Mu Phi Epsilon
Dallas Alumni Chapter

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From time to time I have interviewed members of our chapter so that we can get to know each other better.

Interview with Sylvia Taylor Lerch
by Mary Williams

Mary: How long have you been in the Dallas Alumni chapter? What other offices have you held?

Sylvia: I moved to Dallas in July 1965 ( from Rochester, New York) and joined the Dallas Alumni Chapter in 1966 or 1967 and was active until we moved to Richland, Washington Summer of 1972. I know I hosted a meeting or two but don't remember any office that I held. I became active in the chapter when we moved back in 1979. I served as Vice-President - programs - for a year or two. I have appeared on the recital series several times, as soloist and with a chamber group.
 
Mary: What do you hope to accomplish in your presidency? What you would like to see in our chapter or Mu Phi generally?

Sylvia: All of us seem to have such busy, full schedules these times in our lives that it seems a real challenge to keep the vitality of the Alumni Chapter functioning at a high energy level. Even if we are not teaching at the hour of the meetings, the few minutes of quiet are very appealing - yet the time spent with our colleagues are revitalizing and the goal of our own performance enriches our own work. I would hope that we continue to cultivate these aspects in our lives through the Alumni Chapter. I wonder how we can appeal to the new alumni who move to this area to associate with our chapter.

Mary: Tell us about your musical background.

Sylvia: My Bachelor of Music is in piano is from Baylor University. My major teacher was Orazio Frugoni. He was so inspiring that I wanted to be able to engender in students such a desire and passion for music as I felt he nurtured, or uncovered, for me. My first year at Baylor was the first year for a harp teacher and although I had had several years of organ lessons and wanted to continue I was talked into a quarter off harp lessons. After that I had two quarters of voice and I never wanted anyone to hear me sing, so I reluctantly practiced. Finally, my last three years were spent on organ as my secondary instrument. Having access to Waco Hall and the main organ of the school was nice, but Waco Hall was also the home of the 9-foot concert grand. Guess where I would rather be? Robert Markham, organist, was a kind teacher.

After marriage, two children, medical school for my husband, during which I taught piano, served as organist and resumed study with my high school piano teacher (in Houston) and performed occasionally, we moved to Rochester for Walter to enter a residency program. We took my mother with us and she did my housework and caring for my six and eight year old boys for two years while I attended The Eastman School of Music, studying again with Frugoni. My Master's Degree is in Piano/Music Literature. It was awarded ten years after my bachelor's degree. My Mother asked if they were proud of me and they said "yea" but when she asked if they would like me to do it again they said "no."

I was organist at churches for years, eventually serving as organist/choirmaster for several years. When I accepted a position on the faculty of Dallas Baptist College (now University), I took leave of the organist/choirmaster work and participated in the Choir at St. Michaels Episcopal Church. The music program was very meaningful and I was active there until we moved to Washington State in 1972, and when we returned in 1979. I now sing in the choir at Trinity Episcopal Church.

Once I was in Washington, I found myself agreeing to be choirmaster. Then I had to use/develop what conducting skills I had, no longer able to lead or get my ideas across by using (or hiding behind) the piano. Another experience!

So long as I was teaching at the University, I had not the time nor felt the need for colleague connections outside that area. When I was divorced and began a private studio. I became active in the Dallas Music Teachers Association. Since 1985/6 I have held board positions continuously, serving as President from 1998 - 2000.

Mary: What type of music do you prefer?

Sylvia: While I enjoy contemporary church anthems (not to be confused with folk music or "new age"), I find that my piano literature preference ranges from Baroque to Romantic and a little beyond, but not much. I do try to listen to performances with intense ears.

Mary: How did you meet your husband? What performing do you do with him and with chamber groups?

Sylvia: To keep my mind active and involved during the two or three year divorce process, I enrolled in a theory course at North Texas because I have always loved chamber music but never felt that I had the time or the contacts to pursue same. I also signed up for chamber music. Jim Lerch, strings coordinator, gave me the assignment of playing for a couple of his students. I really enjoyed that challenge. One of his students, Roy, kept quizzing me about dating. I was not the least interested. I can be very contented living alone. When this boy played a recital, Jim asked me to have a drink after the recital, I said "yes," thinking nothing special about it. Only then, when I learned that Jim was not married, did I realize that Roy was probably trying to play cupid. Jim and I dated for four or five years before our marriage in 1990. Since then we have played quite a few sonatas and have performed violin/piano works and in the past five years have enjoyed piano trios. Now we have groups over fairly regularly to play quartets and quintets. When I was reading music history books in school, I thought the musicales sounded like such wonderful evenings. They are. They are! After a session, the wine and cheeses, desserts and the conversation are a real pleasure.

Mary: Tell us about your family and family background.

Sylvia: I have three sons. One lives in Richardson and has three children. Another lives in Arlington with his wife and two boys. They are my real joy. I cannot imagine life without them and contact with them is so intensely important. My oldest son left college his freshman year and joined a religious cult and we have had very infrequent to no contact with him. That is my greatest sorrow. One learns to live with what comes ones way. My music, my other two sons, my friends and family sustain me. There was a time when the pain was so great I thought that even the music was not enough. That's when Lili Kraus came into my life and I enjoyed a special relationship with her, both studying and traveling with her.

Mary: What other interests do you have besides music? How do you like to spend your time?

Sylvia: Jim and I are off to Amsterdam and a cruise on the Rhine and I so look forward to the Rijksmuseum and other museums. My thoughts about a cruise down the Rhine remain to be known.

Mary: Anything else we should know about you?

Sylvia: Doing what must be done and still making time to practice is my greatest challenge, I think. My non-musical interests revolve around home and family. In the past, I have enjoyed sewing....that has not happened recently....no time. I enjoy my home, working on it as I have the inspiration and the time. I love visiting cathedrals and museums and have a few nice art books. My friendships are vitally important to me ...and my children and grandchildren. Unconditional love of a grandchild is hard to equal and I am grabbing every minute of it while it is here.

Mary: Thank you Sylvia for sharing yourself with us. I feel like we all know you a little better.

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Contact Information
 
Electronic mail President/ General Information -
Ashley Kimmel: Ashley.kimmel12@gmail.com
Website - Mary Williams: mwilliamstxtravel@yahoo.com
Concert Series - Susan Poelchau: sdpoelchau@yahoo.com
 Membership - Lisa Beyer: lisamariestorm@gmail.com
Programs - Tena Hehn - tenahehn@sbcglobal.net and Mary Ann Taylor - mtaylor7@gmail.com
Mu Phi Epsilon http://www.muphiepsilon.org