In November 1982, I launched what was meant to be no more than a canoe ride and ended up being more than a fleet of vessels from anywhere and everywhere. An education which had taken me from the modest and productive halls of Winter Park High School led me to a scholarship at Harvard College, where, if a mind has never been challenged before, will surely be. Five years of wartime service in the Navy in World War II preceded a return to civilian life and a desire to have digs in New York City but never to relinquish my passionate ties to my uniquely special “hometown” of Winter Park.
Strange as incidents can be, I was literally singing in the shower at my grandmother’s home in Atlanta, when I was heard by the beautiful talented opera and movie star named Grace Moore, who promptly swept me to “The Big Apple.” I had always sung, but now I was serious. I was going to be an opera singer — better yet, a tenor! I enjoyed every minute of the experience — from 1948 to about 1996.
In 1980 — a new chapter — I had married B.W. We visited Winter Park on our honeymoon, saw old friends, and I was offered a job teaching as a distinguished professor at the University of Central Florida and singing as I chose with the Orlando Philharmonic, the Bach Festival and in concert on selected other occasions. As I had been a “Citoyen du monde, ” and B.W. was a professional musician as well, we decided we missed the Carnegie Hall concerts of NYC. We started what finally became Festival of Orchestras and ran it for 17 years. How refreshing to have the great orchestras of the world right here in Orlando!
But all good things do come to an end. I retired from that job in 2001. I loved my students, but I retired from my teaching position in 2005 at 85 years of age.
But I still had one job remaining: My “canoe ride” when I started writing for a little local paper then called Centerstage. Over the years, the paper morphed into the Winter Park/Maitland Observer. What did I write about during all those ensuing years from 1982 to present day? Well, what do writers write about? What they know! I wrote stories about growing up in Winter Park, stories of war, singing, teaching, people I knew, famous people I met and interviewed or admired, my dog, fictional stories bouncing in my head, conservatism, politics, patriotism, books, holidays, ideas of all kinds, weird, sad, funny, things that happened to me. You know, just everyday stuff. Reviews of plays, musical theater, opera, classical music of all kinds — 35 years of sketches of life in our beautiful snug town of Winter Park. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I never thought I had so much to say!
The people I have worked for and with have been wonderful through the years. At each change of management, writing became more challenging and interesting. Strangely, I had majored in writing at Harvard, but I never earned a living doing it — maybe that’s why I liked doing it so much! I remember Ernest Hemingway, who visited a writing class in which I was a student, said there is nothing more terrifying than facing a blank piece of paper. He was correct. But somehow, I wanted to “speak to” my friends and readers each week and looked forward to what topics we might think about this week.
Yes, I have gotten sharp comments once in a long while, but mostly, people would write and tell me something that I wrote was similar to experiences they had had. One particular column I wrote about living the role of Samson — my slowly going blind from macular degeneration, brought many letters from people living the same nightmare. Another article that garnered many positive comments was titled, “An Artist’s Life.” It was actually a speech I delivered to my Harvard classmates decades ago. Whether singing, teaching, writing, or as an impresario, my life is full as an artist — still — at 96!
A fond auf Wiedersehn, and a rivederce.
An international opera star for more than 40 years, Louis Roney has entertained on stage and on screen. He founded and directed the Festival of Orchestras.