Although Mr. Primrose was typically cheerful and enthusiastic by nature I remember arriving at his home for a lesson one day in early 1965 and finding him unusually animated, bright-eyed and sporting a huge smile from ear to ear.
“Gooood Morning my dear boy,” he beamed as he proudly threw open the front door. “We have so much to discuss this morning.”
Ignoring my puzzled expression he excitedly ushered me to his living room and motioned for me to take a seat on his beckoning sofa.
“Great news Alan,” he began. “I have just made a major decision which I believe effects you and your future in a most positive way. Hopefully you and your parents will agree.”
He then explained how his very dear friend and colleague, violinist Josef Gingold, had finally convinced him to leave his current position at the University of Southern California for a faculty position at Indiana University, home to one of the most unique and prestigious new music schools! Continuing, he described how his negotiations with IU had actually included the potential for me to serve as his primary teaching assistant in exchange for a full tuition waiver!
Confident that I would be completing my high school studies within the next few months he felt strongly that the timing was flawless and that Indiana University would be the perfect place for us to continue our work together. He also believed that having me serve as his teaching assistant would not only be helpful to him but a terrific learning experience for me. Oh…and yes….then there was also that tuition waiver which would cover the vast majority of the cost of my college education!
As I am sure you can imagine I was absolutely stunned. However, to make a long story short, early in September, 1965, not unlike “Batman and Robin”, Sir William and I arrived in Bloomington, Indiana.
Having lived almost all of my life in Southern California I was truly overwhelmed by the beauty of Fall in Bloomington. I was equally impressed by the warmth and friendliness immediately exhibited by students and faculty alike. Amazingly, within the first couple of days of my arrival in Indiana I had already befriended three fellow string players who not only had a significant impact on my life at the time but have remained some of my closest friends (and colleagues) to this day!
Andy Zaplatynsky was an outstanding violinist from Philadelphia. At the time we met he was beginning his sophomore year at IU as a student of Professor Gingold as was Japanese violinist, Yasuoki Tanaka. Danny Rothmuller, originally from Forest Hills, NY, had moved to Bloomington at the start of his teen years when his father, world-renowned baritone, Marko Rothmuller had accepted a professorship in the IU Voice Department. Danny, originally a bass player had become a terrific cellist by the time we met and was pursuing his Master’s Degree in Cello Performance as a student of Fritz Magg.
Within days of our initial meeting the four of us had, for fun, begun lengthy sight-reading sessions of the major string quartet literature. It did not take long for us to recognize the mutual rapport, respect and compatibility experienced during these initial reading sessions. Within days the ALDANYA STRING QUARTET was born on the campus of Indiana University!
Oh, in case you are wondering, here is the secret to the name: ALDANYA
AL = ( Alan) DAN = (Danny + Andy ) YA = (Yasuoki )
Very deep…wouldn’t you agree!!
Well, by the end of our first semester together, under the superb guidance and direction of Professors Magg and Primrose, the quartet had amassed at least one full program worth of repertoire and had embarked on our performance career, at least within the confines of the IU campus.
Spring semester, much to our delight was filled with numerous quartet appearances throughout the entire state of Indiana. We were really rolling along and on our way until something as mundane as war dared to rear its head! The conflict in Vietnam had escalated dramatically and Andy, Danny and I suddenly found ourselves faced with the real possibility of a future which included the playing of strolling gigs along the “Ho Chi Minh Trail”!
My parents quickly found themselves immersed in research for any information they could find related to potential options available to musicians within a military environment. Ultimately, the best solution at the time for string players appeared to be the United States Marine Band. Known as “The President’s Own” because of it’s long time official status and related responsibilities as the musical organization of the President, the Marine Band maintained within its ranks a small unit of string players to provide musical entertainment for White House social functions.
Armed with the appropriate information I quickly contacted the powers that be and arranged for a face-to-face meeting with the commanding officers of the band. Proudly, the immediate result of our meeting that day was the creation of the very first official “White House String Quartet” under the auspices of the United States Marine Band.