George Hufsmith meets Villa-Lobos

November, 2004:

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My father was an attorney working for the Brazilian Light Power and Traction Company that ran practically everything in Brazil(1937).  One of the people that was working in his legal office was a man who had raised, or at least helped to raise Villa-Lobos after his father had passed away, so they were very warm and close acquaintances.
My father came to me and asked me if I would like to meet this gentleman, and I said "Oh, yes, I would like very much to meet this gentleman.  This was before Villa-Lobos was really a name in the world yet, it was a name in Brazil, very well known, but, not internationally.  But I knew about him because I was living in Brazil and I had heard lots of his records which were quite a few in Brazil at that time.  My father took me down to the office and introduced this me to this man and he was very  nice and very pleasant and asked me if I would like to meet Villa-Lobos himself.  And I said, "Of course I would like that, I would like it very much." 
We got together one day and went down to Villa-Lobos' office which was in the Conservatorio Cantofionico, on the second  floor.  You walked up circular stairs and got to the second floor, and his office was there. It was a very large building, and it was a very large office as I remember. His wife was almost constantly with him there.  At the moment that we arrived, he was still talking to somebody else.  We were routed over to the auditorium where we sat in waiting for him.  Villa-Lobos' mentor said "Why don't you play the piano to kill time." This was all in Portuguese, nobody spoke any English.  So I said "Okay fine."  I love to play the piano, so I went up and started to play the piano.
While I was playing Villo-Lobos ended his meeting with whoever it was and came over to the auditorium where he sat in the back with his older friend.  They sat there and listened to me play.  Villa-Lobos came down the aisle of the auditorium, walked up on to the stage and sat down next to me at the piano.  I thought that was kind of strange for somebody just to be doing that,  and I didn't know that it was Villa-Lobos.  I had never seen him or seen a picture of him, and so I didn't know anything about it.  I had heard his music on records, so I was familiar with him that way,  but not by appearance.  He sat  down at the edge of the piano bench and waited until I was done.  When I was done, why he looked at me and he said "Whose music is that?" and I said that "Well that's my music".  He said "Well, that's wonderful".  I didn't know who this was.  I thought that it was kind of rude for the guy to be there, but he was probably a friend of Villa-Lobos' so I was being nice to the guy anyway.  He asked whose music that was and I told him it was my music, and he looked at me square in the eye and he said "Would you like to study with me?"  I realized then who it was and I said, "My, God, are you Maestro Villa-Lobos?", and he answered, "Yes."  I told him I was minta pasenque and so on and so forth, meaning "I am very, very, pleased to meet you." 
I felt very humble, as I remember he looked like God to me.  I was very impressed with the guy, knowing what his stature was in Brazil.  I told him "I'd like very much to study with you, Maestro."  He replied "We could arrange that. Why don't you come once or twice a week and we'll get together.  I've never had a student before."  He said that it would be fun to learn how to teach.  He was a self-taught person himself and I don't know that he really knew how to
go about teaching, but he was perfectly willing to have an experience learning how.  So I told him that I would love to, but I couldn't afford to pay him anything, as I was just out of the army.  He said "That's not a problem, that's no problem at all."  I said "Well, that's wonderful then. I'll talk to you later on about it, I'll see if I can earn some money, or something or other, so we'll talk about it later on."  He said "That's perfectly fine, I just want you to study with me."  I said, "I would love to do that,  I would feel honored and privileged to do that."
The material presented on this page is kindly provided by Eric Wenstrom.  It is used with the permission of Eric and of George Hufsmith. 

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