Interview with Iola Brubeck

IMG_3163Iola Brubeck (b. Corning, CA, 1923, d. March 12, 2014) was a radio broadcaster, actress and journalist who studied at the College of the Pacific and married Dave Brubeck in 1942. She worked as Dave’s manager and publicist, wrote lyrics to many of his songs and collaborated with him on writing “The Real Ambassadors,” a musical theater piece starring Louis Armstrong and Carmen McRae.

 

 

This interview was conducted by my former colleague at LC, Dr. Denise Gallo on April 10, 2008. Photo by Larry Appelbaum.

Ms. Gallo:
It’s a pleasure to have you here and to get to speak to you woman on woman, and I say that because what a woman you are.  Oh, my heavens.

Iola Brubeck:
Thank you.

Ms. Gallo:
I started to do a little research to see a bit about your background and I knew some things, but when I started to make a list, which I couldn’t quite finish because there were too many things to write down  let’s see.  You were a freelance actress 

Iola Brubeck:
I was for a while, yes.

Ms. Gallo:
 for a while.  A librettist and lyricist; an award winning writer and debater when you were in your student years; you worked in radio, you were a very respected jazz educator, and we’re going to get back to that in a little bit.  Secretary, personal manager, wife, mother, and now grandmother, and you have done it all and balanced all of that, and I, I just am in awe of how you did that.  And especially, and I think we are going to talk a little bit about that in just a minute, the times in which you did all of those many things.

So, let’s just start there a bit.  As a student, you were going to college and graduate school at a time when a lot of women weren’t doing that, or maybe had just gotten a bachelor’s degree and then maybe married and started another life.  What sort of spurred you on?

Iola Brubeck:
Well, Dave and I met when I was still an undergraduate.  He had just graduated from college, and I had finished my sophomore year and he went into the service, and as so typical of those times, we were married while he was in the service and then I returned to school while he was in the Army and then when I found out that he was going to be going overseas, I didn’t quite finish to graduate.  I still had a few credits that I had to make up because I wanted to spend as much time with him as possible before he went overseas.

So, once he was shipped across to Europe, then I came back and finished college.  Then I did not go to graduate school until after he returned, and when he came back he enrolled at Mills College to get a master’s and I enrolled also to study at Mills and I did not get my master’s.  It ended up, neither of us got our Master’s, actually, but we did return to go to school.

So, then the years that Dave was overseas, as I said, I finished my units in order to graduate and then I went to work in Los Angeles as a freelance actress, and that came about because while I was in Stockton and going to the University of the Pacific to finish my degree, I heard on the radio one day a dramatic program that I listened to, and afterwards they said this is part of a series in which they are asking young people to audition to appear on this program, and whoever wins the audition appears on this program and then, you know, it’s one of those things, if you win in the region then you go on higher up, that sort of thing.

So, I listened to the program and I thought, “Well, I can do that.”  And so I auditioned and I won, and then I won on the next level 

Ms. Gallo:
Oh, my gosh.

Iola Brubeck:
And then I won on the next level, so the people at, I think it was NBC in Hollywood said, you know, you really should make a career in this, so that’s why I went down to Hollywood then and started a career at freelance acting, which is kind of another word for starvation [laughs].

Ms. Gallo:
Oh.  But you did appear in some television programs, did you not?

Iola Brubeck:
Not television.

Ms. Gallo:
Ah.

Iola Brubeck:
Remember the times.

Ms. Gallo:
Of course.  Of course.

Iola Brubeck:
We didn’t have television then.

Ms. Gallo:
Radio.

Iola Brubeck:
If you went up on the hill in Hollywood there was a place there where there was a television studio, and you had to wear green makeup and they did give sort of lessons for people who were acting in radio at that time, saying, “Well, television is coming, you better be prepared,” and so it was only at an experimental stage at that time.

Ms. Gallo:
And you didn’t continue because Dave came back or 

Iola Brubeck:
Dave came back and made the decision, we had been separated enough, so when he went back to school, we moved — I moved out of Hollywood and up to northern California, and then shortly thereafter our first child was born, in 1947, so it is hard for me to believe I have a child 60-years-old [laughs].

