Dunster House Composer in Residence, CHARLES F. KLETZSCH '46-'51 says farewell to Harvard after half a century of teaching and performing for students.
Faculty and old friends attended a farewell concert yesterday evening at Dunster House to honor Composer in Residence Charles F. Kletzsch ’46-’51, who has announced his plans to leave Dunster after more than 50 years.
In his time at Dunster House, Kletzsch, better known as “Charley,” composed numerous works of classical music, ranging from opera to chamber pieces.
He also established strong bonds with students through the weekly concerts he staged in the Dunster House Library and regular meals in the dining hall.
Yesterday’s recital featured one of Kletzsch’s many informal students—Andrew Goodridge ’93—on the piano and Owen Young on the cello. Young is a former Dunster House music tutor and member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Goodridge played two pieces he said he had originally perfected with Kletzsch’s help.
Together, Goodridge and Young performed Beethoven’s Cello Sonata in A Major, one of Kletzsch’s all-time favorites—and received a standing ovation from the audience.
In a speech before the performance, Goodridge described Kletzsch’s decision to take up the cello about 10 years ago, even though he was in his 60s at the time.
“His goal for playing the cello was to play simple melodies beautifully,” Goodridge said.
Kletzsch described his desire to also live simply.
When he had recently moved into Dunster House in the 1950s, Kletzsch said he subsisted on a yearly salary of $1,000, sleeping on a cot in what he refers to as the “secret room,” a hidden space just off the Dunster library.
But this sort of living situation was nothing new for Kletzsch.
When he left Harvard after hisophomore year to study music at a conservatory, his parents refused to pay his living expenses, Kletzsch said.
Rather than leave the conservatory, he chose to rent out his bedroom in his parents’ house and live in the basement.
Kletzsch’s friends said he has a unique ability to make himself comfortable anywhere.
They remarked on his tendency to sit down with any group of students in the Dunster House dining hall and automatically make them feel like part of the House community.
“His main job is to eat dinner in the dining hall with students. He does it better than the rest of [the resident tutors] together,” said John T. O’Keefe, the Dunster House senior tutor.
Kletzsch said he never felt the desire to teach formal classes at Harvard—he was simply too busy in his roles as a composer and mentor.
“I find the students of Dunster House extremely inspiring,” Kletzsch said.
Beyond inspiration, Kletzsch said, it is his sense of idealism that kept him at Dunster House for more than half a century.
“Idealism, to me, means working for the good of the people around you, rather than for your own good. You can’t be idealistic all on your own. I would either fossilize or become a fanatic,” he said.