Most people you meet in life make an appearance, as a minor character does in a chorus number, and leave just quickly enough to realize someone new is making his entrance. Then there are other people - main characters - whom you meet in your formative years, who alter the way you actually think. These characters don't show up often, but when they do, you're never the same again.
I first met Sue Peters as a freshman at SUNY-Binghamton in 1986. I was a completely untrained composer who had a 15-minute musical I'd created the year before. Sue got a hold of me, signed me up for an ‘independent study' with her, and started teaching me about telling stories. Over the next few months the story, along with the music and lyrics I wrote for it, also under her tutelage, grew to be an hour long. Up to this point I'd written the lyrics out, and used chord symbols as I was accustomed to doing, when Sue asked, “Do you want singers to perform this music?” “Of course,” I said. “Then you have to write out the melody in order for them to learn the tunes - and write out the piano part you're playing, too, while you're at it.” After what seemed like an eternity, I had completed the task, and brought the pages to her. Then she said, “Good. Now, do you want an orchestra to play your music?” “Of course,” I said. “Then you have to write out what you want them to play.” This also took a tremendous effort, including pulling a few all-nighters in her office at her piano (she even wrote me a note to give to the night custodian showing that I had permission to be there!). Finally I had a show - fraught with rookie mistakes and the like - but nonetheless an hour long show, which we performed in April. Now, 27 years later, I'm a published composer and public school music teacher. And I look back and marvel at Sue's dedication to her students; her willingness to go far beyond expectations and job descriptions. She loved theatre craft, and loved teaching about it just as much.
I never got back to Binghamton to let her know what a major influence she had on my life, as is so often the case in teaching. But every time I pick up my pencil to write, or sit down at the piano to teach a roomful of kids a song, I think of Sue, and the handful of other main characters who made an appearance on my stage.
Thank you Sue Peters. Good Mother, farewell.
Scott Nathan Louis (formerly Scott Cohen)