Ms. Gallo:
Oh, my.  Well, and so you then  what I found absolutely fascinating about reading about your life and touring 

Iola Brubeck:
Yes.

Ms. Gallo:
That you took the whole family with you.

Iola Brubeck:
Yes.  Until they were school age, yes, I did.

Ms. Gallo:
One of the babies used to sleep in one of the drawers [laughs]?

Iola Brubeck:
Right.  Right.  We found that if we checked into hotels, the very old hotels had very large closets –
[laughter]

– and we traveled with a footlocker that had air mattresses and basic cooking utensils, like a camping outfit.

Ms. Gallo:
My gosh.

Iola Brubeck:
And some books and toys for the children.  I mean, we had everything in that one footlocker, and like you mentioned, the baby could fit into a very large drawer [laughs] and the air mattresses could be laid down in the closet, not that we would shut the door 

Ms. Gallo:
Sure.

Iola Brubeck:
But the child would have a place to sleep, because we had to get by, you know, as inexpensively as possible.

Ms. Gallo:
Absolutely.

Iola Brubeck:
So we would try to get places that had at least someplace where we would be able to get breakfast for the children and that sort of thing.

And we just made do.  I mean, it was like pioneering, only in the modern times, but I came from a sort of pioneer family and I guess in some ways I enjoyed meeting the challenge, just to see what we could do with  you know, we just did not have the money, but yet I thought it was important to keep the family together as long as possible, and Dave’s career demanded that he be gone so much that this seemed to be the best way to go about it.

Ms. Gallo:
That’s kind of a nice motto for your life, “meeting the challenge,” because it seems like you have just accomplished so much and done it head on.

Did you find  well, let me just ask, Dave obviously introduced you to jazz 

Iola Brubeck:
Yes.  I did not know a thing about jazz.

Ms. Gallo:
And did you have music in your household growing up?

Iola Brubeck:
No.

Ms. Gallo:
Nothing.  Did you like it at first?

Iola Brubeck:
Yes, I liked it.  And of course, again, remembering the times, the big bands in particular, that was the popular music of the day.  So when I say I knew nothing about jazz, I didn’t have any particular interest in it, but certainly it was all around me and I enjoyed it as just something that was entertaining.  I really didn’t take it that seriously.

Ms. Gallo:
[affirmative]

Iola Brubeck:
But he introduced me to really what jazz was about, and I then began to realize, you know, what an important medium it was and sort of became a crusader along with him, then, in trying to let people know of how important it was, that it wasn’t just a matter of entertainment, that it transcended that and that it was such an expression of an individual’s soul, and I think often that was hidden because people like Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller especially in that period knew that in order to reach an audience they had to entertain, and there is nothing wrong with entertaining, I think that it is necessary, but they also were doing something far more than that, which not everybody picked up or understood.

Ms. Gallo:
I seem to remember when I first heard your husband’s music that it was a very  to my ear, an intellectual jazz.  There was a lot of thinking you had to do going along with that improvisation.

Do you feel that same way about his music, or do you think  have you heard so many other players that did the same thing that he seems to be just sort of commonplace, or how does he stand out?

Iola Brubeck:
That’s an interesting question.  I think that, to me, Dave’s improvisations are of particular interest because they do have an intellectual element that you can follow, and if you have some basic knowledge of music you can sort of understand the structure and understand that he is building within a structure and a form.  But also I think that he plays with such passion and focus that there is an emotional level that probably is more important than the intellectual level.  So I think that the reason that he has had the audience that he has had for so many years is that there are the two levels in his music, and that if you are someone who is very well versed in music you can follow musically what is happening and say, “Ah, here is something interesting,” or “This is a quote from something,” or “These progressions are very unusual,” or “This counterpoint really is almost as if it is written and yet it is all improvised.”

At the same time, you can also sit there as a listener and just feel the emotions and usually  well, I would say more than the term “usually,” I would say almost always I find as a listener in an audience and feeling the audience around me that there is an uplifting experience in that.

Ms. Gallo:
Absolutely.

