My mentor, first composition teacher, and friend, Dr. Francis McBeth passed away on Jan. 6th. He was a great teacher – funny, wise, sharp as a tack, with strong opinions on how music should sound. Every note I’ve written in the past 21 years bears his mark in some way, and it’s no exaggeration to say he was the most influential composition teacher I’ve had. In fact, his impact on my life goes back before my birth – my mom played flute in the Smackover HS Band as one of the first groups to ever play Chant and Jubilo in 1962, and my father played trumpet in the Arkansas Symphony under McBeth’s baton in the early 1970s.
I had the great fortune of visiting “Dr. Mac” and Mary this past November. The stroke he’d suffered two years prior made it difficult to communicate at times, but he surprised me repeatedly with specific, clear, accurate memories of all sorts of things from when I was his student, including specifics about some of the pieces I wrote at the time. The bright spark of his intellect and wit still shone through.
I also got his permission to quote Chant and Jubilo as part of a new work, Paean – a tribute to him and that influential piece, which coincidentally celebrated its 50th anniversary one week ago. Though I finished it a couple of weeks ago, he never had a chance to hear it. I hope I’ve done his legacy justice.
RIP Dr. Mac.