Obituaries should tell whole story
Regrettably, this writer read the brief Dec. 28 obituary of Nicholas Slonimsky, the Russian-born composer, conductor and lexicographer who passed away Dec. 25 in Los Angeles.
There was, however, no mention of Slonimsky's influence on the musicians in academia, popular music and jazz.
Rudolph Schramm, who was the chief instructor in the Schillinger System of Musical Composition at New York University used Slonimsky's thesaurus in his instruction on musical composition and made many musicians aware of the work throughout academia.
Nicholas Slonimsky delivered the commencement address at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in 1987. In an interview, he told Henry Scarupa of The Sun that the thesaurus was his triumph over being a failed genius. He received the largest amount of royalties from that work from purchases made by jazz musicians.
Barry Harris, jazz pianist and teacher, introduced John Coltrane to the thesaurus. Coltrane liked the book and encouraged other jazz musicians to practice scales and patterns from it. Coltrane, the jazz saxophonist, was responsible for the heightened interest in the book. Many jazz musicians have thought that the thesaurus was the source of the improvisational innovations that Coltrane introduced into jazz.
The writer is a professor in the Jazz Studies Division at Howard University.
Although the Dec. 30 obituary of Shura Cherkassky pointed out that he gave his first recital in Baltimore, it failed to mention the important role that Frederick R. Huber, municipal director of music, played in launching his career.
According to Huber's secretary, Evelyn Cabe, he never turned down a request to listen to a performer seeking advice on a concert career. While fulfilling one of these requests in 1923, Huber discovered the 11-year-old piano prodigy, Shura Cherkassky.
The young pianist and his family had come from Russia to live with an uncle in Baltimore. In a 1977 interview, Cherkassky told me that Huber became his manager.
In addition to setting up the recital, which played to a sold-out audience, Huber arranged auditions with Sergei Rachmaninoff and Josef Hoffman in New York and a performance at the White House for President and Mrs. Warren G. Harding. In 1924, Cherkassky made his orchestral debut with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
Josef Hoffman accepted Shura as a student. Two years later, the family moved to New York.
Although Cherkassky was not a native Baltimorean, we can be proud to include him on the list of other famous performers who got their start in our city, including Cab Calloway, Anne Wiggins Brown, Avon Long, Billie Holliday and Chick Webb.
Richard A. Disharoon
For and against Mayor Schmoke's golf decision
Since Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke is reneging on his contract with Baltimore Municipal Golf Corp., it proves that the role of government is to take what is working and screw it up.
I think the mayor is out of bounds.
William A. Hottman
Your editorial criticizing Mayor Schmoke's decision to end the city's contract with BMGC misleads your readers. It lacks the historical perspective, dating back to 1985, and facts regarding this issue. Your statement that BMGC "turned the money-losing courses into money makers" fails to note the primary reason for this turn-around in profit.
Prior to BMGC's contract, profits from the five city courses went into the city's general fund.
These funds made numerous recreation and parks activities possible and provided employment for many city recreation and parks personnel. These benefits were lost when profits remained with BMGC, as required by its sweetheart contract.
As millions accumulated, it took five years of appeals by the Board of Estimates before BMGC agreed to surrender a portion of its profits for selected rec and park activities.
Your editorial recommends that Mr. Schmoke and Henry Miller talk about the corporation's idea to build a more challenging 18-hole golf course. I wonder where your editors were during 1987-1988 and 1993-1994, when intensive dialogue, testing and research took place over this very issue.
BMGC unwisely wished to expand golf facilities on city property designated for the protection of the Loch Raven Reservoir watershed. The waters of Loch Raven provide drinking water for most of Baltimore City's and many of Baltimore County's residents. Good watershed management minimizes human impact by allowing only passive recreation or no recreational uses in order to safeguard the water supply.
Mayor Schmoke accepted his stewardship of this resource and showed responsible leadership in safeguarding the drinking water supply of Loch Raven by twice refusing to allow Pine Ridge expansion. He did this despite enormous public pressure by a well-heeled special interest group.
The Sun should support Mayor Schmoke for his stewardship of Loch Raven and for his patience in dealing with the special and self interests of the determined BMGC that override the basic needs and interests of the general public.
Prior to BMGC taking control, these courses were in a state of disarray. They were poorly maintained and poorly supervised.
With sound planning and hard work, BMGC turned these courses into a model for the nation.
This is attested by the fact that the city of Seattle has adopted the "Baltimore plan." Other cities have also shown considerable interest in adopting the same plan.
