Getting Personal is an email Q&A with a local personality. Here, News-Gazette staff writer Melissa Merli chats with Morgan Powell, 73, a composer/trombonist (combonist/tromposer, he jokes) and a professor emeritus of composition at the University of Illinois. Getting Personal appears first in print., in Sunday editions of The News-Gazette.
What time do you typically get up? What do you do the first hour of the morning?
8 or later. Make and drink coffee. Patty (Hruby Powell, his wife) makes smoothies with frozen fruit and I add to mine fish oil, vinegar and noni juice, then eat a small bowl of cereal with nuts and seeds added with soy milk. Sounds disgusting, doesn't it? I do all of this before I'm properly awake.
What did you have for lunch today? Where? With whom?
Basil beef at Natural Gourmet with Patricia Powell.
Best high school memory.
Tell me about your favorite pair of shoes.
I grew up in west Texas with boots. Now, old Birkenstocks and sneakers.
What does a perfect Sunday afternoon include?
Hanging with friends, smoking cigars, drinking a glass of wine.
Was there one book you read as a child that you still cherish? Own? Read?
Yes, "The Art Spirit" by Robert Henri.
Where on Earth are you dying to go? Why?
New Zealand, for it is so beautiful and an old friend, Russ Garcia, moved there years ago and lived out his life there, so it must be great.
Tell me about your favorite pet.
Easy, Jazzabelle (Jazz) a yellow Lab, has to be my all-time favorite. She was a Lab; what more can one say? For pets, I have had cats, horses, rabbit, skunk, raccoon and, of course, always a dog.
Have you discovered as you matured that you are becoming like one of your parents? Which one and how?
Mature, hmmm? Well, both really. They were both generous and thoughtful and yellow-dog Democrats who thought it our duty to help those who couldn't properly help themselves. My mother preferred being at home, and my father was fiercely independent and an adventurer, a chance-taker, and I at least think that I have some of those characteristics.
What would you order for your last meal?
A hamburger, fries and whiskey.
What can you NOT live without?
My family, friends and making music.
Whom do you have on your iPod?
You know what? I seldom listen to recorded music for like everything, it is so inferior to the real thing. Furthermore, music is going on in my head much of my awake time.
What's the happiest memory of your life?
Is there just one? Wow! Playing music with my friends and so much more.
If you could host a dinner party with any three living people in the world, whom would you invite?
Fame is not a good indicator of greatness. I would have Patricia Hruby Powell, Lisa Bender and Adriane Powell.
What's the best advice you've ever been given?
Don't get good at anything you don't want to do.
What's your best piece of advice?
If you're satisfied with your life, stay put; if not, go somewhere exciting, but remember you take yourself with you.
What was your first job, and how much did you make an hour?
Picking cotton in Texas at the age of 6 — paid nothing. First paid job, mowing lawns — paid very little, but my parents strongly believed children should learn to be independent.
What was a pivotal decision in your career, and how did you arrive at that decision?
As a young child I heard my cousin play the trombone, and I knew that I wanted to do that, too. I had great respect for artists and decided in college that I was not cut out to be a sideman in any sense of the word. My interest in composition was growing, and I pursued it while continuing to perform — and that is what I still do and plan to continue for as long as possible.
Do you have a bad habit? What is it?
Like my father, I have a nasty temper, but also like him, it is seldom witnessed.
How do you handle a stressful situation?
Usually not very well.