36 Years Ago

36 Years Ago, Vienna 1971—A Student Journal

Day 277: Note from Nadia Boulanger


Vienna 1971—A Student Journal
A year of music, study, travel, sightseeing & friends.

Day 277 — Note from Nadia Boulanger
05-May-1972 (Freitag–Fri.)


Nadia Boulanger note part 1

Did a little bit of most things. In the morning, went to an open rehearsal opera at the Volksoper—excellent singing. A very “life” and “happy” soprano and really enjoyable.

In the evening, met with Herr Teiner, the man writing the book. He will definitely use some very short examples from the whole project. We have an understanding about copyright.

When I got home there was a letter from Paris (Fontainebleau). It was a handwritten note from Madame Boulanger. It was a very kind note and I was very honored to get it, and it made me glad of what she said. Perhaps, I’ll feel more self-confident and sure. But I doubt it because I seem to get my results from my self-questioning. Anyway, I will always cherish the letter. The first I’ve ever had of that kind. I still hope sincerely, that I may be able to study with her. She sounds like a wonderful person.


Author Herr Teiner. Mr. Teiner was the young author of the Universal Edition educational book that started me on my journey to create Fantasy on Broken Glass as an exercise in musique concrète techniques. I owe Mr. Teiner and Prof. Kaufmann a bit of gratitude in giving me a goal to complete. You’ve heard me complain, but the project came to a conclusion. The good news is that Herr Teiner will use some short examples in his book.

Letter from Fontainebleau. If you remember, I applied for a scholarship to study at Fontainebleau in France for the coming summer. Nadia Boulanger was the famed composition teacher at Fontainebleau of many famous composers, including Aaron Copland. The letter I received today was from Boulanger and the school. She said that I was not able to receive a full scholarship for study. I was not currently accepted but perhaps could apply for admission in the future. I was probably disappointed but realistically knew that my composition experience (from Montclair State) did not warrant such an undertaking, or certainly a scholarship. Here is a scan of the letter.

Fontainebleau school letter
Fontainebleau school letter

Handwritten note from Nadia Boulanger. Most surprising to me, was that I received a handwritten note (see below) from Ms. Boulanger in addition to the school letter. She was already up there in age and apologized for her handwriting. That someone of her stature took the time to look at my work, and respond personally, took my breath away. When she wrote “But I feel you are a true musician,” it made me wonder if I could accomplish more than my self-confidence would allow me. Teachers, and especially Ms. Boulanger, can inspire and motivate young students. It is a blessing for all of us that when we have dedicated teachers who bring their students to new discoveries and learning, we recognize and honor them. Thank you, Ms. Boulanger. Such a simple sentence. That’s all it takes. I treasure this note.

Nadia Boulanger handwritten note
Nadia Boulanger note part 1
Nadia Boulanger note part 2

Transcription. Here is the note transcription.

May 2, 1972

Dear Mr. Marin

Your letter & tape interested me very much and I would be happy if you could come to study here. What I would advise you to do, I have, in fact, no idea. This will come to light easily. Would you like my views, my reaction—who knows. But I feel you are a true musician & on this ground we will come to an easy agreement.

So, hoping to see you in the next future. I ask you to find here all my best wishes.

Nadia Boulanger

Forgive me to..., so difficult. What can be done!

A bit of a stumble. Looking back, I feel now that I, perhaps, let myself (and her) down by not following a life of music composition. At one point in my graduate study, I was hoping to complete my studies and eventually break into the University scene as a composition professor. It did not happen for a variety of reasons. When you then take normal jobs to live life and pay bills, it becomes a bit difficult to maintain a creative outlet for serious composition. Many people do it, I stumbled and lost my way. Although I have written many short pieces of music throughout various periods of my life, they are not often in the realm of serious composition. At this time in my life, and looking to retirement in six years, I have a renewed creative urge to write music that I hope will blossom a bit. We’ll see.

What did I send to Fontainebleau? What did I send with my Fontainebleau application? I am fairly certain, that I sent a letter along with a tape of some of my original and very short compositions from Montclair State College. At Montclair, there was no composition major at the time. Most of my pieces seemed to come from Harmony class. I found a folder of handwritten music from those days labeled Original Compositions from Montclair State—1967–1971. My college classes were the first time that I attempted to write original music. Here is a one of my pieces from Harmony class, “The Gavotte that Isn’t.” It’s simple. Mozart, I ain’t.

The Gavotte that Isn’t
1967–1971 Montclair State College

Gavotte that Isnt


- - - -