Iola Brubeck:
There is something in the spontaneity and the joy that he and the other musicians in the quartet have in performing that raises everyone’s spirits, and over and over again I have had people tell me that.  “I came feeling so depressed, I’ve had a long day and things have gone wrong,” and so on, and then saying “Now I feel great,” you know, that it is  it is a transforming experience if you really throw yourself into it.

Ms. Gallo:
Absolutely.  What I found about the intellectual aspect is that I guess when I was listening to the improv, you sort of think “Where is he going next with this” 

Iola Brubeck:
Right.

Ms. Gallo:
When he finally arrives, it is like a big puzzle and then it all makes sense, but it is such a wonderful ride the whole way through to get to the very end.

Iola Brubeck:
That’s what Billy Taylor used to say.  He said, “I used to love to listen Dave just paint himself in a corner and see how he was going to get out of it.”

Ms. Gallo:
Wonderful.  Tell me a little bit about your experiences as a writer.  Now, your first major was creative writing?  Were you majoring in creative writing and radio?

Iola Brubeck:
Again, I’ll have to go back to the undergraduate days.  The University of the Pacific, then College of the Pacific, offered a major in radio 

Ms. Gallo:
Oh, that’s right.  It was the first one, wasn’t it?

Iola Brubeck:
It had its own little radio station.

Ms. Gallo:
[affirmative]

Iola Brubeck:
So that as a major in radio, you did everything.  You acted as an engineer, you wrote; there were classes in all aspects of radio.

Ms. Gallo:
Okay.

Iola Brubeck:
So I didn’t concentrate that much on writing, but that was  that was part of my experience as a radio major.

Writing is something that I always thought I had maybe a little bit of talent in, but I really didn’t take it too seriously or pursue it too much, but then when I came back to Mills as a graduate student, I did take creative writing and wrote several short stories and that sort of thing.

Ms. Gallo:
Oh, you won a prize, didn’t you?  One of your short stories was award winning, wasn’t it?

Iola Brubeck:
Yes.

Ms. Gallo:
Yes.  And so you provide the words; you are kind of like an opera team, aren’t you?  You provided the words and Dave provides the music 

Iola Brubeck:
That’s right.

Ms. Gallo:
It is kind of a very classic team.  When you work together, who starts?  Is there a process?  Do you suggest something to him or does he suggest something to you?

Iola Brubeck:
It works both ways.

Ms. Gallo:
Can you tell us a little bit about one piece that was an interesting collaboration?

Iola Brubeck:
Well, the very first big piece that Dave wrote was “The Light in the Wilderness,” and that was a case where I didn’t write so much as I chose text for him, and if he needed something written as a bridge from one place to another, then I would write it.

And the next big piece that he wrote was “The Gates of Justice,” and I also  I worked with several rabbis who told me about various texts that expressed what they wanted to express, and so I chose the texts there.  And then something was needed to express more the African American experience, and so I wrote the texts for that, and I think I probably am most proud of it, because it is something that fits into the context of “The Gates of Justice.”  And it was something that I had to fight for because the publishers at the time said, “Well, all this other text comes, you know, from the Old Testament or from the scriptures of some sort and now you are throwing in an element that is a little different.”  And I said, “Well, that’s exactly what we want, an element that is a little different, that shows the African American experience,” and they said to Dave, “Well, you are the composer.  After all, you have the last word on this.  So, what do we keep it in or do we take it out?”  And he said, “Well, keep it in.”  And actually, it has become sort of the focal point of that particular piece, and the theme of it is, “Lord, Lord, what will tomorrow bring.”

Ms. Gallo:
[affirmative]

Iola Brubeck:
And “Last night, I felt an arrow stinging in my soul so deep my eyes refused to weep,” and then it tells the experience of walking down the street and feeling at peace, and then something happening on the street that makes you realize that you are marginalized in this society.

Ms. Gallo:
You have really never been afraid to make political statements or social statements, you or Dave, I suppose.  Is that something that just happened, or is this really so much your belief system that it just comes out in all your work?

Iola Brubeck:
I think it is a belief system, and on the racial situation it is just very strongly on a belief system, again remembering the times.

Ms. Gallo:
Absolutely.

