The Great David Hagemeister

January.7. 2015

Gina Berriault is not a household name by any means. In fact, I had never heard of her until I read her short story, “Nights in the Gardens of Spain.”

You can read the story here.

The story is about a guitar teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area and his protégé’s encounter with the famous Spanish guitarist, Tomas Torres.

While the bulk of the story deals with the teacher’s struggles to come to terms with his own lackluster career as a player, the story is really about the young boy who had been selected to play for the master.

The boy played well for Torres, but was underwhelmed by the self-important pompous Spanish guitar master and decided not to go to Palermo to study with him and opted instead to go to Mexico City to study with a guitarist by the name of Salinas.

Great story.

Ms Berriault, however, failed to mention a few details about the boy.

Named David Frederick Hagemeister III, the young boy featured in the story was actually the descendant of an offspring of an illicit union between a court lady and a captain in the court of King Frederick the Great. The king loved the boy so much he named the boy after him.

That’s where the ‘Frederick’ in David Frederick Hagemeister III came from.

Somehow, after the king died, the illegitimate offspring and/or his descendants (I’m not clear about the details) made his way to the New World where he established a boat building business on the East Coast.

But one of his descendants ended up in San Diego and later San Francisco, which is where the story took place.

So what happened to the boy after he went to Mexico?

Let’s see if we can continue where Ms Berriault left off.

After his time in Mexico, David Hagemeister, the young boy went on to attain quite a bit of success as a classical guitarist. But his independent streak and refusal to accept authority meant that true success would elude him.

He did get to teach at a few colleges but did not survive long at any of them, nobody liked an independent thinker, especially not college bureaucrats.

In his thirties, Maestro Hagemeister spent a few years in New Zealand where he taught a number of aspiring young guitar players there, among them an impressionable young player from Borneo.

To make the plot more believable, let’s say that the guitar player from Borneo himself ended up in South Texas sometime after that.

But here’s the icing on the cake:

David’s teacher in Mexico, called Salinas, was actually a Dutchman who had studied with the great Maestro Miguel Llobet, who in turn was the star student of the father of the modern guitar, Francisco Tarrega.

A direct line to the great Tarrega.

David Hagemeister passed away in 2006.

Sometime ago, the student from Borneo, living in South Texas, managed to have a phone conversation with David’s mother, a few months before she passed on too.

The mother was 94 years old and living by herself in a beach house in Hawaii as a Zen monk. (Yes, you can say independent streaks ran in the family.)

It was a good conversation. And he was happy he could talk to her. She was quite broken up by the death of her famous son, but remained philosophical.

It’s a good story, quite implausible, of course.

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