My year spent as a Fulbright-Hays visiting professor at Keele University in Staffordshire, England, was exciting because of Keele’s unique American studies program. I was delighted to share my expertise as an American music specialist with their doctoral students. With emphasis placed on research in American contemporary composers, I taught a harmonic analysis course on Ragtime music and an American music history course.
Receiving a Fulbright award is in many ways a life changer. Arriving in England before the academic year began, I premiered new pieces written for me in a solo piano recital at the Edinburgh International Festival. Once done, I was eager to meet my class of students and delve into my favorite subject.
There was a mutual conviviality between faculty and students. I spent an enjoyable time assisting the students in their efforts to understand how to analyze and approach complex avant-garde American music of the 20th century. The students impressed me with their eagerness to explore the avant-garde. They taught me about the British approach to education, and music education in particular, which is based on a rich literary tradition whereas our approach to music is more analytical.
It was a year filled with intense teaching, learning, and sharing. Some of our favorite times were spent discussing the pros and cons of modern music with fellow faculty members and students over a home-cooked meal or pub lunch. Fortunately, we’ve been able to keep in touch with many of our English friends and students over the years with frequent get-togethers, and even bi-weekly online visits.
Early in my stay, the United States-United Kingdom Educational Commission invited the Fulbright-Hays Scholars to a reception at the American Embassy in London where we were given a warm welcome. We intermingled with Ambassador Kingman Brewster and the cultural attaché and over time interacted with them.
The Educational Commission generously presented me in two piano recitals, one at Wigmore Hall, and a second shared concert with my successor, American Fulbright pianist, Cecil Lytle, at Queen Elizabeth Hall in a program of American music. Throughout the year, I presented lecture recitals at a number of universities, gave piano master classes, and recorded lecture recitals and interviews on American music for Radio 3, BBC. Several distinguished British composers wrote pieces for me including a piano concerto.
By the beginning of July, the time to return home was looming. But, a surprise was in store for me: an invitation from Buckingham Palace to give a piano recital for HRH Princess Margaret, the Chancellor of the university. My wife, a soprano, joined me and chairperson, Peter Dickenson, in our presentation. The Princess was enthusiastic and requested a piece that sounded like da-da-da-da. I realized she was asking for a Scott Joplin rag and happily played one for her. She spent time afterwards telling jokes, holding my hand, and sharing insights into her personal life. Then, like a fairy tale, the princess magically disappeared. The evening was enchanting, time to go home.
What a wonderful year.
Dwight Peltzer – Fulbright to The United Kingdom 1978