Leslie Walter Mackett
1945 - 1992
Leslie Mackett, a pianist, was a gifted musician and award-winning teacher who taught in four schools, including two Seventh-day Adventist colleges and Redlands University in southern California. He was also known for his proficiency in speaking and teaching French.
Leslie was born in Mussoorie, U.P, India, the younger of two sons born to Norma (Mattison) and Walter Mackett, missionary teachers at Vincent Hill School. Norma's father, Milton, had gone to India as a self-supporting missionary in 1912, and she had been born two years later in Bombay. He established a church and later a boarding school in Hapur, near Delhi, but would die at age 42 in 1928 while on furlough in the U.S.
Following Milton's death, his wife, Nora Kinzer Mattison, returned with their two daughters to India, and to Vincent Hill School, where she served as dean of girls (matron). Norma completed her high school education there and first met her future husband, Walter, who was also attending the school.
Walter's parents were from England; his father was employed as 'Division Builder' and was involved with the construction of Vincent Hill School and several churches. He was also involved with the early construction at Salisbury Park, Poona (now Pune), and built the Oriental Watchman Publishing House, where he later served as manager. He was musically talented and played the organ.
Music was an important activity in Walter and Norma Mackett's home. Both enjoyed playing the violin and had participated as students in the Vincent Hill School string ensemble. Shortly after returning to India and Vincent Hill in 1948, following a trip to the U.S., Norma purchased a spinet piano in Mussoorie, which then had to be carried by coolies to their home at the school. The two boys started piano lessons under the tutelage of Elsie Landon Buck, who with her husband, Edwin, was also teaching at VHS. Leslie's brother, Ted, later recalled their musical training at the school:
Elsie was the one that got us on our way musically. She was a great motivator. My mother in particular saw the opportunity there for us, and how music would be an added dimension in our lives. I was six or so and Leslie was four when we started taking lessons.
There also were other music teachers at VHS who were inspiring. Hillary Robinson, a Canadian, was very involved in the music program. Helen Watts Boykin in particular was a wonderful motivator and very influential in Leslie's life. While we were on furlough in the United States and living in Pomona, California, Ruby Nelson continued Leslie's piano instruction. He also began clarinet lessons at that time and continued study on the instrument after we returned to India.
In 1946 and again in 1954, when the family traveled to Pomona, California, Walter took graduate work at the University of Southern California, completing a master's and Ph.D. degrees. Following the first trip to the U.S., Walter served as principal at VHS for four years and then accepted a position at Spicer Memorial College in India before returning to the U.S. for a second time to complete his Ph.D. in history.
During the second trip to the U.S., both boys attended Pomona Junior Academy, where one of Leslie's elementary school teachers, Grace Jacques, was a granddaughter of Ellen White and later a curator at Elmshaven, the White home in California. When the family returned to India in 1957, the parents taught at Spicer Memorial College, and the boys attended Vincent Hill School.
Both Leslie and Ted continued their music study during winter vacations, November to March, when they would take lessons in Poona, near SMC. Ted later observed,
It had been obvious very early on that I was not cut out to be a musician and he was. I don't think I ever learned a piece that he did not pick up by ear and play before I had learned it. I will never forget coming home one day to hear him playing the Pathétique Sonata by Beethoven, a number I had been struggling with for several weeks, and he was doing it from memory.
There was a music school in Poona conducted by a Professor Bell and his two spinster sisters, who had come to India from Germany. It was affiliated with the Trinity College Music program based in London and every year examiners would come and give examinations in playing and theory that Leslie easily passed. By the time he graduated from VHS in 1962, he had completed an ATCL [Associate of Trinity College London] and LCTL [Licentiate] in piano performance.
Leslie enrolled at Pacific Union College in the fall of 1962 as a music major, joining his brother, who was beginning his junior year as a pre-medical student. He studied piano with Yvonne Caro Howard and started lessons on viola under George Wargo. Both he and his brother, who played trombone, were members of the college music ensembles, including the Wind Sinfonietta and band, with Leslie also playing clarinet in the orchestra.