Iola Brubeck:
At the time that Dave and I were married, and I was still back in college, I can remember very strongly a particular debate about race that was going on in a classroom, and someone, a voice of real hostility saying “Well, if you believe so much in equality for everybody, you know, why didn’t you marry a black man,” and I said, “How do I know I didn’t?”
[laughter]

Ms. Gallo:
Interesting.  Oh, my goodness.  Well, he certainly was in the world with black musicians 

Iola Brubeck:
A lot of people thought that he was.

Ms. Gallo:
Absolutely.

Iola Brubeck:
We went through a period when we lived in Philadelphia; it was one of the first integrated apartment buildings in Philadelphia.  Well, we were the ones who integrated it.  All the other families were black.

Ms. Gallo:
Oh, for heaven’s sakes.

Iola Brubeck:
And I guess we had that address, so many people thought at that period my husband was black.  After all, he had very black hair and dark eyes, and from living on the ranch he was very, very tan, so his skin was quite dark.

Ms. Gallo:
I always liked to think that jazz doesn’t have colors except for blues.

Iola Brubeck:
I think that’s a very good description.

Ms. Gallo:
It is one music that was integrated so early on 

Iola Brubeck:
Oh, yes.

Ms. Gallo:
– all the musicians seemed to welcome each other and learn from each other.

Iola Brubeck:
That’s right.

Ms. Gallo:
Play nicely.  It’s a beautiful lesson.

Iola Brubeck:
It’s what you play and how you play, and that is the important thing, and that’s  I know that Dave has always chosen musicians to how he felt he could best work with them and what they had to offer musically.  It had nothing to do with the color of their skin.

Ms. Gallo:
Exactly.

Iola Brubeck:
He happens to have an all white group now, but it’s not because that is his choice.  It is just when he was looking for the next bass man, he found the best musician he could find.

Ms. Gallo:
That may have been a little bit of a challenge for you, another challenge for you.

Doing what you did as a woman when you did it, we were just chatting before we started to talk here about the 1950s, when you really started to work, maybe, with your husband.

Iola Brubeck:
[affirmative]

Ms. Gallo:
That was, as you said in your previous conversation, the time when women would put their aprons on after the war, and we went to cake mixes and making dinner every night and TV dinners, and you were not doing that, you were raising your family, certainly 

Iola Brubeck:
Yes.

Ms. Gallo:
– and you had a whole slew of other interests and ideas.  Can you tell us a little bit about what it was like being that active as a woman?

Iola Brubeck:
Well, it was truly a juggling act 

Ms. Gallo:
I bet.

Iola Brubeck:
 as far as time is concerned.  And remember that we did have children that were quite close in age 

Ms. Gallo:
[affirmative]

Iola Brubeck:
So I did a lot of the apron strings and getting dinner on the table.  I mean, that was a given, but I also kept track of everything that was going on with my husband’s career, and at that time, you know, we simply couldn’t afford to have outside people involved, so I was the bookkeeper, I wrote the salaries and took care of, you know, the taxes and all of that type of thing, wrote program notes, did the bookings for travel, and when I was at home and Dave was traveling, you know, they called me central intelligence –

[laughter]

Iola Brubeck:
– if they wanted to find out where are we going next, you know, and how are we booked, that sort of thing.  So, I acted as his manager, I guess, basically, you would say.

Ms. Gallo:
Other mothers, how did they deal with you?  Did they understand what you were doing?

Iola Brubeck:
No.

Ms. Gallo:
Did they appreciate what you were doing or give you a bad time about it at all?

Iola Brubeck:
No.  They didn’t give me a bad time about it, but they didn’t realize, really, how much that I had to do, and I would often laugh about it because they would think “Oh, well, you must be sitting home in the evenings with nothing to do, your husband is gone, you know,” and I would say, “Oh, I have plenty to do.  Don’t worry about that.”

Ms. Gallo:
So I guess to this list of occupations we can add archivist, because I’m sure it is all your notes that have formed the foundation of whatever Brubeck archives and papers are in existence.  You are –

Iola Brubeck:
Yes.  Well, I’m a 

Ms. Gallo:
– a historian, too.

Iola Brubeck:
I guess I’m a pack rat in that I don’t throw away things easily.

