Getting "Lost" with Sam

Margaret Claudin

From 1989 to 1991, Sam and I played many pieces during our lessons with legendary flutist Julius Baker in Danbury, Connecticut. Those were wonderful times, soaking up musical insights from the former first chair of The New York Philharmonic, my favorite flutist since I was a child.

Mr. Baker loved Sam. They got along so well, often digressing to playing Gershwin together and laughing a lot. Afterwards, Mr. Baker's wife Ruth always fixed us lunch and Mr. Baker told stories and shared pictures and recordings with us - there on his rural property that Mr. Baker mowed himself with his farm tractor.

We made that trip once a month for two years. Those times in the car (4 hours each way!) were when my husband Craig (our chauffeur) and I really got to know and love Sam. We were always getting lost and it never failed to be an adventure. It was to Sam’s greatest amusement when Craig and I got into a number of tiffs about Craig not following the directions provided by Mr. Baker and not stopping to ask for directions.

Once in the dead of winter on our way home, we missed an important sign during the middle of a snow storm and ended up heading right into New York City which we wanted to avoid. But Sam, making the most of every opportunity, knew of a Chinese restaurant not too far off our path, so we stopped in for a warm dinner. To our surprise, all of the restaurant workers knew Sam and were all so happy to see him!

Because of Sam’s infinite generosity (he refused to accept any payment for accompanying me at theses lessons), Craig and I received a priceless gift that we will never forget, getting to know and love Sam on all those trips together in the car.

Sam was a wonderful road companion. We often stopped for tea, his beverage of choice, and quite often we searched for his beloved New York Times. Our conversations were interesting and varied. Sometimes we didn't talk at all, while Sam napped, I knitted and Craig drove.

The last time Craig and I saw Sam together was just a few weeks before his death. We were driving by the Free Library of Philadelphia and out walks Sam with a few books. We got his attention, gave him a ride home, and parted as we always did - grateful to have seen one another and looking forward to the next time.

I did see Sam by myself the night before he died. It was at a student's recital but I couldn't easily break away from someone I was talking with. Sam walked right by me and I wanted to reach out and touch him, but I didn't. I suppose I did what Sam would have done and kept listening to the person speaking to me. After all, when you were one-on-one with Sam, you had him all to yourself.

Margaret and Sam posed with flute and music
Sam's Chinese name means
story menu button