I sincerely hope that Mayor Schmoke and Public Works director George Balog will reconsider their decision to take control as I feel it will be a total step backward from a positive situation which exists at the present time.
Good clean schools needed for learning
I read with great interest the Dec. 26 news article, "A nation's aging schools need surgery."
As an educator in Baltimore County for 30 years, I feel it was on target.
I know that I feel much more invigorated in an environment that is bright, clean and climatologically comfortable. Unfortunately most if not all of our schools don't meet even one of the criteria.
It is very difficult for teachers and students to concentrate on the task at hand in rooms that are either far too hot or too cold.
Many students are asked to attend classes in "trailers" in which the conditions are often worse than those in which farm animals are boarded. Just walking to them is sometimes a challenge in wet and winter weather.
We are now entering a phase in which custodial and maintenance staffs are being cut. Floors are not being cleaned and trash is not being picked up regularly. The staff required to do the job is simply not there.
Teacher and student furniture is generally in substandard condition if it is there at all.
Instead of being a stimulating environment in which to work and learn, our schools are often just the opposite. It is surprising that we do as well as we do.
Creating a pleasant atmosphere in which to work and learn is not impossible, just a matter of priority.
I am a sports fan, but I really have to question the amounts being spent on stadiums, parking lots and roads to the stadiums for the privileged few at the expense of what is really important to our society.
As our present schools continue to age, the needs are just going to become more acute at an accelerating pace.
I fear we are soon going to reach a point where the needs are going to be greater than our capacity to meet them, if we have established the priority to do so (which I doubt).
Without a pleasant environment in which to work and learn, smaller class sizes, new curricula and modern technology won't make too much of a difference. Nobody will want to be there to take advantage.
ohn H. Gregory
Shutdown halts medical progress
As biomedical researchers at the National Institutes of Health, we are dismayed by the short-sighted perception of the significance of the federal government shutdown.
The shutdown has resulted in little inconvenience to the general public thus far. Therefore, a segment of both the public and our elected representatives appear to believe that the furloughed government workers must have been engaged in unnecessary activities.
Speaking of the NIH in particular, it is indeed the case that a shutdown of a week, a month, or perhaps even several months would not immediately be noticed by the public.
However, due to the long-range nature of medical research, the effects of the shutdown are insidious. Frozen budgets and diminished personnel will result in the slowing of the development of crucial medical therapies and technologies.
Although the public may not see it on a day-by-day basis, the advancement of medical research is carried on with great intensity every day at the NIH. Over the years this has greatly benefited the health and well-being of all Americans.
Richard S. Spencer
Kenneth W. Fishbein
The writers are with the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Unit of the National Institute on Aging.
Intolerant belief precedes cruelty
Rabbi Murray Saltzman quotes another rabbi asking the pained question, "How can this be? In the name of religion to murder?" He will find the answer by turning a few blood-soaked pages of world history.
Some of the worst slaughters, the cruelest persecution and horrible suffering have been in the name of religion perpetrated by people who claimed to know the will of God.
Any time a religion sets itself up as the only true religion, the rest of the world can expect mindless intolerance and an arrogant disregard of others' beliefs.
Humans seem to forget that God has revealed Himself in so many different ways to so many different cultures and peoples across the ages.
The puny human mind has yet to grasp who or what God is. The greatest sages and the wisest people have always maintained that humans are still seeking and will always be seeking to find and understand that power behind the universe.
Perhaps that was how it was ordained to be. But man has been busy creating God in his petty image. There is that biblical admonition, "Thou thought I was altogether as thyself." Hubris always exacts a heavy price.
Another coarsening factor is the attempt of one people to subjugate and rule another. The only way the ruler can justify his oppressive rule is by regarding the subject people as a lesser breed, less than human, who don't feel pain or grief and have an enormous capacity to absorb any amount of suffering inflicted by the ruler.
Whether it is the blatantly cruel kind or the thinly veiled but equally cruel variety, colonialism is degrading, demeaning and humiliating. It brutalizes the victim but even more, it brutalizes the oppressor.
That is a price every conqueror, every colonist and the so-called settler had to pay, and for generations. But then who said that we learn from history?
School achievement called remarkable
The academic achievement of the children at Tench Tilghman Elementary School tells us much about children's capabilities.
What makes Tench Tilghman's achievement doubly remarkable is that the school serves a very disadvantaged community. Many of its children have major problems to overcome -- single-parent families, family incomes so low that 90 percent of the children qualify for free lunch, and a neighborhood where guns, violence and drugs are part of daily reality.
