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The KPAC Blog features classical music news, reviews, and analysis from South Texas and around the world.

Willie Ruff: Hindemith By Way Of Charlie 'Bird' Parker


"At this stage, I had never heard the name Paul Hindemith. I saw it there on the page, but I wasn't even sure how to pronounce it and I had certainly not heard any of his music. But I said, 'it doesn't matter that I haven't heard of this cat.....but if he's good enough for Charlie Parker to want to come and sit at his feet and learn some music, that's good enough for me!'' Willie Ruff, speaking of making the decision, at the age of 17, to apply for admission to Yale, in hopes he might study with Paul Hindemith.

To his surprise, Willie Ruff was accepted at Yale, as a French horn major. He had to bide his time before he could attend Hindemith's class on music theory, all the while regretting that Charlie "Bird" Parker had never shown up to "sit at the feet of Hindemith."

Ruff's Hindemith experience was not at all what he had anticipated. He found himself studying polyphonic lines of 16th century music and performing, with his classmates, music by Gabrieli and Monteverdi. Hindemith's class even went to New York City to play concerts of ancient music, conducted by Hindemith.

Twenty five years later, Willie Ruff found himself on the faculty of the Yale School of Music, teaching in the same classroom Hindemith had used. "The blackboard was still there, preserved," said Ruff. His search for Paul Hindemith had come full circle.