prior to BMGC's contract, profits from the five city courses went into the city's general fund.

These funds made numerous recreation and parks activities possible and provided employment for many city recreation and parks personnel. These benefits were lost when profits remained with BMGC, as required by its sweetheart contract.

As millions accumulated, it took five years of appeals by the Board of Estimates before BMGC agreed to surrender a portion of its profits for selected rec and park activities.

Your editorial recommends that Mr. Schmoke and Henry Miller talk about the corporation's idea to build a more challenging 18-hole golf course. I wonder where your editors were during 1987-1988 and 1993-1994, when intensive dialogue, testing and research took place over this very issue.

BMGC unwisely wished to expand golf facilities on city property designated for the protection of the Loch Raven Reservoir watershed. The waters of Loch Raven provide drinking water for most of Baltimore City's and many of Baltimore County's residents. Good watershed management minimizes human impact by allowing only passive recreation or no recreational uses in order to safeguard the water supply.

Mayor Schmoke accepted his stewardship of this resource and showed responsible leadership in safeguarding the drinking water supply of Loch Raven by twice refusing to allow Pine Ridge expansion. He did this despite enormous public pressure by a well-heeled special interest group.

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