But in school, the children do overcome, magnificently. So do their enthusiastic, devoted teachers and the principal, Elizabeth Turner, by creating an environment of kindness, respect for each child and high expectations for scholarship and behavior.
I have visited Tench Tilghman occasionally during the past few ++ years. It is an island of safety and of nurture and nourishment for the minds and bodies of the children, a place of cheerful, bright colors.
Elizabeth Turner and her teachers are giving to the children -- and the city -- a gift of immense value. The rest of us need to work harder to make life just outside the school walls less dangerous and bleak.
Wrong to lower passing grade
I was quite chagrined when I recently talked with a female student at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute. She said she had worked hard to maintain marks above the passing grade of 70, but the school system has changed it to 60 so that any dummy can pass. She believes she will now have a harder time getting into college because her school does not have the prestige it once did. She said her Poly diploma will look the same as any other and that is not the reason she came there and studied hard.
Here we have a student who realized that a diploma from Poly was something to be proud of. A student with pride in his work is going to be more successful than any other. A student who knows that a worthwhile diploma is something to be earned and to be proud of is going to be a community leader.
Conversely a student who knows his diploma is hardly worth the paper it is written on, because it was issued to him with very little effort on his part, has no pride. Thus, by proceeding along this path, we are not showing children that education is the path out of the ghetto.
It seems to me that the decision of Superintendent Walter Amprey to change the passing grade at Poly is a great mistake. Lowering the standards of the schools of Baltimore is a blame that can rest right on Dr. Amprey's desk.
Poly is mostly black. Is Dr. Amprey suggesting that the black students can't hack it? If this is so it is a grievous fault and he has sold them short. This is not the reasoning of some of the great black educators. I suggest that he rethink his decision and restore to this child a feeling of importance, which is what she is seeking.
oseph K. Leary
.' The writer is a Poly graduate.
Others collecting county's history
Regarding your Dec. 28 article, "Photos of Baltimore County's past need modern archival treatment," both The Sun and Richard Parsons, curator of photographs at the Baltimore County Public Library, should be well aware that the library is not the only group collecting local history and/or photographs.
Several groups within Baltimore County collect local history. The Baltimore County Historical Society has been collecting local memorabilia since it was founded in 1959. In fact, many of Mr. Parsons' photos were copied from the BCHS files. Catonsville and Dundalk/Patapsco Neck both have historical groups that are very active in collecting the history of their areas. The Reisterstown room and the Towson room of the Baltimore County Public Library also have collections of photos.
The museums (house and farm) and the library of the Baltimore County Historical Society are open on Saturdays and the library is open on Wednesdays. The Historical Society is housed in the old almshouse located on the hill above the Cockeysville library.
A dedicated staff of volunteers will help in any way that they can. All of our photos (approximately 3,000) have been cataloged and are available for public viewing.
Andrew C. Clemens
The writer is president of the Baltimore County Historical Society.
Hampden a better place to live
After reading the Dec. 9 article by Stephanie Shapiro, "The changing faces of Hampden," I felt it necessary to commend the journalist and The Sun.
The article was a refreshing change from the monotonous stories about the digression of small neighborhoods and the growth of crime in small towns. Hampden is a community that is overcoming its reputation for drugs, violence and racism and working hard to become a safe neighborhood with character.
It was nice to hear of a community such as Hampden, that is often forgotten, making such social and economic progress. And without government intervention! Perhaps we should pay attention to the example set by the residents of Hampden and start taking the initiative to make things right in our own communities.
Bring back almshouses
As I read about the plight of the homeless, I recall how decades ago the homeless were housed in almshouses, one of which still stands in Cockeysville and now houses the Baltimore County Historical Society.
My father was a professional man who from time to time was required to visit some of the residents and on occasion I accompanied him.
The residents were given room and board in exchange for performance of required duties, such as helping other residents with physical disabilities, cleaning, maintenance, meal preparation, tending the farm and crops, which provided much of the food for the residents, and taking care of the cattle.
Today it probably would be a violation of human rights and free speech to expect a homeless person to contribute toward his own welfare.
There is obviously a need for more housing facilities. Why not utilize some of the many vacant commercial buildings in the area and furnish them minimally and within safety standards required by law? Is there a need for frills?
Out-of-hand costs of government entitlement checks could be drastically cut since the residents would need little cash. Their health care would continue to be met by the taxpayer.
Perhaps this is a much too simplistic and realistic solution to homelessness, but then again "the old way" is often the sensible way, even in these days of liberalism and demands of entitlement.