By Lisa J. Mauch
Jack was 7 years old when he sat down for his first piano lesson. His feet barely reached the pedals and the 88 ebony and ivory keys before him were intimidating. His mother, Eleanor, was the church organist in Springfield, Ohio, as well as the local piano teacher, and she was hopeful her son would learn how to play. She took his hands and positioned his fingers upon the keys.
“She was never very successful in teaching me a lot about it,” admits Jack, better known today as John Heim, S.J. “So she handed me over to the sisters. They weren’t successful, and after several years they allowed me to quit.” The nuns and Mrs. Heim’s efforts weren’t in vain, however. Even though young Jack never mastered piano playing, a love of classical music was fostered in him during those lessons. Today, Heim shares that love with the community through the Xavier Music Series, which is returning to campus for the first time in two years.
“Before coming to Xavier, I had been stationed in the Chicago area,” says Heim, who was ordained in 1965. “I always attended the artist series there. When I moved here, I was missing the music. At the time, I was living in Brockman Hall, and I realized I was living 50 feet from a stage in the former University Center. So I got the people and money together and started the music series.”
Xavier’s classical piano series began in 1976 with six classical pianists and a budget of $3,000. Since then, the program has grown to a budget close to $30,000 and now features 20 artists a year. The series expanded to include classical guitarists. A jazz program was added in 1980. Over the years, Heim has had the opportunity to showcase both established musicians and young, up-and-coming artists in the series. Heim says having young talent is part of what the program is about. “It helps them get a reputation and maybe a good review in the newspaper,” he says. “That then helps them get on the concert stage. That’s what universities are for. Musicians have to prove themselves solo in recitals before they’re a featured performer with a group in a concert.”
Some of the young artists Heim remembers include Doug Montgomery and Manuel Barrueco. Montgomery was one of the first classical pianists who played for the series. He’s now a very successful musician who’s won awards and toured abroad. Barrueco was an unknown guitarist when he came to the University. He later became one of the best classical guitarists in the world. Heim also managed to bring jazz great Teddy Wilson to campus twice before the musician’s death in 1986. Wilson, who worked with Benny Goodman and Billie Holiday, was one of the most influential pianists of the jazz movement.
“Every day he said he would practice his jazz, but before that he would practice Chopin études,” says Heim of Wilson. “Chopin wrote 24 of these for every key on the piano. If you can play all of these etudes, you can play anything on piano, literally. A lot of people don’t realize there’s a close affinity of jazz music to classical music.”
For the past two years, the programs had to find new homes at the Cincinnati Art Museum and the Bethesda Foundation Auditorium while the new Gallagher Student Center was being built. So the fall 2002 season finds the series returning to campus in a new facility. It also brings with it a change in the jazz program.
“We thought we would make it more interesting by having groups and not just a soloist on piano or guitar,” says Heim. This year, the jazz series is featuring soloists on swing sax, trumpet and clarinet, as well as piano and guitar. Plus local jazz musicians are serving as the side men for the soloists. “If it doesn’t work out in two years, we’ll just drop it all together,” Heim says. He hopes moving back to the University’s campus encourages more people to attend both the jazz and the classical events.
“I wish we had a bigger audience, but we are a mirror of what’s happening to classical music in the United States and Canada,” says Heim. “There used to be hundreds of musical recitals, and now it’s dwindled down to a handful.” The Xavier recital series, he says, is one of only a handful in the United States.
“It’s impossible to make any money off of this, so it’s a labor of love,” says Heim. “At heart, I’m a preservationist. Once things are dead, it’s hard to resurrect them. People have been predicting the death of classical music, but it never quite dies. So, hopefully, things will turn around again and people will become interested in this kind of music. And when they do we’ll be here.”
Classical Piano (Reserved Seating)
All shows are at the Gallagher Student Center theater on Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Season subscriptions are $120 for keyboard side seating; $110 for right side seating. Single tickets are $19 and $17. Students in grade school through undergraduate college are admitted free with ID. There is a $3 discount for senior citizens on single tickets.
Featured classical pianists for 2002-2003: • Sept. 29—Stephen Hough • Oct. 13—Richard Raymond • Oct. 27—Brian Ganz • Nov. 17—Kemal Gekic • Jan. 19—Jeffrey Biegel • Jan. 26—Antonio Pompa-Baldi • March 9—Jean-Philippe Collard • March 23—Esther Budiardjo • April 13—Bryan Wallick
Classical Guitar (No Reserved Seating)
All shows are at the Gallagher Student Center theater on Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Season subscriptions are $36. Single tickets are $12. Students in grade school through undergraduate college are admitted free with ID. There is a $3 discount for senior citizens on single tickets.
Featured guitarists for 2002-2003: • Oct. 20—Randall Avers • Nov. 10—William Kanengiser • Jan. 5—Antigoni Goni • Feb. 9—Martha Masters
Jazz Performances (Reserved Seating)
All shows are at the Gallagher Student Center theater on Sundays at 7:30 p.m. Season subscriptions are $50. Single tickets are $14. Students in grade school through undergraduate college are admitted free with ID. There is a $3 discount for senior citizens on single tickets.
Featured jazz performers: • Sept. 15—James Willaims (piano) and group • Nov. 3—Marl Elf (guitar) and group • Jan. 12—Bill Marley (trumpet) and group • Feb. 23—Randy Reinhard (swing sax) and group • April 6—Ken Peplowski (clarinet) and group
For more information about the music series, call 513 745-3161.