Sunday, July 31, 2011

Playing On All the Keys: the Life of Walter F. Anderson

Blurbs on Joan Horn's book

Joan Horn, a longtime resident of Yellow Springs, was a student of Walter Anderson’s at Antioch College. He was head of the Music Department there from 1946 to 1965, and broke barriers at that time as the only African American head of a department in any non-black college or university in the United States. Joan wrote a biography of him, Playing On All the Keys: the Life of Walter F. Anderson. The book is available through her and at the local bookstores and Town Drug in Yellow Springs.

A Slovenian friend of “Andy’s”, Mitja Mersol, now editor of Delo, the newspaper for Ljubljana (formerly in Yugoslavia), attended Antioch for a year as a young man. After reading the book, he wrote, “It’s in a sense a biography of American in the second half of the past century.” Others have read the book – both those who knew him well and those who never met him. Their comments follow.

“I certainly have enjoyed reading Walter’s biography that you worked so diligently and long on. The readings you selected for the Archives were important benchmarks to his life and reminded us all as to why he was so extraordinary! You have captured those moments and shared them in a poignant and powerful compilation. I will cherish the collection of stories about Walter and when I read them, I hear his laughter.”
Jan Stunkard, NEA co-worker

“I have had a quiet Sunday afternoon and have been reading with enormous interest Joan Horns’ book on Walter Anderson; It is well-written and researched, and I’m fascinated with his life story. I just got to the account of his year’s teaching at Wilberforce, where Nancy and I did a good deal of research many years ago, and it is a hoot.”
Randall Burkett, Emory University
(collector of books and papers on African-Americans)

“Your biography indicates that there was so much going on underneath the surface of Andy’s life which I did not know. You have painted the picture of an absolutely remarkable man –from birth to death, who lived such a rich trove of humanistic and humanitarian values…I think you’ve captured very well the racial contexts of his life. His responses to his social confrontations throughout life ring quite true to me….It is mindful of the kind of grounding that Duke Ellington got, leaving him with considerable self-confidence and an ability to negotiate the difficulties of race while still being highly successful….Your chapter 17 was an excellent description of being ‘in the trenches’ of the desegregation/integration issues in Yellow Springs and of Andy’s clear-sighted ways through some of the complexities of some of these issues…Suffice to say I think you have done a job that needed to be done and that few if any others could have in chronicling Andy’s life.”
Del Jenkins , Psychologist, retired
New York University

“I am loving your book. Not only is it filled with stories about a very fascinating and important person, but it is told in such a lovely way. It reads like an evening sitting with you.”
Brian Forist, former naturalist
Glen Helen Outdoor Education Ctr.

“”What a wonderful book! Congratulations! Your attention to details provides marvelous insights into Andy’s life, and your eloquent expression keeps me reading. Thank you so much.”
Dr. Curtis Huff, Chief
Near East Office of Citizens
U.S. Department of State

“Your book is wonderful …What a job it was to pull together all those details and names, etc. Congratulations!”
Marjory Hanson, Asst. to Andy
National Endowment for the Arts

“You have an enticing writing style…The stories and anecdotes were describe in fine detail and with a variety that kept my attention…Additionally, your own extensive knowledge of music was critical to your insights about Andy’s life.”
John Hug, Science Education Coordinator, ret.
Ohio Department of Education

“I don’t think I’ve ever written to tell you how much I enjoyed the book…or how much I learned from it….he was a presence on campus while I was at Antioch. I now realize that one reason we didn’t see much of him was that he was commuting to DC at the time. Talk about indefatigable!”
Allen Spalt, Director, ret,
Agricultural Resources Center

“I think you must be an Anderson to have weeded through 88 years. I used to have trouble keeping up with my father in phone conversations or in daily activities as a child and as an adult. Thank you ad infinitum for the informative and loving biography you wrote.”
Sandra Anderson Mastin,
(Andy’s daughter)

“I continue to rejoice in the book – it is so beautifully, eloquently written, yet it feels like a wonderful conversation as I read and re-read.”
David Mallery, Educator
(book was dedicated to him)

“Immediately I scanned it and I began grinning as I realized everyone else reading the chapters would recall other anecdotes and think, ‘Why didn’t I recall that!’”
Dee McCaslin, writer
(former resident of Yellow Springs)

“He comes to life in a way that only someone with direct ties to him and a deep appreciation for his contributions could impart…being able to enjoy it at this particular time in our nation’s history has given me an even greater appreciation for the challenges he regularly faced with such compassion and resolve.”
David Howarth, author

“…to books…my most pleasurable reading over the summer. One was Joan Horn’s Playing on All the Keys which reintroduced me to Andy, whom I’d known only casually as a chorister during my three years at Antioch. What a talented and fascinating individual he was! And what challenges he met to live such a full and rich life! Beautifully structured and written, I had difficulty putting it down.”
Deborah Curtiss, Antioch alumna
Artist, Musician
(former student of Andy’s)

“…without you, Andy would have largely been lost to history. There are so many tangents that beg for exploration, beginning with the Andersons of Zanesville. What a unique family!”
Rod Ross,
National Archives

“Walter Anderson’s story is far more than that of a small college music teacher. Raised in a deeply segregated society, he became a one man musical force bringing about harmony that extended far beyond the notes on the staff...Those who knew Andy will recognize much but will probably learn a great deal as well. Those who did not know Andy may enjoy the story of a man who used a stunning musical talent to bring about social change.”
Joan Levin, Antioch alumna
(sang under Andy’s baton)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm going to read this book many, many times. It is very rich. I grew up in Yellow Springs during the era that is documented in this book, and it fills in a lot of the blanks that I've had questions about all my life. The details of the Lou Geigner riots for exsample...I was a young teen when this was happening and I didn't know the whole story. I've always cherished memories of Mr. Anderson coming into our classroom at Mills Lawn School and playiong piano and singing for us. i even remember the song "High Silk Hat" which was my favorite as a first grader. for us. Ms. Horn has described Yellow Springs culture that I thought would be lost and forgotten. Now I know that the spririt of what made the Springs so unique will never be lost. How that era effected me emotionally is something I couldn't describe to others and thanks to this book, I have the full picture now. I am eternally grateful to Ms. Horn for her insite and detailed info. Her book, like Mr. Anderson himself is a gift to the world. Jacinta (Jay) Williams