Column: A swan song on a long, lively musical career
Eat your heart out, Harold Hill. You provided a commendable service with that "76 trombones" thing, but you can't hold a candle to our own "music man," Dr. Will Fisher, whose dedicated longevity and consummative compassion as choral director at Yavapai College is legendary.
He's the genuine article, and a man who is on the brink of hanging up his baton after 27 years at the college while instilling a love of music to a long line of students and townspeople and nurturing the best that they have to offer melodically.
Music, he said during an interview last week, "has a way of triggering memories from an emotional standpoint." In fact, he said, "I can clearly remember the song that was playing the first time I danced with a girl." And singing in a choir provides "a way to connect with humanity in a special way," resulting in "a significant experience in a person's life."
Fisher now presides over six choirs at the college (there were two when he launched his teaching career at YC), and the four audition choirs will be performing at 3 p.m. this Sunday, May 8, in the college's Performance Hall on its Prescott campus. Area townspeople will be joined by former students from near and far who will be converging to show their love and respect for the man as he looks to his formal retirement on May 15. And, significantly, several members of his first choirs will be in attendance at the event. (Admission to the concert is $5, with children 14 and under free; advance tickets are available in the YC Art Gallery, 776-2031.)
Numerous well-wishers have visited his Facebook site recently (he invites any and all who would like to follow suit by calling up "Friends of Dr. Will Fisher"). One example of many reminiscences he has already received came from Janet (Kullbom) Lakatos, who is now working as a nurse in Seattle.
"I hope you all are doing well," she wrote, "and want to thank you for all of the guidance you gave me during my 'shy and quiet' years. My two years at Yavapai College helped me to grow so much; and you and Rich Longfield were very instrumental in that process. Although I am in a different career now, I still use music a lot. In fact, last week one of my patients asked me to sing 'Amazing Grace' with him before his surgery! You helped me grow from a shy little girl with no self-confidence to the assertive, opinionated, but still compassionate person I am today. Just thought I'd let you know."
Another thought relating to the depth of the man was expressed last week by Judy Clothier, who was Fisher's first adjunct hire 27 years ago and who is still working for him. "One of his greatest things is his skill at organization," she noted. "He has an uncanny ability to organize and think through programming and what educational focus he wants the kids to have. It's phenomenal what he brings out in kids." His patience in dealing with the young students, regardless of their individual ability, helps to bring out the best in them, she added, with "discipline with understanding" being his forte.
As noted, Fisher's formal retirement date is May 15, but he has one more directorship project to perform, this time as an adjunct. His immensely talented group of young singers making up the Angelorum choir has a July 4 date to perform at Pearl Harbor as participants in a festival of choruses on the deck of the USS Missouri (she's also known as "Mighty Mo") in an event marking the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack there that thrust the nation into World War II. It was on the Missouri's deck that General Douglas MacArthur presided over the 23-minute surrender ceremony in Tokyo Bay marking the end of the war.
Now, if you think that Dr. Fisher will be going "out to pasture" following his retirement, then you have another thing coming. You see, he's a confirmed "Mozartophile" - his focus being on the music wizard who penned more than 600 compositions prior to his death at the tender age of 35 - and he is planning to devote his time to writing historical novels focusing on Mozart's life. "I've always had an incredible love for the music of Mozart," he confided, while noting that the composer is "the musical equivalent to Shakespeare." He says he thinks he can "package his life entertainingly" as he strives to "make Mozart come to life."
Regarding that choice not to simply rest on his laurels, Fisher provided a metaphorical twist to his thinking with this analogy: "You spend your life climbing a pole, and when you reach the top you don't want to slip down the pole but instead seek out another pole to climb."
So here's to Dr. Fisher as he climbs the rungs of that new ladder. And hail to thee, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. You couldn't ask for a better friend!