Dinner at Raya's
My first year at NIU, 1966-67, Gunther Schuller was the invited guest composer for the spring Contemporary Music Festival. Despite the time of year, DeKalb had one of its frequent but always unexpected winter storms, a bad one with several inches of snow accumulating. I had known Gunther for many years by that time through his appearances on the U of IL campus, our common background as French hornists, and his interest in the Partch Ensemble, of which I was a member, so I was "elected" to take him to the airport after the festival and after a goodbye dinner that Raya and Kurt Biss invited him to. I arrived at their home close to the time I was to take him to the airport but they were regaling each other with such unbelievable stories, including several about Paul Robeson, Igor Stravinsky, Vladimir Nabakov and other composers and authors that Raya had known intimately, that before I realized it I had been there nearly an hour, leaving barely enough time to get to the airport, and with the snow falling faster and thicker. When I finally managed to get Gunther away from them I drove back to Midway Airport as fast as conditions would allow, despite my headlights all but completely dimmed by the adhering snow, and with the constant thought that this was probably the only year I would be employed at NIU if we missed the plane. Gunther, who didn't know how to drive, sat calmly in the passenger seat, with his hands folded and whistling softly. When I got him to the airport the plane supposedly had already left, but after he disembarked and ran into the building he came back and gave me the high sign; the plane had been grounded for nearly an hour before it could leave. Whew!
This may be more of a story about Gunther than Raya, but several times I had the opportunity to tell her that she should tell less interesting stories in the future.