He transferred to La Sierra College, now University, at the end of his sophomore year, where his father had just been hired to teach history. While he was at LSC, Perry Beach, a piano, theory, and composition teacher, became a pivotal figure in his life, an important mentor and a lifelong personal friend.
He spent his senior year at the Adventist school in Collonges-sous-Salève, France, studying French, a language he had studied and become proficient in while still in high school, and piano under Pierre Jeandin at the Geneva Conservatory. He graduated summa cum laude from LSC in 1966 with majors in music and French.
Mackett completed an M.Mus. in piano performance under Blythe Owen at Andrews University in 1967, the first person to complete that degree at AU, and that summer was hired to teach piano and French classes and direct the band at Canadian Union College, now Canadian University College.
During the next seven years he became a popular teacher of piano and French, and impressed the students with his playing of piano. He also pursued additional graduate study at Loma Linda University, taking workshops in language and music, including conducting under Herbert Blomstedt, and additional piano study at the University of Southern California under Lillian Steuber. When he left CUC in 1974, the Aurora Borealis, CUC yearbook, was dedicated to him with the following inscription:
To Mr. Leslie Mackett,
To one who is the essence of cheerfulness;
To one who works untiringly and meticulously for his students;
To one who shows he cares for those about him,
And to one who is dedicated so completely to his tasks of teaching French and music;
We fondly dedicate this '74 Borealis,
To un home très cher.
He had accepted a position teaching music and French at Appleby College, a prestigious elite school for the sons of prominent politicians and families (a co-educational school since 1991), located in Oakville, Ontario. At the end of one year, feeling the school was too British for him, he decided that denominational employment had many advantages and opportunities not available in a secular public school. He accepted a position at Kingsway College, Oshawa, Canada, an Adventist junior college, where he directed the band and orchestra and taught piano lessons and French for the next seven years, from 1975 to 1982.
He played viola in the Kingsway Symphony, and in his quest for continued improvement as a performer and teacher, completed an ARCT with the Royal Conservatory of Toronto at the University of Toronto in piano performance and one in piano pedagogy, both with first class honors. He also studied piano in the summer of 1979 with Maria Luisa Faini at Eastman School of Music.
While living in that region of Canada, his interest in French led him to study and master the dialectal differences between traditional French and that spoken in nearby Quebec. He was able to switch easily between the two forms of the language. During this time his brother surprised him with a visit that coincided with a Kingsway Symphony concert that featured Leslie as piano soloist. Ted recalls,
I was at a meeting in Chicago and thought I would surprise him, knowing he had a concert in Oshawa. It was an all-Gershwin night, and he played Rhapsody in Blue in the first half and accompanied a chorus doing a fair amount of Porgy and Bess in the second half. He was totally unaware that I was in the audience.
I found the concert to be very enjoyable and went up afterwards to where he was signing programs to get his autograph. He looked up at me and just blanched. "What are you doing here? If I had known you were out there, I would have been nervous!"
I spent several days in Oshawa with him and saw where he was teaching and eavesdropped on some of his classes. It was the only time I was able to observe him as a teacher and came away from that visit impressed with his ability to teach and relate to these high school kids.
Mackett was accepted into the DMA program at the University of Colorado in 1982 and completed a degree in piano performance, literature, and pedagogy three years later. His dissertation requirements included three recitals, two lecture-recitals, three smaller papers and a major document titled Synopses, Translations, and Evaluations of Debussy and the Evolution of Music in the Twentieth Century by Edith Weber.
He wanted to return to southern California, and when he was offered a position at the University of Redlands after he completed his degree at UC, he accepted it. He became a professor of music, teaching piano and music classes, and, when the university became aware of his abilities in French, an adjunct professor of French.
