I first encountered Harold Mabern while I was visiting colleges back in 2004. My last stop before heading home was William Paterson during “Dialogue Day,” which is a chance for all the student groups to perform for each other as well as the full faculty. Something I’ll never forget is witnessing both professors Mabern and James Williams holding court. Not only was Harold giving constructive criticism, but he was in full Mabern mode: Sharing unforgettable stories and anecdotes that were equally funny as they were informative. The energy in the room was so warm and inviting, which I attribute to the presence of these two incredible human beings. After this, choosing William Paterson was a no-brainer. Tragically, James passed the summer before I enrolled, so I never got the chance to interact directly with him, but I had the incredible fortune of spending the next four years soaking in everything Harold had to offer. And, that was a lot!
Something I’ll always cherish happened while I was taking private lessons with Harold. He approached me in the main hallway and asked, “Are you ready for your lesson, professor?” After which, he tried to figure how to guide me through the throng of students. He settled on taking me by the hand and leading me to the piano room. The thing about Harold is he had incredibly large hands. So, when he took my hand, it was engulfed in his, disappearing completely. I felt so much like a toddler being guided to my lesson! And that’s not the only time. His lessons and the wisdom he shared was unparalleled and continues to ring true all these years later. I’m so grateful to be counted among the many who have been encouraged and deeply impacted by Professor Mabern. My hope is that we can all continue carrying on the Maestro’s beautiful spirit and passion for music and life. “Oh yeah! I said that!”
Rest in peace, Professor.