Friday, May 15, 2009

Musical Diet

I said it out loud to a piano Mom for the first time yesterday. "You know, I was not raised on only classical music." My parents fed me a wide variety of musical "foods". Sometimes we went to the classical concerts; there were monthly orchestra events and classical radio. I saw Peter and the Wolf. But we strayed. We investigated. We explored and enjoyed, gasp, popular music too. I knew the Beatles and the Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac, and the Who. We also listened to country, went to some blue grass festivals, some jazz in the city park, and too many travelogues to name, all with soundtracks from the countries we were visiting. Mom says I even listened carefully to the jingles of commercials, all I know is I love it all.

I am not embarrassed by it anymore, but there was a time at college when I certainly down-played my eclectic tastes to my professors. There seemed to be some sort of stigma that classical music was preferred, and other types of music were somehow less, well, "musical". There became the story within a story eventually that not even all classical music was esteemed, but that it mattered who played it, was it stylistically correct, and were the artists considered good? I was sucked into this thought pattern subtly, shamed in a way that I had any knowledge of the "lower class" music out there.

Show tunes could make a tenured professor in Connecticut shudder like nothing else and he was known to yell down the hall, "Stop that infernal noise!" A student in this professor's class later was rumored to have picked up his books and upon leaving the class in disgust said to him, "The composer (whom I don't remember) stole a FOLK song, Doctor! It was sung in a pub!" The student didn't graduate and currently makes quite a nice living in a piano bar in New York City.

I'm so glad to be back and comfortable in my skin again. I still teach almost entirely classical music during the school year. I believe that if you play with fine technique, with a strong "meat and potatoes" diet of standard teaching repertoire, that you can play anything. But I've now started to pull out summer music and it feels and sounds so GOOD to me. I feel the breeze of a summer afternoon dancing through the curtain of my studio-jazz, rock, pop, yes, even show-tunes; we lighten up at the studio during the summer. Students bring in ideas from the radio, we compose more and move ahead on theory. We learn wedding music, funeral music, and songs from American Idol.

After all, it's music. The beauty, joy and the way it touches a person's soul can't be limited, and heaven forbid that I try. All the musical flowers are beautiful, yes?


  1. But isn't jazz, to name but just a genre, a spin-off of classical, albeit with a different outlook and pace? Jazz is as varied as classical music, it can be atonal or syncopated as classical. It's such a nonsense to oppose any kind of musical form because it does not conform to the canons laid down by previous generations. Good for you that you feel comfortable in your skin listening to the music you like when and how you like. Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.

  2. Loved loved loved the video I watched via your blog name-fabulous love there-you can feel it between the two.
    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Whenever I run into one of my jazz buddies on a classical gig or vice versa there is always an exchange of surprised looks and comments like "I didn't know you could play with a bow" or "I didn't know you could read music, haha" and other sheepishly sarcastic comments, and it usually ends jokingly with "Let's not tell anyone we saw each other here, okay?" It's fun to mix it up, and fun to run into other people who you didn't realize played for both teams, musically speaking.


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