Mackett would teach at UR for the next seven years, until his sudden death in December 1992 from complications from pneumonia that resulted in a deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. His brother, a surgeon, recently talked about the circumstances that led to his early death:
My brother was gay and had contracted HIV/Aids. He didn't die from it but had a very difficult time with the disease. Our parents learned about his being gay several years before he died. My mother could never accept that part of his life. My dad, on the other hand, was as supportive as any parent could be while Leslie struggled with the disease, and after Leslie died, took the time to settle his affairs, a task that must have been difficult for him. Then when my father died, I found that he had a large collection of books dealing with differing aspects of being gay which he had probably read in an attempt to better understand what his son was dealing with.
Leslie did have a close friendship with one of the female nurses, a gifted singer whom he accompanied and dated before he came out. When he confided in her that he was gay, she became very supportive and accompanied him when he met with his parents to let them know. She continued as a close supportive friend until his death and then kept in contact with my parents until they died.
In the Thanksgiving before his death, he shared with me how difficult it had been for him to watch many of his gay friends die and what a waste of life and talent it had proved to be. He had gone to Orlando, Florida, to be with one of his friends in his final illness, and the prospects for his own untimely death were brought forcefully to mind during the time he spent at the bedside of his friend. He later expressed regret for the results of his lifestyle choices and decisions he had made. He also said that he had made his peace with God and was willing to accept whatever would happen to him.
In his time at the University of Redlands, he would win several teaching awards, including the first University of Redlands Friends of Music Award in 1990. His family was unaware of these awards and other recognition he had received until after his death and later when his brother was going through Leslie's papers following the death of their father:
I had no idea about the impact he had on the students at Redlands until I attended his funeral. It was in the main auditorium where they have concerts, and the place was packed. There were more students there than I thought were attending the university. Even though I was living in Redlands at that time, I was totally unaware of his work.
He had been very involved in community music activities in the Redlands community. He played viola for a while in the Redlands Symphony under Jon Robertson before withdrawing when he felt he was no longer at a playing level suitable for the orchestra, which improved dramatically under Robertson's leadership.
He served as president of the Redlands branch of the Music Association of California from 1989 to 1991 and in the summer before his death was named a Director to the State Board of MAC. He had been an active participant in chamber music in the region, and the Leslie Mackett Chamber Series was created in his memory following his death.
Sources: Interviews and correspondence with Ted Mackett, November 2010; Vita (1985); 1974 Aurora Borealis, CUC yearbook (dedication); Changing Lives, The Hilltop Story, 1907 - 2007, faculty listings: Printed program Notes (1978); "Mackett chosen to receive first UR Friends of Music award," Redlands Daily Facts, 5 April 1990, A5; Life Sketch; Conversation, Gem Fitch, 2008.
Leslie Walter Mackett
I have been asked today to sketch out some of the details about the life of Leslie Mackett, who we have come to say goodbye to today. Having been a friend of the family for many years and having considered Leslie more of a son than a friend, Iíd like to help you understand a little more about the life of this young man. I told his father, Walter, that this would not be easy for me. I find it a rather emotional experience and you may find some short lapses in my presentation.
In order to understand Leslie perhaps we should take a look at the roots from which he came. You need to understand that his father, Walter, was the product of a family from England who lived in colonial India and Walter acquired some of the "stiff upper lip" British properness that goes with that background. He married the daughter of an American missionary who was brought up in India and acquired much of her early education playing with native Indian children and learning to speak impeccable Hindustani.
I think we all found in Les an interesting mixture of these two lives. Both of his parents were teachers at Vincent Hill School in Northern India at the time of his birth on June 16, l945, at Cottage Hospital in Mussoorie. He was brought home after a severe monsoon storm, which may also have combined with his genes to form part of his personality.
You who have been to Mussoorie will remember that Vincent Hill School is vertical rather than horizontal in location, and all of the homes that are scattered over that hillside in vertical fashion had names. The Macketts lived in Windrush. In 1947 the family spent their yearís furlough in Pomona with Mrs. M. M. Mattison, Lesís maternal grandmother.