Ms. Gallo:
Oh, we at the library love pack rats.  You are among our best friends.
[laughter]

Iola Brubeck:
And I have kept  I think I have all of the engagement books going back to when Dave first began, and I even have, which I have given to the archives at the University of the Pacific, a large ledger book like this, not only the ones that I have entered in after he had formed a trio and a quartet and an octet, it goes back to 1946, but there is also a similar ledger that his father kept running the ranch, and I love this because one year Dave’s wages as a hand on the ranch was  this is by day, not even by hour  75 cents a day.  Then the next year, he was promoted to vaquero, which is a little bit more, it was a dollar a day 

Ms. Gallo:
Oh, my gosh.

Iola Brubeck:
And it’s all there in the ledger, and I think that, to me, that’s a great discovery when I found that.

Ms. Gallo:
Wonderful.  I thought you were going to tell me that he was working and making more on the ranch than he did as a jazz musician at first.

Iola Brubeck:
No, it didn’t work that way.  But what is sort of interesting, I think, is that he made more as a jazz musician when he was in college than he could make when he returned after the war, when the world had changed so much in the four years that he was in the service.  It was much more difficult to work as a jazz musician at that period.

Ms. Gallo:
Tell us, was it economics primarily, the 

Iola Brubeck:
Yes, and a change in taste and the big bands were on the wane.  There was a time when there was a small group playing in almost every club, hotel.  Radio studios had orchestras on staff.  That all was beginning to change.

Ms. Gallo:
There was a period, too, when a lot of American jazz musicians just went off to Europe.

Iola Brubeck:
They had more work.

Ms. Gallo:
Exactly.  Yes.  So, it was difficult to survive at this time.  Did Dave ever do anything else, or did he just keep plugging away and taking gigs and working?

Iola Brubeck:
Yes.  I was going to say he never did anything else, except I do remember one thing.  He sold sandwiches.
[laughter]

Ms. Gallo:
Oh, my gosh.

Iola Brubeck:
He and another musician friend, the musician’s friend’s brother had this little business where he would drive around in a wagon and they would take sandwiches up into the office buildings in San Francisco and go from floor to floor 

Ms. Gallo:
Oh, my gosh.

Iola Brubeck:
 see if anyone wanted sandwiches and coffee and Cokes and that sort of thing.  Well, we were broke enough, we had to earn money some way, so he said it would be a bit embarrassing when he would meet one of his former college mates, saying “Brubeck, what are you doing,” and he would say, “You want a sandwich?”

Ms. Gallo:
Making ends meet.  Oh, my gosh.  So, it seems that much of your early life with Dave was economics driven.

Iola Brubeck:
Yes.

Ms. Gallo:
We had talked before a little bit and I want to explore this with you, bringing jazz to broader audiences, and one thing that fascinates me, because I used to teach university, is bringing jazz into the university setting or the college setting.

Now, it is hard for us today not to  it is hard for us today to imagine that it was never 

Iola Brubeck:
Right.

Ms. Gallo:
You study American music and all the vernacular musics of America, and that’s just there.  Jazz is one of the most popular subjects for either music majors or non majors 

Iola Brubeck:
Right.

Ms. Gallo:
And you were very active in bringing that into universities.  How did that happen?

Iola Brubeck:
Like you say, a lot of things were economic driven in those days 

Ms. Gallo:
[affirmative]

Iola Brubeck:
As far as booking the quartet into universities, we discovered that the best audiences for Dave’s music were really a young musical audience, preferably music students who could sort of grasp what was going on, because it was a new vocabulary 

Ms. Gallo:
Absolutely.

Iola Brubeck:
- and a new language, and so I decided that the best way to spread the word would be to try to get the quartet to perform in as many schools as possible, so this was kitchen table work.  I sat down and wrote to every college up and down the west coast that I thought was within driving distance of where we lived in San Francisco and offered our services and sent a few brochures, and I think we had one recording at that time, and then I figured out that if I went to the person who is in charge of student activities and said, “We’ll present this concert for the union scale, basic fee, and anything that is made over that fee, then we split the difference, and you and your committee can take one-half and we will take the other.”

