Fred Stubbert says there are two things he harps away at when talking to those interested in learning about classical music:

“The first is, don’t pay attention to music critics, and the second is, if you like it, it’s good,” he said.

Stubbert, of Waterville, will give a series of 12 lectures on orchestral music at Waterville Public Library with his first session scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Sunday, April 24. As you might imagine, his will not be your typical music appreciation course.

He says he has opinions, and strong ones, about music, and is not afraid to say so. He insists there are good and bad ways to introduce people to the classics.

“The thing about classical music is that people think they want to listen to it, so they play the wrong stuff and then say, ‘This is terrible,'” he said.

Some people start by listening to Johann Sebastian Bach, for instance, while others might choose Gustav Mahler, and because they do not suit their taste, they give up on ever trying to listen again, according to Stubbert. Stubbert says that’s a shame because there’s really something for everyone in the realm of the classics.


His lectures, which are free and open to the public, will be all about helping people identify music they like and showing them how to access it easily. He’ll also make recommendations and play music to accompany his talks, which will run about two hours each.

He loves the classics, which include music from periods including not only the classical, but also the baroque, impressionist, romantic and modern periods. His April 24 program will be about Maine composers.

“People don’t realize there were some fantastic composers here and a couple were born here in Maine. Walter Piston was born in Rockland, and John Knowles Paine was born in Portland. Paine was in the latter part of the 19th century and Piston was the first half of the 20th century. Piston wrote a great ballad called ‘The Incredible Flutist,’ which is world-famous. Paine started the music school at Harvard and was dean of the music school for a number of years, and then Piston, later in the 20th century, became dean of the music school at Harvard.”

Stubbert talks knowledgeably about music history. He has had no formal musical training other than having taken a music appreciation course while in college. He plays the French horn, but that doesn’t make him a musician, he said. He emphasizes that his lectures will not focus on the technicalities of music — picking music apart merely serves to ruin one’s enjoyment of it, he contends.

He’s been listening to the classics and reading about music since he was a young child growing up in Oakland and Waterville.

“I used to listen to Red Sox games on the radio Sunday afternoons, and before the games, WHDH out of Boston played Boston Pops music and that’s what got me interested,” he said. “I’ve been collecting music since then and have over 3,000 LPs and 2,500 CDs.”


He also has an expansive library of music books and reads BBC, a monthly music magazine.

Stubbert wrote a book about orchestral music for beginners. He does not yet have a publisher, but is writing a book about the 1944 Waterville High School basketball team which won the New England championships that year, and hopes the publisher of that book publishes both.

Stubbert, 79, is a chemical engineer, former city councilor, council chairman and chairman of the Waterville Board of Education. In 1955, he graduated from Waterville High where he played basketball and baseball, and then earned a bachelor’s in chemical engineering and a master’s in pulp and paper technology from the University of Maine.

While at Maine, he was sports editor of the newspaper in his freshman year, city editor the second year and co-editor his final year.

In his freshman year the university was short on faculty, so it hired some high school teachers and he got a high school English teacher for one class. She assigned a major paper and Stubbert wrote about Pyotr Tchaikovsky and his relationship with Madame von Meck. The teacher, believing he couldn’t possibly have written the paper himself, gave him an F, he recalled.

“She said this is somebody else’s paper — no engineer knows anything about music, or writing for that matter. She couldn’t believe I wrote well and knew anything about music. I went to the head of the chemical engineering department and he got it changed to a D.”


Two years ago, Stubbert planned to teach an adult education course on music but no one signed up so the course was scrapped. He hopes the library lectures will draw a crowd. Each of his 12 programs will focus on various composers and include a session on film scores. One whole program will be about his favorite composer, Frederick Delius.

“He wrote incredibly beautiful music and he has a really interesting story,” he said.

Stubbert went on to say Delius’ parents were from Germany and moved the family to England. His father worked in the wool trade. Frederick was born in England and his father wanted him to go into the wool business, but Frederick wanted to be a musician. His father sent him to Florida to run an orange plantation.

One day Frederick was in a music store in Jacksonville buying a piano and was playing it when Thomas Ward, a musician, walked in and was stunned by what he heard.

“Ward taught Delius how to write orchestral music. A lot of Delius’ music is based on American music. Delius wrote four operas based on what he learned in the U.S. He wrote two gorgeous pieces of music, ‘The Florida Suite,’ and ‘Appalachia.'”

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter for 28 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to

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