A Fateful Day in 1963; and in 2011

“One Red Rose” recalls a national tragedy, the day President Kennedy was assassinated, through specific impressions, filtered through 50 years of subsequent insightImage and experience. The three-movement work is for string quartet; its title derived from a detail reported by a Secret Service agent who examined the presidential limousine.

Recently, the Brentano String Quartetperformed this deeply emotional and thoughtful work by composer, Steven Mackey. The finale, “Anthem and Aria,” similarly juxtaposes collective anguish and acutely felt private grief.

I was on my way home from a chorus rehearsal, just 12 years old, and I heard the news on the radio not really knowing the true meaning of this horrifying news. I came home finding my Mother working on her stenography with the many LP’s of voices dictating letters at all speeds. When I told the news that Kennedy was shot and killed, she stopped and froze; it was the first time I ever saw my Mother weep.

I knew only then what really happened and that my message to her, blurted out by an innocent and naive child, wasn’t a news bulletin at all but more like daggers to the heart. It was only some five decades later that I saw that same profound sadness in my Mother’s eyes but amplified to deafening decibels; at my Father’s funeral.


Congratulations to the Grammy Foundation for recognizing outstanding musical warriors

Kindergarten through college teachers are eligible for the new annual award, which will be presented at a special ceremony the day before the Grammy Awards. Students and colleagues can nominate candidates onlineRecording Academy president Neil Portnow says the group has established a music educator award that will be presented for the first time next year.

GRAMMY In The Schools Live! with Juanes, Feb. 7, 2013

GRAMMY In The Schools Live! with Juanes, Feb. 7, 2013

Recording Academy president Neil Portnow announced the new award Thursday at the Grammy Foundation’s 15th annual Music Preservation Project event at the Saban Theatre.

“We’re dedicated to preserving the great music of the past, present and future,” he said. “Music education is perhaps the most vital part of the Grammy Foundation’s mission.”

There is a small poster on a wall I pass by every day. It  consists of a brief musical excerpt with a brief inscription below:   “If you can read this, thank a music teacher.” Artists in every musical genre know of a music teacher who played an important part in their lives; perhaps when they were in grade school. A special educator who inspired them to go to on to achieve big musical goals.

An award from the Grammys finally acknowledge and validate the importance of music education in our school. When musical programs are cut because of budget, one needs to step back and realize the deleterious effect this can have on the students as well as the community. Music education is not a frill, not a throw away or a whim.

Learning music from these dedicated music teachers in all types of communities is a right. It’s status should be on equal par with math, science, and language arts. When you kill a music program you are killing off an integral part of cultural. And once it’s dead, it soon becomes forgotten.

Congratulations to the Grammy Foundation for recognizing these outstanding musical warriors!

What’s Next? Not a happy time for British Orchestras

This is not a happy time for British orchestras.

Local government authorities are slashing their arts budgets by anything up to 100 per cent and managers still await the financial decisions of the newly emasculated Arts Council.


So “What’s Next” would seem a fitting theme for this year’s annual conference of the Association of British Orchestras, held in Leeds this past  January 23-25.

I wish them all the best.

Tragedy… international virtuoso loses his fingers to frostbite

Alexey Zimakov, winner of the 1991 American Guitar Association Competition in Miami, has suffered the amputation of all fingers on both hands after contracting severe frostbite in his home town, Tomsk, in Siberia.

The amputation took place, we are informed, on January 15. He had been due to give a concert with the Belgorod Philharmonic Orchestra, conductor Evgeny Bushkov, on February 2, performing Ponce Concierto del Sur and Paganini Romance and La Campanella. The concert will now go ahead without him, retitled Hommage à Alexey Zimakov.

Of all the misfortunes we suffer, in the course of a musical life, few can be greater than this!

The Met sits well in the age of Twitter and New Media

Empty Chairs no more?  It was illuminating, at intermission during the Metropolitan Opera’s opening-night presentation of Rossini’s “Barber of Seville” (last) Tuesday, to scroll through comments about the performance posted on Twitter.The presentation on December 17th was the latest in the Met’s line of family-friendly holiday offerings, abbreviated and translated into English for young listeners with short attention spans. The fans are “all-a-Twitter!”


“The Barber of Seville” Isabel Leonard and Rodion Pogossov star in this production at the Metropolitan Opera House. Photo: Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

Two musical icons pass on – leaving behind unsurpassed legacies

Dave Brubeck - Time Magazine Cover 1954 [courtesy wikipedia.org]

Dave Brubeck – Time Magazine Cover 1954 [courtesy wikipedia.org]

In the past two weeks, two icons of the music world, two icons from the opposite side of the music world, died.

I was privileged to see Dave Brubeck in a concert years ago with his son — “Two Generations of Brubeck.” Though his son is a fine musician and an excellent jazz musician at that, the crowd was waiting for the song that put the Brubeck Quartet to the top; Take Five. That quirky jazz number in the wrong meter (5 beats instead of 2 or 4) grew legs and the lay back cool style of Brubeck was born.

Ravi Shankar [photo compliments of CNN]

Ravi Shankar [photo compliments of CNN]

Across the world, India’s Ravi Shankar died this past Wednesday (12/12/12). Most Americans in the ‘60s knew what a sitar was after the Beatles went to India to spend time with their mentor. Sargent Pepper was born, concertos for the sitar and orchestra were being written and Ravi Shankar became a household name.

Though the music of Brubeck and Shankar are so different in many ways, they both had an easy style of playing and were pioneers in opening up the ears of a generation so eager to hear new sounds.