A Music Dispute: An Olympic Story

The room was still as each competing woman gymnast for the U.S. Munich Olympic team anxiously waited her turn in the trials at a Yale University gym. One could feel the tension between the coaches and the competitors.


I had worked closely with the late head coach Muriel Grossfeld and several other coaches in New Haven previously for about three months off and on arranging music for the ninety second compulsory routine that each team member would have to perform. Everyone seemed pleased with the final arrangement of the then popular theme from the movie “Summer of ’42.” Variations of this slow and expressive melody reflected both the faster and slower gymnastic movements required in the compulsory floor exercise. It enhanced the girls overall presentation by supporting both grace and beauty in their routine as well as complementing their athletic skills. Use of a wide piano range insured that it would be clearly heard in a large gymnasium with thousands of spectators.


After I played my arrangement for the assembled coaches from around the country, a young man from a western state played his arrangement of the song “Oh My Darling, Clementine” he had created with his coach for the same compulsory routine. The debate began for the choice of music and pianist in Munich. As I remember, coaches flew in from various cities to make a final decision. I was previously pianist-arranger for the U.S. Olympics in Mexico City and since then developing my arrangement skills and even publishing an article about useful guidelines in creating music for gymnastic routines. Finally, my music was chosen and the young man got to play in Munich. I understand it was well received. I was very delighted that my music was chosen and that someone else was performing it. I was getting married that summer!



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