Rumors of classical music’s demise are greatly exaggerated. As long as I can remember, people have been pronouncing classical music as dying or dead. But last week, I had the pleasure of interviewing a young violinist who doesn’t share that view. In some ways Michelle Ross has pursued a traditional path for a classically trained musician: earning a Juilliard School degree, studying Johann Sebastian Bach’s music from a deeply scholarly perspective, and making her debut recording of music by Bach on a borrowed Stradivarius violin.
The “official” baroque era was 1600-1750. To put that into some context, George Washington was born in 1732, Thomas Jefferson was born in 1743, and Benjamin Franklin was born in 1706. They were all born during the baroque era!
Over the years, I have had the pleasure of interviewing a variety of fascinating people about their relationship with music. Most of them are musicians, including people such as pianists Leon Fleisher and Simone Dinnerstein, guitarist Sharon Isbin, flutist Emmanuel Pahud, and conductors Nicholas McGegan, Ton Koopman and Masaaki Suzuki.
A confession: one of my all-time favorite movies is THE WIZARD OF OZ. I love that the core lesson Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion all learn is that the things they wanted so badly and sought so tenaciously were already in them — they just had to recognize their gifts and believe in themselves. It’s a simple yet powerful lesson for us all, and it came to my mind again last week.
Having dinner with friends the other night, the conversation meandered to activities that nurture our creativity. One friend is a retired engineer, but late in life he began art classes. He discovered he has a talent for painting, and he said, “Art feeds my soul.” He spoke passionately about the significance of having a creative outlet in his life.
A musician friend once joked that the definition of “highbrow” is hearing Rossini’s WILLIAM TELL OVERTURE and *not* thinking of The Lone Ranger. It’s meant to be a humorous observation, of course, and not a judgement. His joke popped into my head while listening to Maurice Ravel’s BOLERO recently. I was instantly transported back to my first job as a teenager working the box office at our local movie theater.
Although Mother’s Day is now past, it’s always a good time to thank and acknowledge moms who instill music in their children’s lives. Both my parents loved music, and they owned a substantial and somewhat eclectic collection of LPs (and some 78s!) they liked to play in the house.
During a dinner party I hosted recently, there was a selection of recorded music playing for background entertainment. Throughout the evening several of the guests noticed and commented on how much they enjoyed particular musical selections. Ever since, I’ve been trying to pinpoint what it was about those selections that caught people’s attention in such a positive way.
A musician friend has been augmenting her busy performing and traveling schedule with visits to a prison to perform for the inmates. She plays classical music for these men, some of whom have never listened to this music in their lives. They are more than just receptive to this special treat of live classical music performances– they become hungry and eager for it, and in some cases they quickly develop a deep appreciation and passion for this music.
Some of the holiest of religious holidays overlapped this year – the Jewish observance of Passover began one day after the Christian celebration of Palm Sunday and continues just past Easter Sunday. A lot of the music on Sunday Baroque is religious because the musicians in the baroque era often worked for the church, but our weekly musical gathering is ecumenical and inclusive. It’s a celebration of the MUSIC, and I hope each listener is nurtured and uplifted in a personal and meaningful way, whatever that may be.