In Memoriam

The Maestro (continued)

Back in 1953, Herb hired gifted pianist Fred Rothchild [applied music 1953–78], to run the applied music program. Until then, Herb had performed that task himself. Fred would be given faculty status in 1968, and though he did not teach academic courses, his presence increased the scope of music at Reed; he was a strong figure on campus until his retirement in 1978.

Reed’s Collegium Musicum, founded by professor John Hancock [chem 1955–89] and Virginia Oglesby Hancock ’62 [music 1991–], gave its first concert in 1967. Though not part of the department, the Collegium’s success demonstrated the need for more music on campus. (Herb had tagged Virginia as among his most capable students. She would later return to Reed as a professor in music.)

In the Reed archives is an undated letter from Herb to Paul Bragdon [president 1971–88], five pages, single-spaced, that I would place circa 1973. Even with the situation improved, Herb insisted that Reed do more for the performing arts. Academically, Reed “need make no apologies” for its musical offerings, he said, but lagged behind in terms of size of faculty and physical resources. Herb cited five colleges comparable to Reed, Swarthmore and Pomona among them, whose music faculty ranged from five to eight. Reed had two, sometimes two-and-a-half. “The discrepancy,” he wrote, “is embarrassing.”

Causing further distress was the loss of Botsford Hall, an old war surplus building installed shortly after World War II. Though not a true theatre, it did have a proscenium stage, wing space, a workshop, and dressing rooms. It could seat around 700. It had been the home of the increasingly popular G & S productions for a decade. Unfortunately, its roof was severely damaged during the Columbus Day Storm of 1962, and Botsford was torn down. That was the end of large-scale productions at Reed. Botsford’s replacement—the theatre that was constructed over the stream in the canyon in 1972, Herb declared “useless.” He had wanted Reed to build a real theatre, of ample size, containing a proper stage and orchestra pit.

Herb also urged Bragdon to allocate money for the restoration of the chapel organ. Installed in 1916, and employed in performances such as Bach’s St Matthew Passion and Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass, the instrument had fallen into advanced decrepitude. I was among the last students to practice on it, and sang in Herb’s performance of Mozart’s Mass in C, when the concert came to a shuddering halt, the organ having developed dyspepsia. It had to be turned off, then on again—twice—before recovering sufficiently to continue. Alas, funds were not forthcoming, and the organ was removed, only the non-speaking façade pipes remaining.

Herb concluded, “In our philosophy of music as a part of the liberal arts, the curriculum is central, and performance is a necessary, and hopefully a beautiful adjunct. The two should be integrated, and one should illuminate the other.” Then finally, “But dammit, why must we be so small!”

Herb, and others after him, kept the wheel squeaking. The department grew. The faculty was increased to three, and recently to four. Enrollment in applied music is strong. And at long last, a bona fide performing arts complex (first proposed in 1961) is about to rise on the west lawn, (See “Rhapsody in Brick,” Reed, June 2011).

In 1959, after a healthy decade at Reed, Herb’s G & S ambitions grew. He formed, with the help of E.B. MacNaughton [president 1948–52], and Ernest Bonyhadi ’48, the New Savoy Company. The New Savoy performed an ambitious repertory (e.g. Pirates on Thursday, Mikado on Friday, Pinafore on Saturday) for two seasons at the Civic Auditorium, then in the wonderful old Oriental Theatre on SE Grand Avenue for another three. For choreographer, Herb hired a bright, energetic, talented young PSU graduate named Judy Massee [dance 1968–98] who would become the leading light for dance at Reed, as Herb had been for music. She loved working with Herb. “He was a taskmaster in rehearsals,” she says. Things had to be right. But he never withheld praise. He worked hard and had fun, and expected the same from cast and crew.

In retirement, Herb enjoyed a happy new marriage, travel, winters spent in southern California, cooking, wine collecting, and tennis. Helene, Herb’s second wife, died in 2003. He stayed active and sharp well into his nineties. His memory was remarkable, and he left an impressive oral history for the Reed archives.

Herb loved Reed. He was a true Reed type: smart, independent, talented, quirky. He taught music because he loved music.

Myself, I came ‘round in full ellipse to teach voice as a part-time staff member of the Reed music department. My students enjoy the fact that I teach at the school I dropped out of. I have a life in music, in part because people like Herb showed me I could.

Some years ago while walking across campus, I was passing by the then-still-ivied Eliot Hall and fell into conversation with a woman who was clearly lingering and reminiscing. She had been a student in the fifties and we compared the inevitable notes of then versus now. “What of Herb Gladstone?” she asked. “Retired,” I replied. She had studied under Herb and had been in many a concert in the chapel. We stood gazing up at the tall arched windows. She smiled quietly. “Those were good times,” she said. “Those were very good times.”

—Author info: Singer, musician, and composer John Vergin ’78 teaches voice at Reed and was recently profiled in the magazine. (See “Active Voice,” June 2011.)