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Mack Williams: ASU’s I.G Greer Music Department and Dr. Kindt

recently heard a recording of Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.” Instead of tsarist Russia, it brought back memories of the early 1970s music department of Appalachian State University.

Although a psychology major, I took voice from China Grove’s Hoyt Safrit in Appalachian’s old I.G. Greer Music Building. Even when not scheduled for a voice lesson or Men’s Glee Club, I hung out there.

Some philosophy majors and art majors hung out, too.

One time, feeling ill, I lay on a hallway bench there with eyes closed and hands folded over my chest, when the late Esther Rufty Hodgin walked by with some of her fellow art major friends. Esther stopped, leaned down, and said: ”How natural he looks!”

We heard a great many performances in the old I.G. Greer auditorium by students, professors and visiting artists.

Then, one early fall day, a talent surpassing them all drove up in an old beat-up station wagon (think “National lampoon’s Vacation”) and began setting up his studio in I.G. Greer.

This was Dr. Allen F. Kindt Jr., a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, Julliard and the University of Michigan.

Growing up on the Old Concord Road, my father played the recordings of the wonderful Vladimir Horowitz. One time, my father said: “You should want to be like that!” pointing to Horowitz’s smiling face on an album cover.

I took piano from Mrs. Jones at Granite Quarry School, later with Dr. Honeychurch at Saint John’s, but it could be said that I followed through on my dislike of practice by refraining from it.

Walking past Dr. Kindt’s studio when he was practicing, I could have sworn that Horowitz was playing.

Dr. Kindt was kind to everyone, erecting no barrier of “faculty” between him and us. He was our friend and we were his.

One time, Dr. Kindt gave me a lift so I could buy a car battery. On the way, I asked him about the metal plate in the floor beneath his feet.

He said that one time, flames had burned through from underneath while he was driving, so he replaced the hole with the metal plate.

Dr. Kindt installed my battery, using hands that worked wonders with Bach, Scriabin, Balakirev, Chopin, Mussorgsky, etc.

Dr. Kindt was well over 6 feet tall and athletic. (Horowitz, wonderful as he was, looked a little sickly.)

Dr. Kindt worked out in the gym every day to be extra fit for his heart-felt, body-felt performances. (During piano sections of particular intensity, he emitted a low growl.)

Some of us would join Dr. Kindt for lunch in the cafeteria. We ate what was provided (Appalachian’s food was good), but Dr. Kindt brought his from home.

When he opened his paper sack (often two), the whole food pyramid was soon constructed before us: vegetables, meat, dairy, grain, nuts and fruit, all in proper proportion.

At that time, Dr. Kindt wore those old-style, black plastic frame, “Clark Kent” glasses. One day, joking with him about the similarity between “Kent” and “Kindt,” I asked, “Is there something we should know?” Dr. Kindt only made a low chuckle, adding to the mystery.

Speaking of low chuckle, Dr. Kindt had a most unique voice, a throaty baritone, somewhat reminiscent of (and I most certainly mean no disrespect) the Walt Disney character “Goofy.”

Dr. Kindt told us that while boxing in the Navy, he was struck in the “goozle” (voice box), giving rise thereafter to the voice heard by us.

I mentioned earlier how my listening to a recording of Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” brought back these memories; the reason: Dr. Kindt’s  performance of that piece in concert at I.G. Greer auditorium.

Since the building of Appalachian’s Hayes Music Center years ago, the only “performance” in the old I.G. Greer auditorium is the showing of movies for students.

In the weeks before Dr. Kindt’s concert, many of us were so fascinated by his playing that we would listen, sitting Native-American style on the hallway floor outside his studio. Among those listening were Esther and her boyfriend, music major Rusty Clinard.

In the modern vernacular, Dr. Kindt’s concert “blew us away” (terminology used to describe tornadoes or explosives back then). Professor Hoyt Safrit pronounced: “You will never hear better in New York!”

Those of us who had listened to Dr. Kindt practice were already “concert-goers-in-practice” with him.

When the final musical product was produced, the air of quiet reverence and awe filling the concert hall was no greater than that which had previously filled the narrow “concert hallway” outside Dr. Kindt’s studio door.

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