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Sunday, January 1, 2017

Bill Pekarski: Day 124, Living life on my terms.

Bill Pekarski:
Day 124, Living life on my terms.

So 2016 couldn’t go away without taking away another friend, teacher, and mentor from my life. Dr. John Dietz was my private voice teacher while I was at IUP. While I didn’t start out as a voice major or minor, he was quick to encourage me to take private voice lessons after completing his basic voice class and offered to accept me into his studio.

Dr. Dietz was a proud man and stood well over 6 feet. He may have been the only teacher that I could actually look eye to eye with, which was ironic as he was legally blind. He did have limited vision and was one of the kindest and sweetest men you could ever meet.

Even when speaking, his voice carried a musical tone. When he sang, that same voice resonated with a beauty that would draw you even deeper into his performance. Music was his passion, and he was truly a great teacher who will be missed by many.

His passing also got me thinking of other professors I had at IUP who have passed. I have spoken several times about Mr. Dearing, but there are a couple of others with whom I had the pleasure of learning that I feel the need to recognize.

First of those would be Dr. Irving Godt. Just saying his name will often make former music majors shudder as his Music History class was one of the hardest courses in the curriculum.

He was really an interesting character. He was small in stature and would dart around the music department almost like a mouse. His neck ties were always these long things with the wide front and he would tuck them into his pants so it wouldn’t flop around.

He taught for over 30 years and a going joke among students was “When is Dr. Godt ever going to retire?” I asked him that question a few years after I left IUP and his response was; “why would I leave, I am having too much fun!”

A large portion of music history is based in sacred and religious music, and Dr. Godt was the most knowledgeable historian and theologian I had ever met. Surprisingly however, he was an atheist. Which was confusing as he would often quip in class; “Well God knows I am an atheist.” I am not really sure how you can recognize God in claiming to be an atheist, but that was just another example of his quirkiness.

During the Ole Bull Sesquicentennial a few years back, I invited Dr. Godt to come to Potter County and speak about Ole Bull and his contemporaries at the celebration. He spoke for almost a half an hour and had complete attention from all of the people in attendance. Dean Michael Hood accompanied Dr. Godt on his trip to Coudersport and also attended the ceremony.

Now I must tell you about that ceremony and the performance of Norwegian Arve Tellefsen, who is probably the most renowned violin player of our day. Being from Ole Bull’s native country, Mr. Tellefsen came to pay homage to Ole Bull, who is a hero in Norway. Arve is known to play major concert halls throughout the world, so imagine the pleasure of having him in Potter County. Even more amazing is that this celebration was being held in a state park that is many miles from any real populated area. In fact, it is really right in the middle of the forest.

Organizers at the park had built a small wooden stage for the speakers and performers as well as rustic log benches for the audience. Sadly, there may have only been 50 or so people in attendance, but what we heard was amazing. Dr. Godt, Dean Hood, and myself each sat in awe as a world renowned violinist played a full outdoor concert in a remote state park in the middle of one of the darkest forests while sitting on freshly cut log benches. The only thing I can liken the feeling to is Kevin Costner in the movie “Field of Dreams,” watching his hero’s play baseball in what was his cornfield. It was perfect. Sadly Dr. Godt passed a couple of years later.

Another of my favorite instructors was Dr. Dominic Intilli. He wore big dark rimmed glasses and had a full head of snow white hair. I used to think that if you spun him like a troll doll he would look like Albert Einstien, but he was another of the sweetest and most talented men you would ever meet.

He was rather short and extremely soft spoken but still a very effective teacher. He was adept at making everyone understand very complex musical concepts and presenting material in a way that educational and enjoyable. Additionally, he was one of the greatest piano players I ever had the pleasure of hearing.

My last year at IUP he performed “Rhapsody in Blue” with the Orchestra. It is one of the most difficult and amazing pieces of music ever written. The performance was one of the best I ever attended, with a well-deserved standing ovation and a couple of curtain calls.

I do feel compelled to tell a kind of funny story involving Dr. Intilli and a couple of my friends in the music department, Jody and Bill (not me, another Bill). You see, every day, Jody and Bill would finish their last class before lunch, go to the cafeteria and eat, then come back to the music building to relieve themselves in adjoining stalls in the men’s room. They would continue their conversation throughout the entire process as it were. I know it sounds disgusting, but it is just something that college kids do.

One day, Bill told Jody that he had to get something from his locker and he would meet him at “the stall.” A few minutes later, Jody went into the men’s room where he saw a pair of feet already there dangling under the door. Jokingly, he started pounding on the walls of the stall and yelling obscenities to the occupant. He hollered out; “how dare you start without me?” and other similar comments before exiting the room. He was seated in the lobby waiting for Bill to come out the door, but Bill was already coming down the hall. A few seconds later, poor little Dr. Intilli came quietly out of the men’s room, looked around, and walked to his office. All of our jaws just about hit the floor.

Luckily, I did run into Dr. Intilli back in 2002 and was able to say hello and let him know how much I enjoyed his teaching. It was at a Pirates game of all places, and he was standing in the concourse. He looked exactly the same and I spotted him right off. He even remembered me as well. It was a chance encounter that I am eternally grateful happened as he passed away the next year if I recall correctly.

Today I am dedicating my progress to three of my favorite teachers and mentors; Dr. John Dietz, Dr. Irving Godt, and Dr. Dominic Intilli. I pray that each of you continue to rest in peace as you are all fondly remembered and loved.

1 comment :

Brandie Alayne said...

I really enjoyed reading your recollections of these amazing teachers. I wandered the halls of Cogswell after school from age 10 into my own college years at IUP, and it makes me happy to see them being remembered and shared here. :)