Mel Powell

Mazona (
Tue, 5 May 1998 10:19:18 EDT

I'd like to add a note in Randy's stead about Mel Powell. Mel was known
to the world as a prolific and Pulitizer Prize-winning composer. He was
admired and beloved by hundreds of grad students at the CalArts School of
Music where he was the founding dean, especially by those he mentored,
including Randy. He was also a favorite in "old" Hollywood circles ever since
his stints as a jazz pianist with Benny Goodman and was a regular guest at the
homes of stars like Jack Lemmon (although he never talked about that at

More than that, Mel was an exceptional human being who composed and
taught and mentored and inspired in spite of his many years contending with
muscular dystrophy, a disease that confined him to a wheelchair and caused
physical discomforts of which he never publicly complained. In the last few
years he also battled painful and spreading cancer but nonetheless continued
teaching at least one seminar at CalArts and composing.

Most of all it is his warm and generous spirit that I think all will most
remember. Certainly that is the case for me. Just a few months ago, never
having met him and not realizing how very ill he was, I telephoned him for
some program notes that were needed for a performance of Randy's "8" for Piano
at a California music festival. Mel had recommended to the festival
organizers that "8" be performed and I had been asked by the organizers to
locate a score and program notes. It turned out, he had only a window of
three of four hours a day when he felt well enough to work -- on which window
my call had intruded. Nonetheless, he came to the phone and talked with me
for nearly half an hour, an incredible gift from his limited store of time and

He laughingly talked about what he called the "younger" generation of
avant garde artists like Randy and how he had to plead with Randy to write
something with notes that he could understand and offer guidance on; how he
loved the "8" piece that had been played for his brithday at a CalArts
concert, how he stayed in regular contact with his composer friends (noting
that he and old friend Elliot Carter checked on each other regularly to see
how the other was doing and if the other was still awake and working.) We
also talked about life and death, fate, Budhism and his great sadness that
Randy who had so much yet to do had died so young. It was a memorable
conversation. Just before we ended our talk, he said "And don't forget, '8'
was written for me."

Zona Hostetler (Randy's mom)

P.S. Mel's family has requested that memorial donations be made to the Mel
Powell Gradute Composers Scholarship at CalArts in Valencia.