“You will be studying with one of Canada’s leading composers if you decide to register,” stated Mr. Leonard Isaacs, Dean of the School of Music, University of Manitoba. Deciding to study composition with Dr. Turner was one of those life-changing decisions, which opened up a whole new world. To see a master craftsman in action and to be in such a fortunate position to draw on his vast knowledge and experience was a tremendous learning opportunity. Also, the wonderful qualities of the man himself – kind, caring and patient with a warm sense of humour all contributed to the time with Dr. Turner as the educational highlight of the school week.
As I entered his office for my weekly composition session, I remember well his warm smile greeting me and his respectful presence. Shortly thereafter, he would open wide my manuscript pages and gaze at the entire lay-out of the score as if it were a painting, initially commenting on such qualities as clarity, balance, form, and appropriate activity and then proceeding to examine specific sections in detail. It was always amazing to me how quickly he could get ‘into my head’. It was as if, all week, he had been the one to grapple with the ideas that were put on manuscript. Although he was very encouraging throughout our many sessions together, he did remind me at the outset that part of the process of becoming a successful craftsman was to put the first 12 pounds of paper straight into the garbage can.
A short time after graduation, to receive, not only my first commission from Diana McIntosh, Music Inter Alia, but to have it performed along with one of Dr. Turner’s works (Diversities) and broadcast on the CBC radio network program, ‘Music Alive’ via Montreal, was a great honour.
It was indeed a privilege to have been a student and friend of Dr. Robert Turner.