Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Irving Godt, 1923 - 2006

Irving Godt died on December 6, 2006. That name won’t mean much to all but a lucky few of you. Those of us who crossed paths with Irv are better off for it, whether we know it or not.

Irv Godt taught music history at Indiana University of Pennsylvania for thirty-three years. Those who had him for an instructor dreaded his class. Irv was notorious for the amount of preparation he demanded from all his students. The supplement he prepared for study purposes was over six hundred pages long. Not the book; the supplement.

I never had him for a class. I had a much better deal. Needing some spending money as a student, I got a job as Irv’s assistant, pulling down $1.75 an hour to help him to prepare and print the supplements, and be the music history departmental gofer. That meant I got to talk with him about a multitude of things beyond music.

I was too young to appreciate him completely. A small gargoyle of a man, Irv’s idea of big yucks was to gather half a dozen lounging students into his office, shut the door, and pass out dirty Elizabethan madrigals for us to sing. Much of what he had to offer went over my nineteen-year-old head. My loss. I should have been paying him, and a lot more than $1.75 an hour.

It always surprised us as students that the odd-looking little man in the basement office had an international reputation as a musicologist. Even today, Googling “Irving Godt” will return over 58,000 hits. He wrote books, gave lectures, and conducted the Pittsburgh Madrigal Society for years. He was far more appreciated away from IUP than in it, but he never left.

It was Irv Godt who taught me that you will never lack for someone to help you if they know you’re willing to do the work yourself. It sounds like common sense looking back thirty-plus years, but no one ever gave me a more valuable, or useful, piece of advice.

I was beyond lucky at IUP to get to work with some wonderful teachers, who had dedicated their lives to training young musicians, with skills and patience far beyond what would be expected from what some disdainfully call the “other” Indiana. Hugh Johnson. Dan DiCicco. Charlie Davis. Bob Lloyd. Charles Casavant. No one there taught me, or anyone willing to listen, more than Irving Godt. He was a rare person, one I hadn’t seen or spoken to (aside from a letter) in over twenty years, but I miss the idea than I won’t have the chance anymore.

Thanks, Dr. Godt.

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