Why Play Music?

Music was an important part of our family life, but maybe not in the way you would think.

I am a musician; yet I always felt “different” in my family because I truly ended up with a passion for classical music; a passion often misunderstood in this culture and certainly in the culture of my family: people who preferred lighter fare such as  Lawrence Welk, Strauss Waltzes, “To Each His Own” and “As Time Goes By.”

My mother, however, had an appreciation for classical. She had taken piano lessons as a child. In our family, I was the oldest of 7. My mom loved books and libraries, and though the World Book Encyclopedia was probably not the wisest purchase at the time, they sacrificed and made the purchase.

At the time, we also acquired a very old piano and I begged daily for lessons. Lessons from a money standpoint were out of the question, so we opened the World Book and tried teaching ourselves.

And we did pretty well. I played Christmas carols for our family from tiny notes we got in a free newspaper printout.

Though no one in my family had a great singing voice, we did a lot of singing at Christmas.

In a few months, money was a little better and I finally received the music lessons I longed for. In high school, my family was relieved of the full financial burden of lessons when I got a generous working scholarship to study violin and piano at The Music Center of Lake County. (now the Jack Benny Center for the Performing Arts.)

All of this music making was often annoying to my Dad. He worked in a factory with loud noise and just wanted “peace and quiet” when he got home. He told me many times: ”Stop practicing, I’m watching the golf tournament.” However, he truly loved “The Blue Danube Waltz” and would actually request that I play that.

My Dad’s last hospitalization was for a compressed fracture in his back from a fall in the garden while he was weeding. He was getting tired of TV and when I walked in with a CD player and his favorite Strauss waltzes he loved it.

When Mom was in hospice, I made sure that before Christmas was over, I went up to her room and played our favorite tunes on a little keyboard. My sister Wendy, who had been so little when I was doing all of that piano practicing, still remembered lots of the tunes. She held Mom’s hand as I started with Christmas songs and segued to “To Each His Own” and “As Time Goes By” and continued with Rodgers and Hammerstein: “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, and another favorite of both of ours, “ In My Own Little Corner”, which expressed mom’s philosophy so perfectly: she was so shy and such a storyteller and dreamer!

That day, Mom was fretful and forgetful, but she smiled when I played and moved her legs to the music.

Why play music? I don’t cry easily, but I cried as I played for Mom. And we all connected.