JAVS Fall 2023

Thus, following his official resignation from Indiana University, the next couple of years were spent in Japan with his wife, Hiroko and her three children, Susan Mali Primrose (born in 1961), Eiji Michael Primrose (born in 1963), and Mana Primrose (born in 1967). Primrose truly enjoyed his years in Japan which included not only the opportunity to work with some outstanding up-and-coming young viola talents but afforded him the experience of living the Japanese lifestyle, which he had studied for quite some time. Additionally, he greatly appreciated having the opportunity to spend quality time with such respected Asian professors as Professor Shinichi Suzuki. Although William, for years, had been quite negative concerning what he perceived as Professor Suzuki’s somewhat “assembly line” approach to the teaching of string instruments, the more time he and Hiroko spent with Professor Suzuki observing his concepts and successes first-hand, the more supportive they both became. So much so that Hiroko ultimately became one of Dr. Suzuki’s most influential assistants and respected promoters of his concepts and beliefs. Following the Primroses’ years in Japan, the family spent some time in Australia, which provided both William and Hiroko with several opportunities to share their vast knowledge and expertise with many talented young musicians “down-under.” It was also in Australia where William received the unwelcome diagnosis of his cancer which ultimately led to his death in 1982. Following receipt of his dark prognosis, William and Hiroko agreed that the best place for William to live the remainder of his life would be in a place they both adored, namely Provo, Utah. So, shortly after receiving his prognosis the family headed for Utah where Primrose indeed lived out the remainder of his time on Earth. Thankfully, with the assistance and constant encouragement from Dr. David Dalton, Primrose accomplished a great deal during his final years which included the completion and publication of his memoirs, “Walk on the North Side,” and numerous insightful and unique videos. Additionally, as an official member of the BYU faculty, he had numerous opportunities to share his incredible knowledge base with many talented young musicians.

My last in-person visit with William was like an overview of our entire relationship as our twenty-plus years rolled into but a few remarkable days. Approximately a year and a half before his death, he called and asked if I would be open to a day or two visit from him at my home in Newhall, California. I was thrilled at the prospects of such a visit and reassured him that his timing was excellent and that he would have total access to the guest house on my property. What started out as a two-day visit, quickly expanded to at least four or five incredibly fun-filled days! These days included: Many games of chess, hours of discussion weighing the pros and cons of the most popular alternative technical approaches to the playing of the viola (many of which William had bestowed upon me), his giving my two oldest children violin lessons, our sharing of performance experiences (both positive and negative), long walks, slopping together—rather messy albeit—delicious sandwiches; and perhaps, what was without question his highlight of our visit, my taking him to the Van Nuys Airport for a flight in my personal aircraft at the time, a brand new turbocharged single engine Piper Turbo Arrow IV. Watching the expressions of sheer delight upon his face as I would hand over the controls of the aircraft to such a devoted former pilot was indeed one of the most heartwarming experiences of my life. Rarely had I ever seen such overwhelming joy upon his face in all the years I had had the privilege of knowing him; a memory I will treasure for my entire life.

Figure 8: William and Alan discussing the finer details of “sandwich-making” while maintaining a low elbow.


Journal of the American Viola Society / Vol. 39, No. 2, Fall 2023

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