Bill Evans followed his musical studies at the Southeastern Louisiana University from 1946 till 1950 and received his Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance. From 1980 till 1999 the trombonist, arranger, conductor, music researcher, educator, and broadcast manager Prof. Ron Nethercutt developed at the faculty the Bill Evans archive. After the death of Bill Evans in 1980 Ron began collecting memorabilia in order to compile a reference center for pianists, musicologists, and others. He also wrote the liner notes of the album “Bill Evans Homecoming: Live At Southeastern Louisiana University” (Fantasy 1999), recorded live at Southeastern Louisiana State University, Hammond, Louisiana on November 6, 1979. He later contributed many articles for the quarterly newsletter “Letter From Evans” (26 issues: 1989-1994) by the well-known Evans historian and bassist Win Hinkle, author of “The Bill Evans Jazz Resource” and “Win’s Bill Evans Blog”. Ron was also the moderator for the initial annual Bill Evans Festival. Southeastern named Bill Evans its first “Alumnus of the Year” in 1969.
During a short stay in the United States Ron visited Bill’s alma mater, the Southeastern Louisiana University, and later the the grave of Bill Evans at the Roselawn Cemetery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on November 5, 2014. The cemetery is 65 acres in size and has over 25,000 internments at its location. Find a Grave: Bill Evans. He took several photos that gave a good impression of Bill’s final resting place, accompanied by the following text:
As I approached the Roselawn Cemetery in Baton Rouge, I wondered why it had taken me so long to visit the graveside of Bill Evans. Perhaps it was avoiding the realization of his passing. Perhaps my work with his records, his music, and memories, kept Bill more alive in my mind. It wasn’t the distance; since for 20 years my residence was only 50 miles from his final resting place. I am now retired and residing in the Philippines, but decided that this trip to Louisiana would include that long delayed visit.
As I entered the driveway to Roselawn, I was greeted by a quiet solitude that told me “Bill would like this.” The cottage shown in the photographs could easily be found in the homeland of his Welsh heritage. I was greeted by a kind lady in the cottage who welcomed me by saying, “Another visitor for Bill; you know his is our most popular site.” She then provided me the directions, “just follow the pathway in which your car is headed, go past the mausoleum, turn left, and he rests under the first oak tree on the right.”
The short trip of about two minutes found me quietly parking and walking towards three headstones; that of Bill, his brother Harry, and Erin, a daughter of Harry and Pat Evans. As I looked at Bill’s headstone, I wondered why the ‘V’ was not darkened as was the rest of his name. Later I wondered why I had not used some of the rich earth to fill in the indented ‘V’ so all the letter of EVANS would more clearly be seen.
As I viewed the cemetery around Bill’s, I realized that I was the only visitor that day in the entire 65 acres, asked myself, “Why was nobody else visiting some of the 25,000 that find this there final home?” I walked around a bit, but always stayed in view of Bill gravesite, and wondered if he was able to view his surroundings. As I left, driving even more quietly than I had entered, I hopefully wished that Bill found the “Peace Piece” that he sought for such a long time.
© Ron Nethercutt, November 5, 2014