It was here that Ted recalls one of his character flaws becoming evident. It seems that he, Ted, got the inspiration to decorate one of his grandmotherís walls with crayon graffiti but decided that there might be some repercussions. He therefore proceeded to put crayon marks on Lesís hands to show him to be the culprit. His sharp perceptions however noted that some of the marks were higher than Les could have reached, so he provided a stool to complete the scenario. I wasnít told the outcome of this caper, but I presume that Ted, sensing the direction of his life of crime, decided to redirect his talents to more productive pursuits.
The return to Bombay the following year was very unlike what it would be today when one boards a superjet and is whisked from Los Angeles to Bombay in one day. The family traveled from Pomona to New Orleans aboard the Pacific Southern Railway, which was drawn by a steam engine in those days. There they boarded a freighter for passage to Cape Town, where they visited Lesí grandfather in Bloemfontaine, South Africa.
From there it was on to Durban for a trip to Bombay via the Seychelles and Goa aboard a steamship by the name of Tyrea. That begins with a "T" but there may have been some difficulties during the trip because I have heard it frequently referred to as the Steamship Diarrhea. During the voyage the 3-year-old Les was found cutting up his bathing trunks in shreds and when questioned about his behavior it was found that he was rebelling against an arbitrary rule that he was not to swim on the Sabbath. This may have been an evidence of Les's early antipathy towards arbitrary rules.
It was then back to Vincent Hill School, first living at Fort Moses and then in the Citadel. Early friends in those years included Betsy Buck, Pearl and Ann Howard, and Valerie and Harvey Berry among others. It was in 1950 that Les began his formal education as a kindergarten student at Vincent Hill School, but the following year the family went to Spicer College in Puna and there he attended the Salisbury Park Grammar School with Miss Esther M. Feltus as principal.
In 1954 it was back to Pomona, USA, with his mother and brother, Ted, because Ted had broken his arm for the second time and the family was concerned about getting good care. They were later joined by his father, who was pursuing graduate studies toward a doctorate at USC. For three years from 1954 to 1957, Les was a student at Pomona Junior Academy with Mrs. Jacques, a granddaughter of Ellen G. White, as his teacher.
In 1957 they returned to Spicer, and this was a major crisis in Lesís life. He, like my daughter three years later, was required because of the absence of facilities at Spicer to go to Vincent Hill School a thousand miles away and just a short distance over the mountain from the Tibetan border where hostile Chinese troops were at times menacing India. Les was very unhappy about this transition but nevertheless went, expressing his displeasure.
From 1958 to 1962, Les studied at VHS and it was here that he first began his love relationship with French. His first teacher was Mrs. Jump, and he was reported to have been a willing student. After his four years of high school at VHS, he went to PUC in 1962 and in 1964 transferred to La Sierra College where his parents had gone upon return from India and his father was a history teacher at that school. In the 1965-66 school year Les attended Collonges in France and there pursued his studies of French and became essentially bilingual.
He then returned to La Sierra to receive a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1966. It was during this stay at La Sierra that he became a close friend and student of Dr. Perry Beach and after Dr. Beachís death, Les was very active in promoting the Perry Beach memorial scholarship fund. Dr. Beach was a very significant influence on Lesí musical life, and they remained close until Dr. Beachís death.
In 1967, Les transferred to Andrews University to work on a Masters degree, and it was there that we became involved again and our home became a home away from home for Les. He drove to Andrews from California in a Volkswagon bug, which he affectionately referred to as the "bete vert," which in French means the green beast. I recall him arriving in Berrien Springs half-frozen and wearing a pair of shorts. Evidently nobody had told him of the transition in weather between California and Michigan.
In 1967, Les graduated summa cum laude with a master's degree in music from Andrews University. His parents joined us in the summer of Ď67 and we all spent some time at Expo Ď67 in Montreal, the family returning to California via the Trans-Canada Highway. On the way home they took a look at Canadian Union College and later that year Les was called to teach at that institution. For seven years he taught French and piano and conducted the band at CUC.
