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Thirty-two dollars for tuition and a top-notch education

From Our Story

by Clarence Schuchman ’38

President Elson Floyd reviewed tuition fees at WSU currently. Somewhere I thought a breeze had ruffled my ninety-four-year-old whiskers.

Music conservatory in 1933. By Ralph Hutchison, courtesy WSU Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections
This old grad remembers going into Bursar Krugel’s office sometime in the thirties and plunking down thirty-two dollars and some odd cents for my second semester tuition. Then I went down to the ground floor of the Ad Building to sit on the bench in front of Grimes’s office, to see if he had any jobs (14 /2 cents an hour).

He did! It seems I had washed the windows in the Bursar’s office a few days prior--and the morning sun showed up a lot of streaks. I was told to do the windows over.

I wouldn’t kid you that the thirty-two-odd covered everything. For us music students majoring in an instrument (French horn) there was a $2.75 weekly fee for lessons.

If you thought it wasn’t worth it, it had to be because you didn’t know Harold Parker Wheeler, who was a musician beyond any concept of the word you ever had been aware.

As band conductor he also was instructor of the winds. All of them.

He played flute, but that didn’t prevent him from knowing every detail of the others.

He knew personally many of the outstanding horn players in the country and pursued with them every detail of the instrument. At other times he would go sit at the piano and bang out some improvisations for something in the exercise book that made you feel like you were doing a concerto.

His rehearsals were legendary. Sometimes he was known, in progress, to call out fingerings for some errant clarinet who had forgotten a sharp or flat. We were not duffers. Hs concert band sometimes sounded like a huge organ.

Wheeler was not exactly alone. A man by the name of Havalacheck, violinist, orchestra conductor, once had played in the solo section of the Boston Symphony had come to WSC when a partially paralyzed finger forced him out of the orchestra. Once, while rehearsing the famous Largo from the New World symphony, he grabbed a violin from a second fiddle and played the entire movement from beginning to end, while we all sat there with our mouths open. I have yet to hear a more wonderful performance from any concert stage. Maybe you think we didn’t get our thirty-two-dollars&some-odd-cents worth back then?

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