Mildred (Andrews) Boggess
By accident I found on YouTube the program in which several of Miss Andrew’s organ students reminisce about their musical life with Miss Andrews as their teacher.
It prompts me to write this memoir also as a student of Miss Andrews. It shows much of her human side rather than her musical side.
It was the summer of 1948 (I was 17) when I entered the University of Oklahoma (OU) and signed up for organ lessons.
At our first lesson, Miss Andrews looked me over and said “you will never make a great organist because your feet are too big”. They are 13AAA. Also, she was soon to find that my great interest exceeded my talent. However, it was a wonderful summer creating such wonderful sounds, and to be frank, a lot of sound. I matured a lot that summer.
I needed to work my way through college and had inherited my brother Bill’s job at the University Book Store. He graduated in architecture as I entered OU. Somehow Miss Andrews found out that I was poor, probably though our mutual friend and my boss, Mr. Mayfield. At one of my lessons, Miss Andrews offered to help me financially. I answered that I was going to be OK.
Someone thought that I was worth helping. When I think of her kindness, I still have to take an extra swallow.
I graduated in 1952 with a Bachelors in Music Education, but took organ for only two semesters; however, during my undergraduate years, we occasionally met in the halls, and would exchange news.
Often, I would stand at the back of Holmberg Hall to listen to Bob Whitney practice. I was friends with some of Miss Andrew’s students – Mary Ruth McCulley, Mary Jean Straw and a special friend, Curtis, from Edmond, whose surname I have forgotten.
It must have been between 1946 and 1948 that she gave a recital in Holmberg Hall. I don’t recall what she played except, for an encore, she played a rumba. She had designed and made her dress which was modest and allowed freedom for her legs.
These two semesters with Miss Andrews perhaps may have saved my life during the Korean war. At the last muster of my regiment before leaving for Korea, I was pulled out to report to the chaplain. Because I could play the organ, I spent the remainder of two years as a chaplain’s assistant at Fort Riley, Kansas. Many of my regiment died. I look back with a guilt smothered by relief and eternal thanks.
Later, in 1956, I went back to the University of Oklahoma for a Masters in Library Science, after which I moved to Boulder and the University of Colorado. Sometime after that, Miss Andrews came to give a concert. I remember only that the page turner had trouble with the many repeats in D’Aquin’s Noël.
About 1960 the University of Oklahoma bought a harpsichord. Miss Andrews took the summer off from teaching and came to the University of Colorado where the summers are nice and the scenery is beautiful. While there she studied harpsichord with Storm Bull.
She fit right into my social circle – exploring old gold and silver ghost towns of the Rockies. She also enjoyed with us, champagne brunches in Boulder canyon.
I took her on a weekend trip to the Four Corners – the southwestern corner of Colorado, southeastern corner of Utah, northeastern corner of Arizona, and northwestern corner of New Mexico – including Mesa Verde.
We had lots of car time together and talked of many things such as:
The last time I saw Miss Andrews was inexplicable and verged on being a miracle.
In 1965, having completed my Peace Corps assignment in Malaysia, I decided to spend a few days in Taiwan before returning home to the United States. As I was disembarking in the Taipei International Airport, she was standing in line for boarding another plane (for Japan?). We had no more than 3 minutes to talk.
I still don’t understand why the “powers that be” who arranged for us to meet, couldn’t have arranged for us to have a few more minutes together.
P.S. My wife and I live at Collington Life Care Community. It is a retirement community with about 400 independent residents on the east side of the Washington, DC beltway. I recently found that also living here was Al Folop, also was a student of Miss Andrews about 1945. He maintained that he was her oldest student. After his recent death, I became her oldest.