Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Music and Me

I started piano lessons at age 4 and appeared in my first piano recital at 4 years and 9 months. Shortly after that, I started voice lessons too. The hardest words for me to pronounce were those with an "r" in them but, I finally figured out that if I put my tongue behind my bottom front teeth, the "r" words sounded musical.

I continued piano lessons, took flute lessons in school during 4th grade, and switched to the cello in 5th grade. I studied piano at the Philadelphia Conservatory of Music and, it turns out, that my piano teacher Winifred Atkinson, was the same piano teacher that Gilda Mann Ellis had. I continued cello, all through high school and was first chair in all the school musical ensembles, and in the District Orchestras. When I graduated from high school, the University of Miami offered me a "football" scholarship on the cello - room and board, transportation, spending money, 3 or 4 trips a year for my parents to visit, cello lessons, books, etc. My father had a fit; said a firm NO; and I went to the University of Pennsylvania. I played in all the orchestras and chamber music groups there, in the pit orchestras for the shows, and even in an all male Mask and Wig show orchestra as the first ever woman.

After graduation, I played with the Doctor's Orchestra for a short while and eventually made my way to the Lower Merion Symphony. I was content to sit in the back, but the cellists in the orchestra resisted and insisted that I sit first chair. After several years, and unhappiness with the conductor, two other musicians asked me if I would join them in starting a new orchestra which we did - the Merion Musical Society. We had a wonderful time, interpreting the music, playing for fun, and eventually for an audience.

Meanwhile, our children started music lessons and blossomed. Orchestras, bands, jazz bands, Philadelphia Youth Orchestra, Philadelphia Jazz Band, even professional musical organizations. And now, we get joy when we hear our grandchildren perform.

As I got older, I developed tendenitis in my shoulders, arthritis in my thumbs, and even broke my wrist. So much for playing. But, I was recruited to help organize and manage summer music festivals. The first was the Big Sky Music Festival, in Big Sky Montana in 1988. We enjoyed a wonderful two weeks in Montana with the fresh air, Rocky Mountain background, and interesting people. The musicians came from the New World Symphony in Miami, Florida and we had to settle emotional, musical, psychological, and intellectual problems that arose. The local newspaper reviewed the first performance and raved. The next year, the local residents thought they could handle a music festival. They were wrong. We had three soloists in 1989. All three were dynamic personalities and artists.

Then, we ventured even further West with the Max Aronoff Viola Institute in Washington State. The first year, the festival of young people, mainly high school age, with some older adults, took place in Puyallup - I still enjoy saying the name of that place. Then, it moved to St. Mary's in Toledo, Washington where Joe DiPasquale, first chair viola in the Philadelphia Orchestra both taught and performed. Besides the music, we had a private airplane ride, over Mt. St. Helen's, which had exploded several years before. The fallen trees looked like spilled boxes of toothpicks.

After a few more years, it became too difficult for us to try to manage, produce, direct, write publicity for, and police the music festivals so far away. But we remain great friends.

Even in Honolulu, we attended luaus presented by the Friends of the Royal Hawaiian Band. What fun!

No comments:

Post a Comment