March 4th, 2021

moi 1946

music is important to me - in my youth...

I went to a great private school - Dalton School in NYC - 1st through 8th grades. There were lots of music activities there - singing and dancing mostly but some playing too. I got to try out a violin a few times. I remember there were Rhythms classes where we moved to music. In about 6th grade they hired a very dynamic choral director, Harold Aks, and that was lots of fun - I still remember singing It's a me o Lord - very loudly. And we did square dancing. I remember in 3rd and 4th grade going on week long trips to a farm/camp in Otis, Massachusetts and we did square dancing there. Among other things I got to milk a cow there. By a strange coincidence that camp is where Robert rsc went during summers - it is no longer operational. At Dalton we had what was called Assembly every week in the auditorium and someone got to play the piano while people were entering the hall. I got to do it a few times.

My parents weren't very interested in classical music but wanted to support me. We had a record changer that played albums of '78s - strange having breaks in the middle of a symphony movement. They took me to occasional concerts. And I remember once when I was quite young going on my own to Carnegie Hall to hear Walter Gieseking, a well-known pianist of the times. And he played about 10 encores at the end! When LPs started becoing popular I had a record player/changer in my room. I remember going to Sam Goody's, a discount record store with huge collections, many times to buy records.

I got interested in playing the piano and started in about 3rd grade at Dalton. And soon after I took some piano lessons - I remember the teacher's name: Mrs. Stretch. And my parents bought a piano - a Sohmer spinet. Sixty Progressive Piano Pieces You Like to Play was the book I used in early days - and I still have my copy! The picture above is a couple of pages with my artwork.

Later I had a new teacher, Richard Willens. He was really good - he had aspired to be a concert pianist but found it too much pressure to perform in front of audiences. I still have some of the music books - Schumann, Haydn (paper in the Haydn too dried out to actually use), and others. I don't remember when I started but stayed with him through high school. Once when he thought I was losing interest in music we worked on Carmen - playing some of the parts and then he took me to the Met (the Old Met) to see it). And he took me back stage to meet Zinka Milanov, who was Carmen. Carmen remains my favorite Opera - paetly because I worked on learning so much of it. We've seen it 4 times in the past year in the MetOpera nightly shows. I still have my ancient recording of Carmen with Rise Stevens at the Met - she sung the role there many times for many years.

And coincidentally we usually have classical music radio on and the thing being played while typing part of this was Schumann's Arabeske - one of the pieces I used to play.