Well, that worked wonderfully, because then they worked like mad because they knew that they were going to earn some money and from that money they could then bring in another group or a visiting lecturer or something, and so that scheme really worked quite well and it turned out to be  not that it was planned that way, but it turned out to be the very thing that sort of set Dave apart from the others at that particular time, and so the first recording that came out on Columbia Records after he signed for Columbia was “Jazz Goes to College.”

Ms. Gallo:
Exactly.

Iola Brubeck:
And it was from colleges at University of Michigan at Ann Arbor  I’ve forgotten what some of the other, I think there were three different colleges, and that began the college circuit then that later, after Dave had an agent and was, you know, in a more professional level of the business, he just became known as the college circuit, and many other groups followed through.

Ms. Gallo:
You and he took jazz right into the classroom, didn’t you?

Iola Brubeck:
Yes, we did.  We taught at an extension University of California and they — and the extension courses were given both on the Berkeley campus and also in San Francisco, and these were nighttime courses since they were extension courses, and this was very funny, too, because Dave for many, many years found it very, very difficult to talk before an audience or, you know, microphone.  And he used to get so nervous before one of these lectures that we would plan it ahead of time, and he said, “Okay, you do the lecture; I’ll do the demonstrations” 

Ms. Gallo:
Oh, my gosh.

Iola Brubeck:
– so that is how we worked it, and sometimes the demonstrations were actually just playing a record, but there was a piano, too, that he could demonstrate, so that’s how we  we did that for several years, but you talk about the difference between now and then as far as the appreciation of jazz and the universities, there was one faculty member at the University of California who was outraged that we were listed in the courses that were offered and said, “I would rather sleep with a dog than have my name in the same catalog with a jazz musician.”

Ms. Gallo:
Oh, my Lord.

Iola Brubeck:
So times have changed.

Ms. Gallo:
Times certainly have, and I guess that comes from the days when jazz really kind of had a bad name, too.  It was  there was, I think in the early 20th century, that great distinction between European art music, which was real music, and other things 

Iola Brubeck:
Exactly.

Ms. Gallo:
 which were popular and were not played by anybody you would want your daughter to hang around with.

Iola Brubeck:
Well, you have it exactly right.  Dave’s mother confessed to me that she once said to a piano student who wanted to learn something  my goodness, it slips my name now, just who it was, but it was a popular band leader at that time who had written a piece that her student wanted to learn, and she said, “You don’t want to learn the music of someone you would not invite into your own home, would you?”
[laughter]

Ms. Gallo:
That is just, that is just amazing, and I’m sure it means so much more to you because you lived it on both ends 

Iola Brubeck:
Yes.

Ms. Gallo:
Now you can see something like the Brubeck Institute thriving 

Iola Brubeck:
And we’re so proud of that.

Ms. Gallo:
Absolutely.  And being so important in the training of young musicians that this is just, probably your whole life fulfilled, and you can watch that happen.

Iola Brubeck:
I can watch it happen, and that is so great, and on the same campus where it was impossible to play jazz when Dave was a student there.

Ms. Gallo:
That’s amazing.

Iola Brubeck:
It was not allowed in the conservatory.

Ms. Gallo:
Exactly, exactly.

Iola Brubeck:
So yes, there has been a great turnaround, and like you say, the jazz appreciation courses seem to be something that are very popular in the student population 

Ms. Gallo:
Absolutely.

Iola Brubeck:
And I think it is very important, because we’re turning out some marvelous young musicians.  We have to have audiences for them and that is something that really concerns me, because it seems to me the music that you hear on the radio and whenever you are just listening to the music on the elevator or whatever, so much of it is not good music 

Ms. Gallo:
[affirmative]

Iola Brubeck:
And I think that if young people were exposed to jazz and understood just a little bit about it from an early age that they would appreciate it.  I think a lot of it is just not hearing it and not understanding what they are hearing 

Ms. Gallo:
Absolutely.

Iola Brubeck:
– and I think to be taught in schools is very, very important.

Ms. Gallo:
And to keep the names of the jazz greats alive 

Iola Brubeck:
Yes.

