Parents and Ina Jackson Carmen
My parents were wise enough and loved me enough to provide me with piano lessons. My first piano teacher was Ina Jackson Carmen. We hit it off immediately and I just loved her. She was a superb teacher and became part of our family, joining us for social gatherings in our home. Click here to see the poem I wrote about her. She is one of the most colorful people I have ever known. As she played The 12th Street Rag her fingers danced over the keys, and her wrists jingled with her many colorful bright bracelets. She took a special interest in me, probably more than any other person outside my immediate family. She believed in this lively creative child and was the first person to introduce me to poetry. I remember writing an early silly poem with a Christmas theme, at the age of eleven or twelve. She lived in California at that time and read my poem to people in a local poetry group to which she belonged. Or course, she and they praised me for my wit and creativity. My parents allowed me to be a traveling companion on her relocation to California in her Nash Rambler. There are stories I could tell about that journey. When I came back home by train I saw myself as a young man and not just a little boy. It was an education I could not have received in a classroom.
Houston Youth Symphony Boy's Choir
When I was about 12 or 13 years old my parents got me into the Houston Youth Symphony Boys Choir. From our home in the working class community of Pasadena, Texas I carpooled to downtown Houston and the Houston Auditorium with one or two other kids .
My father's mother had been a classical pianist whom my father swore played for Madame Guggenheim. I have no way to know if this story was based on reality or not, nor which Guggenheim he was speaking of. They lived in New Jersey and were therefore close to New York City, the center of culture on the east coast if not in America itself.
It was from his mother that he learned an appreciation and respect for good music. She had a huge influence on him, even more so since his father had been killed in a train accident when Dad was 15. He was the eldest of the four children and I would imagine he became a sort of surrogate father for the other children.
Mr. Howard F. Webb was the founder of the Houston Youth Symphony (1946) and somehow my father became a member of the Board of Director of that organization. Dad was a great communicator and had lots of hutzpah that gave him entry into situations based on his own confidence and communication and persuasive abilities.
Mr Webb was a stern task master - necessary for dealing with children and adolescents - but he was respected not only by the children but by the community at large. It was under his direction that the great symphony director, Leopold Stokowski invited the choir to sing in the Houston Symphony Orchestra's production of Aiada.
Musical Influence on my Personality
We always had music around our home and my sister and I both took piano lessons. She was much better than I because she was more disciplined and I was more interested in being outside playing football and baseball than in practicing piano. I eventually came to appreciate many kinds of music. My first record album was of the movie version of South Pacific To this day, I love musicals and my favorite genre is classical.
In spite of my failings at piano, mother and dad encouraged and praised me and my desire to hear music, if only in the background, persists to this very moment.
Because of my attention deficit disorder and other personality traits I have never been one who could stay seated long enough to read books or play the piano for long periods of time. On the other hand, my musical background has given me an ear for the sounds of words, and a sense of the rhythm of words in sentences. One of my by best abilities is writing. I always loved and excelled in English more than any other subject. I could never write a novel but poems are just right for my fidgety nature and my language ability.
Howard F. Webb (1955)
Founder and Director: Houston Youth Symphony