MLA remembrances

One of MLA’s traditions is to share remembrances during annual conferences. During the 2024 business meeting, President Paula Hickner and MLA member Raymond White read remembrances for two members MLA lost in the past year: Gordon Theil and Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Auman. Their tributes appear below.

Betty Auman (submitted by Raymond White)
The Music Division of the Library of Congress regrets to report the passing of Elizabeth H. “Betty” Auman on August 6, 2023, at an assisted living facility in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, after a lengthy period of declining health. She was 80 years old.

Betty Auman was born on January 28, 1943, in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Her family moved to the Washington, DC, area when Betty was a teenager, and even during her high school days, she excelled in music as a singer, pianist, and organist. Betty received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland in 1967, and her master’s degree from the Catholic University of America in 1971. During her time at the University of Maryland, Betty performed with the Madrigal Singers under the direction of Rose Marie Grentzer. This group toured the Middle East under the auspices of the U.S. State Department and was featured several times at the White House during the Johnson administration. Betty’s master’s thesis entitled, Luca Marenzio and John Wilbye: A Comparative Study of Their Madrigals on the Same Texts, brought Betty’s work to the attention of Dr. Harold Spivacke, then chief of the Music Division at the Library of Congress. Betty joined the staff there in 1970, and, building on her strong academic background and excellent people skills, Betty rose quickly within the ranks of the Music Division. She became a reference librarian, and, later, the head of reference services, the head of acquisitions and processing, and from 1993 until her retirement in 2013, the donor relations officer for the Music Division.

During her career at the Library of Congress Betty made numerous and lasting friendships throughout the music world. It was largely through her efforts that the Music Division acquired or expanded many of its most notable special collections including the papers of Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, George and Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, and Ned Rorem. Betty was instrumental in establishing the Ira and Leonore Gershwin Fund in the Library of Congress. Many notable acquisitions and concerts have been made possible through this fund.

Betty Auman was a past vice president of the American Brahms Society and a longtime member of MLA, IAML, and the Society for American Music. Betty co-authored The Music Manuscripts, First Editions, and Correspondence of Franz Liszt (1811-1886) in
the Collections of the Music Division
, Library of Congress, published in 1991. From 1977 until 1983, Betty was an adjunct professor at the School of Music at Catholic University.

Elizabeth H. Auman is survived by a brother, Gerry Harvey, and several nieces and nephews. Her husband, Christopher Pino, died in November 2023.

Gordon Theil (submitted by Marsha Berman)
I’ve known Gordon over a rather long period of time. I was a music librarian at UCLA from 1966 to 1993.  During that time, I knew Gordon first as a music student, when he was also a member of our viola da gamba trio with Larry Lipkis.  We played at the
renaissance faire one year.  Later, after he got his library degree he became a member of our Music Library staff, and still later he became my boss.  During all that time and since my retirement we were friends.  As a colleague, he was someone I could always
depend on for his honesty, integrity, and thoughtfulness.  And, as anybody who knew Gordon can well attest, he could also be quite stubborn.  As a friend he was fun to be with, to share experiences, whether it be a new music concert or a dinner party.  And there were many of those.  He and Steve Fry jammed at my 85th birthday party a couple of years ago. He was a wonderful friend: funny, serious, bright, talented.  He was a man of grace.  I shall miss him.

Gordon Theil (submitted by David Gilbert)
Gordon was a kind and caring person. He spent his entire career at the UCLA Music Library and fought the headwinds we all face against administrations from time to time, but always honestly and diplomatically. Gordon generated and attracted dedicated
colleagues and staff. He supported them, gave them credit when due, and worked with them to build the Music Library to support the students and faculty in the study of music taught at UCLA, which is basically all musics.

Like many of us in our profession Gordon was a kind of polymath. His viola da gamba was destroyed in the Northridge Earthquake putting an end to his early music performance, but he was also a devoted member of the MLA Big Band. After retirement he played many nights a week in bands and clubs in the San Fernando Valley. Gordon was close to an expert on intellectual property in libraries, and a strong advocate for fair use. He was key in bringing these issues into MLA.

Gordon was friends with or on speaking terms with many of the movers and shakers in the Los Angeles music community; the Schoenberg family, the managers of the LA Phil and Hollywood Bowl, Herb and Lani Albert…. even colleagues at that other big
university in Los Angeles. He wasn’t just networking. Gordon “saw” everyone. He listened to and engaged with everyone he came into contact with. I know there were people he didn’t like or trust, and probably you wouldn’t like them either, but he saw the potential good in everyone and always first reached out in honesty and friendship. I don’t know his philosophy about an afterlife, but if he is somewhere, he still has his iconic beard and is jamming on his trombone and making music.