Ms. Gallo:
 you have to have that education.

Iola Brubeck:
That’s right.  You have to have the education just as  I mean, would we be listening to classical music if it were not taught in the schools?

Ms. Gallo:
Absolutely.  Right.  Right.

Iola Brubeck:
And so we’ve seen jazz become institutionalized, which has its flaws, too, but I think it’s the only way to preserve it.

Ms. Gallo:
[affirmative]  Absolutely right.

The one other thing that I just wanted to talk to you about that I find fascinating about your compositions with your husband, maybe people might not expect that a jazz great would have a real spiritual side, and that is something, writing the Pange Lingua Variations and the mass and music that obviously means something religiously and spiritually to you two 

Iola Brubeck:
Yes.

Ms. Gallo:
 is so much of an expression of your careers as well.  Can you talk just a bit about that?

Iola Brubeck:
I can only say that that is a sort of general misconception, maybe, about  I think that Duke Ellington felt that his sacred services were the most important things that he had done in his life 

Ms. Gallo:
[affirmative]

Iola Brubeck:
When he — his 70th birthday was celebrated at the White House, when you looked at the guest list, the number of people who were from  who he had had contact with through the sacred services who were invited, you realized these people were important in his life, and the sacred services were important.  Also, if you look at the history of so many jazz musicians, how often they came up in the church 

Ms. Gallo:
Absolutely.

Iola Brubeck:
Their very first jobs, perhaps, were playing in the church.

Ms. Gallo:
Absolutely.

Iola Brubeck:
So it was not something that is foreign to the jazz musician.  Again, economics dictate a lot.  They make their living by playing in a night club, perhaps, but that doesn’t mean that they are not as spiritual as the person who goes to church every Sunday, and they probably do.  I don’t know.

Ms. Gallo:
Absolutely.  Do you have a piece that you feel is maybe your most important statement, religiously or spiritually?

Iola Brubeck:
I think, oddly enough, I think it is the very first thing, “The Light in the Wilderness.”

Ms. Gallo:
Oh, of course.  You explained that a bit.

Iola Brubeck:
Yes.  I think that the reason it is so long is that we never knew when to stop.

[laughter]

Iola Brubeck:
When we started choosing texts, and each text just seemed to be so important, and one of my favorites from it is, “What Does it Profit the Man if He Gain the Whole World and Lose his own Soul.”

Ms. Gallo:
[affirmative]

Iola Brubeck:
There is a lot of depth in that.

Ms. Gallo:
There certainly is.  There certainly is.  And it’s a wonderful composition as well.

So, I think I’m going to sort of wrap up here because we’ve addressed so many points of your life, but what a rich existence 

Iola Brubeck:
It has been.

Ms. Gallo:
It certainly has, but what did your husband tell you once?  You would never be bored?

Iola Brubeck:
That’s right.  He gave me that promise.

Ms. Gallo:
It didn’t sound like  even he wouldn’t have bored you, you never bored yourself either, you were always busy, and such, I think, an important, creative influence in his life that I think you make the perfect pair, and we’re so pleased that you could come and visit and speak with us today.

Iola Brubeck:
Well, thank you.  I feel privileged to have an opportunity to speak.

Ms. Gallo:
Well, it is wonderful that you took the time to do it, and I think we’ll all pay much more attention to the words now that we know 

Iola Brubeck:
Good.

Ms. Gallo:
 a little bit about the woman who wrote them.  Iola, thank you so much.

Iola Brubeck:
You are most welcome.

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4 comments on “Interview with Iola Brubeck

  1. Tom Mallison says:

    This is very insightful and shows her contribution to Dave’s success and how they struggled during the early years. Great interview.

  2. Romy Britell says:

    I captured this photograph of Iola Brubeck from our interview with Iola on Jazz Backstory (Monk Rowe), and I would appreciate the photo credit.

  3. Romy,

    Please forgive the oversight. Since there was no photo credit on the blog post, I thought it was a publicity photo and free to use. I’ve replaced your photo with one that I shot of her the same day as the interview. I should have used this one in the first place. By the way, I admire the work of the Archive at Hamilton College and I enjoyed Monk’s blog post.

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