Studying with Dr. Lauritz Munson

by Rev. Dr. Royal Arlo Odegaard, 27 Feb 2010

Kitty: Sorry for this long delay, but since writing to you, I have turned 80 years old, and do not function now as well as when I was 40! This will be the first chapter and probably last which I shall write and share my experiences with you.

In the beginning---I nearly drove my mother crazy with my pounding on our piano. The result of that, was my taking lessons from Beatrice Bennett (later Carlisle) from the age of nine to 17, twice a week. I only learned quite a few later that she had been teaching originally at the Munson School of Music on Ovington Street. After that, my father arranged a meeting with Anders Emile, with the idea of my taking Organ lessons with him. However, his plate was very full and overflowing, BUT, he suggested it would be far better for me to take lessons from a man in Brooklyn, by the name of Dr. Lauritz Munson! It sounded almost too grand for me to imagine. Yet, to my surprise, your Grandfather took me on as one of his students.

Chapter Two!!! It was the Winter of 1947, and New York was in the midst of an awful snow blizzard. Each time I was to go for a lesson, it was walking to the Bus, and then taking the Ferry to Manhattan, and also the Subway, over to Brooklyn. It was in the Organ Loft of the Old First Reformed Church on Carroll Street, where I would meet up with Dr. Munson. I really trembled-knowing he was a graduate of Paris Conservatory! However, He was as nice a man as I have ever known in my lifetime, and certainly he put me at ease immediately. Now for the koo-koo part!!! It was COLD up in that organ loft and I was wearing mittens. And I said, (remember, I was only 17 years old), "Oh, Dr. Munson, I do not think that I can play today without my mittens on!" Well, it was not long before I heard in a loud voice: "What?? Playing the organ with mittens on? Do you really think that Bach or Beethoven would try such a thing? Off mit those mittens!!!" And of course the lesson went very well that time.

It was on another time, and again the weather was not good, and I had to go to Brooklyn for another lesson. When I got there, again awful COLD up in that Organ Loft, but this time, I said: "Dr. Munson, I do not think that I can manage playing the organ, for one hand has to be up on the manuel, and the other on the lower, and my feet playing on those pedals, and I just do not think I can manage it." "MANAGE it?" Those words sounded tremendous to the ear as he asked me, "Do you drive a car?" "Yes," I said. "Well - if you drive, and you must use the clutch and the brake, and cars are coming against you, and are behind you, and ahead of you, and can you manage that?" "Yes," I said. "Well then why cannot you manage to play this instrument, when nobody is bothering you?" My defences were now totally down. Dr. Munson had won the War! Kitty, I only had a total of Seven Lessons with your Grandfather, but the memories of just being there with your Grandfather, and his sharing his great musical knowledge with me I shall treasure to my dying day. From that beginning I have gone on to obtain a Masters in Music Education, and have served nine different congragations, the last three as Minister of Music, having been ordained, and received my Th.D., as well as a Ph.D. Thank for the invitation to share my story with you.

Sincerely yours, Rev. Dr. Royal Arlo Odegaard

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