In 1974, Les accepted a position at the Applebee Boysí School in Toronto, but soon found, as he put it, that the school was too British for him, and he transferred in 1975 to Kingsway College in Oshawa, where he taught until 1982. During that time he earned an assistantship at the Royal Conservatory of Toronto and also played viola at the Oshawa Symphony. He taught French and music and was very involved in the musical life of that community. One summer he worked at the Canadian Broadcasting Company and other summers attended Laval University in Quebec, where he took courses in the teaching of French.
To digress a little, I can recall trips that we made through India with Lesís parents in which Norma would talk to the Indian nationals in Hindustani, and you would see the surprise on their faces to find this American woman speaking Hindustani without even a trace of an accent. Evidently, Les acquired this same facility because he recalls that when he was asked where he was from and they were told that he was English they would say "encroyable," which being interpreted means "unbelievable." Lesís parents accompanied him one summer to Quebec, and he instructed them to try and be quiet because he didnít want them to think that they were tourists.
During the years 1982 to '85, Les studied at the University of Colorado and in 1985 was awarded a doctorate in music. In 1986 he accepted a position at the University of Redlands as an adjunct professor. While there, Les became very involved in the music life of the Redlands community and gave yearly recitals at the University, including one consisting of four favorite Beethoven sonatas, and the next year more sonatas by my favorite, Beethoven. I recall that Les usually packed the hall on those occasions.
He served two years as President of the Redlands branch of the Music Teachers Association of California and last June was named as a Director to the State Board. I understand that when his belongings were being sorted out, there were tickets to attend one of those meetings in San Francisco early this coming year.
In 1990, Les received the University of Redlands Friends of Music award for excellence in teaching.
To you who have never been in Lesís home it is difficult to describe his classic miniature car collection. Back when he was around seven years old, he and his brother, Ted, began collecting miniature cars and it would be hard to look at any spot in Les's home where there wasnít one of these cars displayed. He never returned from a trip without a new car for his collection.
Les liked to return to places of significance to him, and in 1988 he and his good friend, Cliff Campbell, went to Quebec where he renewed friendships in that heartland of French Canada. In 1990 he and Cliff made a trip to Rome, Italy, and as usual brought back a pictorial account of the visit. We always were taken on the journey a second time when Les returned by going through his pictures with him.
In 1991, he made a surprise trip to Collonges to visit his niece, Jenny, and, according to his report, he dashed about France for a week or two. Later in 1992 he and Cliff went on a trip which fulfilled a lifelong dream of Les. He visited his fatherís family birthplace on the Isle of Wight, sailing there on the Queen Elizabeth II and returning on the French Concorde.
While at the Isle of Wight, Les became an instant celebrity. He played the organ in the church that his grandfather had played decades earlier when he was a young man, and he gave a piano concert in the village hall. He was also there when the new Vicar was installed by the regional Bishop. As Les reported, he felt that he had finally discovered his roots. His final trip was a few months ago when he and Cliff took a Caribbean cruise, visiting several of the islands in the Caribbean. As usual we repeated the cruise when he came back by looking at the pictures.
Les will be remembered well for his sense of humor, his readiness to use his musical talents when needed and his real devotion to his friends. His sense of humor and sense of duty were very evident to the end. The day before he died he was hurrying to get his French papers marked before Christmas and he used his wry humor with the medical personnel. When my daughter, Linda, suffered a severe stroke almost five years ago, Les was one of those who gave us a great deal of support. Since that time he has been very supportive, and Linda will miss her Sunday morning brunches with Les, Cliff, and Donna.
Rest well, Les. Weíll all miss you.
A Service of Remembrance and Celebration for the Life of Leslie W. Mackett
Memorial Chapel, University of Redlands, Redlands, California
7 January 1993