Reminiscences of Ted Norman



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I took classic guitar under Theodore in 1973 or 1974. I'd been studying under a couple of great local teachers since I was 6 years old, and decided to take a course at UCLA when I first went to college. However, when I first came to class with my steel-string 1953 Gibson country-western model, he shuddered and told me to bring a real guitar next time or drop out! I sure wish I still had that Gibson, which I grew up with, though! I had to borrow a friend's cheap nylon-stringer to take to class. TN's tablature books were great for those who (unlike me) couldn't read music, and for those of us who could as well. If I ever get a classic or flamenco guitar again, and he taught us the difference (there's a great luthier here in south St. Louis), I'll remember what Theodore said...get Savarez strings for the 3 low ones, and Augustin for the 3 high ones, for the best tone. It really works, even on a cheap instrument. Also, he told us how to, and how not to, trim and file our fingernails. I've followed his guitar manicure advice ever since.

Also will never forget seeing Narciso Yepes twice in the 1970s, first at UCLA with Laurindo Almeida and then a couple of years later in San Jose, with his tree-trunk 10-stringer. Amazing performer. RIP Ted. You were a great teacher!

                                                                                                                  Bob Carlson

In the fall of 1967 I heard that a classical guitar class was being offered at UCLA where I was enrolled as a graduate student in astronomy. Altough I didn't enroll immediately, part way through the quarter, I walked past the classroom where the course was being taught. The door was wide open, and as I paused and looked in, a gentlemen seated with a guitar in his lap turned toward me and gave me a friendly wave. This was Ted Norman. The next quarter I asked Ted if I could audit his course. He agreed and thus began a long musical connection with a remarkable musician, composer, and teacher. He soon suggested that I enroll in his class rather than audit, which I did untll I graduated in December, 1971. After that time I went back to auditing until my work schedule interfered sometime in 1975.

Ted introduced the students to a variety of guitar literature - both solo and ensemble pieces spanning the range from the renaissance to modern periods. Flamenco was also included. As time went on, I was sometimes invited to substitute teach his classes when he was out of town or ill.

Ted could be counted on to give expert advice on not only technique, musicianship, composing, and performance, but guitar and string selection, and teaching. He was much admired and respected by his many students, whom he would sometimes entertain with his humorous comments and stories.

Of all the teachers that I have studied with over the years, in high school, college, graduate school, and in private studies, Ted Norman was my favorite. This was due not only to his mastery of the guitar and ability to encourage and guide his students, but also his humanity and concern for the personal lives of his students. He was as a teacher should be.

                                                                                                                  Donald Gudehus

My name is Debbie Michels and I studied piano with Ted from the age of 10 until I was 17 and left Los Angeles for college. That would have been from 1960 until 1967. He was the most wonderful teacher - I really loved him! I remember starting off with Clementi and some Preludes of Bach - it was such a change, from typical piano books for children! Challenging, but then, he added so much kindness and gentleness that I was able to rise to the challenge

I used to love getting together with other students of his. We'd play concertos - sometimes piano with violin, sometimes piano with violin and cello - all kinds of things - Mozart, Haydn. He taught us a lot about listening to music intelligently - his teaching (at least, for me) wasn't so much to produce a concert pianist as to facilitate someone's lifelong enjoyment of music and of playing piano, guitar, and - now - harp! I miss him - if he were still alive I'd still be going over to his and Ruth's house for instruction. I also miss the other players - somehow I will have to find people who play flute or violin or even just bells, to play with me and my harp... I remember how he stimulated our creativity and flexibility, too - how I wound up playing mandolin and clavietta - and how I used to run into fellow and sister students at the Renaissance Faires, out there in Elizabethan costume, playing lutes and other instruments.

I still remember the excitement in the air, when Andres Segovia was going to come over for dinner. And I remember Ruth's artwork so well - she didn't participate in the music lessons much, but the love they felt for each other was "in the air" too, and always there was an aura of independence, a cultivation of one's own creativity and perspective. I also remember how supported I felt when he reached across the generational lines and talked about how much he enjoyed the Beatles' music...

I feel so lucky to have had him as a teacher and to have been exposed to Ruth, as a person and as an artist. I'm so glad you have created the website - I loved looking at the pictures and reading other people's reminiscences.

                                                                                                                  Debra Michels

I was a friend of Ruth and Ted, but lost touch after Ted died. I also studied guitar with Ted – not a serious student – one of his large group classes. Spent many, many evenings at their little house in West Hollywood. I have several of Ruth’s paintings.

This week, in my attempt to list my assets of my estate for my son, I did some research on Ruth’s website, and found that she had died in 2010. A photo of you, with Ruth, in their back yard is shown, and a notation that you like to hear from Ted’s friends or students. The photo brought tears to my eyes, remembering how many dinners and lunches we shared, surrounded by Ted’s music and Ruth’s paintings.

This is a note simply reaching back to the past.

                                                                                                                  Hilda Rolfe