Frank Glazer, Maine pianist and Bates artist-in-residence, died Tuesday morning. His 100th birthday would have been next month.
Music writer and journalist Sam Pfeifle aptly summed up Glazer and his life on Facebook:
[He] is one of the most impressive Mainers ever. He’s a man who didn’t get cheated by life and kicked ass just about every day he was alive as far as I can tell. I’m glad I got a couple of chances to meet him and hear him perform along the way. He was an amazing person.
MPBN ran this piece on Glazer’s life back in November.
Kate Beever, a local musician and music therapist, was one of Glazer’s closest friends. She said to me, “They never had kids, so I sort of took on the role of grandchild or maybe great grandchild since there was such a huge age difference.” Beever began working for the Glazers in the 2000, back when they lived in Parsonsfield, Maine. She began her work with them by arranging papers, and she progressively took a more involved role in their house after Ruth passed away. Beever eventually moved to New York to go to pursue her Masters at NYU, but upon her return she formed a friendship with Glazer. He became to her something of a mentor.
This is one of the most touching conversations I have been a part of to date.
ALEX STEED: You and I are both from the Ossipee Valley Region and you are a year or two younger than I am so we grew up in the same time and place. It is a lovely place, but it feels very isolated when you are a kid. I didn’t know the rest of the world existed until I got access to the Internet and traveled to New York when I was a teenager. You began working for the Glazers when you were 15, so it must have been such a fascinating experience to have this portal into what was possible both musically and culturally.
KATE BEEVER: It was really amazing. They had friends from all over the world who would come and visit. Ruth would put on parties where she would make these gourmet meals and I would meet all of these people I never would have met otherwise. It is actually starting to happen again because a lot of those people are contacting us to send condolences and tell stories about Frank. It is just amazing how much they’d seen in their lives. Also, as a 15 year old it’s easy to just kind of be a jerk, you know what you mean?
STEED: I do know what you mean.
BEEVER: Yeah! But working for them, I had to be super respectful and polite and use table manners and learn a lot about patience and listening. They were all so much older than me. I was able to gain respect for older people because I realized they have so much more life experience. Ruth was born in 1910, so the things they had lived through and seen, and the wars that they were a part of… They were so open about all of it.
Frank is so respectful of everyone, from the best violinist to the person who cleans his house. He treats them the same and talks about them with the same words. I find that kind of surprising, because usually when you talk to people that age, they can be kind of racist and grumpy. [Laughs]
No matter who sent him a letter, he tried to write back as quickly as possible. He didn’t really have time for schmoozing and stuff. After Ruth passed away, he didn’t do as much entertaining. He didn’t have a lot of time for that but if somebody wanted to have an honest conversation or ask him about music, he was willing to sit with them for three hours and talk. It was really cool.
STEED: I realize that this is a huge question and please take it whichever direction you’d like, but what did you learn from him?
BEEVER: Oh wow. The thing that comes to mind first is patience and perseverance. Those are things he drilled in early, but it is also something I learned by working with him, going through papers, and all of that. As he got older, he told a lot more stories. I learned a lot by listening and being open. As for learning about perseverance, I learned so much by the example of his life. He had a goal and he focused on it and didn’t do anything else. That inspired me to live my life in the same way. And I learned a lot about music, history, and his life.
I don’t know how deep you want to go with this, but the last thing he said to me was “It’s never too late to show your love.” We had gotten really close. I had worked for him and that eventually turned into a friendship and then I sort of became a family member, I guess. I have been with him most of this week. I finally said, “I love you” and he said, “You finally said it. You’re growing up.”
I have been a pretty reserved person for most of my life, and pretty private. I have not been super close to people, but I have learned that I can be. I have really opened up to people in this past week and it has been really special.
STEED: That’s a really amazing story. This is sort of an interesting juncture for you to begin to open up to that lesson, as it seems one of the things that scares most people about being open is the inevitability of loss of some kind. At least that applies to my own experience.
BEEVER: His attitude was so positive. There was a night where he was really sick and it was 4 in the morning. I told him I wanted him to stick around a little longer and he said, “Well, Kate, what happens when you get old is your body stops working and that’s what’s happening.” So I thought, yeah, you have to think about the impermanence of life. Everyone’s going to go at some point and so it is important to express things before then. You can’t really have a fear of loss because it is going to happen someday no matter what. It’s something I have always known because I have worked with a lot of people who have died, but this is sort of a new experience.
It has been really hard because people will ask me who he was and how old he was. When I tell them he was 100, they say, ‘Well, of course…” But it is a surprise still. He was planning out a tour and thinking about a book he was going to be writing. Things happened really quickly, but I think it has become easy to believe that he was going to live forever.
STEED: Now for a question that is slightly less broad, do any of the stories he shared with you immediately come to mind?
BEEVER: He talked a lot about his time in the war, where he realized that everyone was sort of the same and no one really wanted to be fighting. I guess that kind of changed his perspective, or strengthened his perspective, on the differences between people and how [those differences] don’t really matter.
He also talked a lot about Ruth because he loved her so much. She was such a powerhouse and would talk back to people if they gave her crap. [Laughs] She was the driving force behind some of his concert series. On the business side of things, she was a very powerful woman.
He told me that one time he had a performance scheduled for Carnegie Hall and all of the technicians and piano tuners were on strike so his concert was going to be canceled. He really didn’t want that so he put on a work jump suit and went out and tuned his own piano, left, put on a tux, went back on stage and performed. [Laughs] I think that says a lot about him.
STEED: Can you talk a bit about what you do, and what impact, if any, the Glazers had on you doing what you do today?
BEEVER: I have been playing music my whole life. I took a couple lessons with Frank—my grandmother was a pianist and was a huge fan of his. I also studied classical percussion and so I perform a lot in those areas. Since the 8th grade, I have wanted to work in music therapy, so that’s what I do as a profession and I play music on the side.
For Frank, a lot of what I had done was preparing his marketing materials and scheduling and travel plans and things like that. Duncan Cumming published a biography about him and Bates had been archiving all of his materials, so I was the one peppering all of his documents for those projects. Through that, I learned a lot about the business side of music. Helping Ruth plan parties and concerts really helped me with organizational skills. Working with them helped me to build those skills.
Frank’s brother went to school for music therapy too. It was one of the first music therapy programs. Frank immediately understood what I meant when I said I wanted to study this, and he was always really supportive of it.
STEED: It must have been really nice to have someone who didn’t need for you to explain what music therapy is.
BEEVER: [Laughs] Yeah! Absolutely. He introduced me to people, his doctors and other people he thought I should meet. He was always trying to connect me with people he thought could be helpful with my career because people had done that for him when he was young. That was really special.
Frank was a classically trained musician and so was Ruth. They were in this world of really wealthy people and high class classical musicians, basically. It would be really easy for them to push aside anything that wasn’t that world, but even when I said, “I am playing in a funk band,” or talked about playing drums or playing in a rock band, they would be really excited about it and supportive. They wanted to hear more. They never pooh poohed. I think that’s really amazing and important.