I have always said that my life had a happy start because I was very much a wanted child. My parents had a son born only 11 months after their marriage, but having a successful second pregnancy had proved difficult. Mother had several miscarriages and finally spent some time with a Christian Science Counselor believing that perhaps her eagerness and tension was a part of the problem. Whatever it was, it worked.
When I arrived healthy and the girl they had hoped for my parents, my two grandmothers, my aunt and great aunts were all overjoyed. I am afraid it took me quite awhile to realize that the whole world wasn't as thrilled about me as all of them were. It tended to give me a lot of confidence, and I worry sometimes, maybe a little too much.
In addition to a welcoming family I was blessed to live in a town small enough to make it easy to know a lot of people, but large enough to provide the advantages of education, cultural activities and a place in the history of the area.
My father was a respected lawyer and my mother was a gifted musician who was beloved, not only by her many friends, but also by anyone who came in contact with her, whether as a colleague or as an employee. She had studied in Chicago with a famed pianist and teacher named Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler, who told her she had the potential to be a concert pianist, but her greatest pleasure came in being an accompanist.
When she was only 20 and my father came into her life, her career became secondary to being a wife and mother, but she continued to perform as an accompanist for some noted soloists, including a tenor who was a professor at Northwestern University and a violinist who was concertmaster of the Rockford, Ill., symphony.
In those days, there was a very active and well attended series of community concerts available in many northern Illinois cities and she and these soloists were frequent performers on those programs. The result was that many of my earliest memories include pleasant times as a child listening to her rehearsing alone or with the soloist.
Much of the music they did was very popular at that time but fell out of favor some years later. It was very romantic in style and featured compositions by Fritz Kreisler, Chaminade and other composers of relatively short pieces that were appropriate for the community concerts of the day.
It has been a delight to me that in recent times Minnesota Public Radio and various live concert programs have seemed to rediscover these numbers, and I hear them quite often. Listening to those reminders of the past, I can shut my eyes and become that 3-year-old kid on the floor under the grand piano in our living room listening to Mother and her soloist cohort rehearsing for a coming program.
Interestingly enough, when I got on to my college years majoring in music at Northwestern University, I studied voice with the man for whom Mother had been the accompanist at those concerts when I was young. He was very patient and kind to me but gave me a left handed compliment when I sight-read a new piece very accurately. His comment was, "What fine musicianship, too bad you don't have a voice."
Fortunately, I was not a voice major and concentrated on clarinet and on conducting.
When I graduated, I taught band and instrumental music in a Michigan school system until my old neighbor and friend re-entered my life and we got married. So, I did what women were expected to do in those days - I went home and raised a family.
However, music has always been an important part of my life, and I have taught piano, flute and clarinet, directed church choirs and still sing in one and step into my old role as conductor when our director has to be gone.
Our radio plays day and night with MPR's classical music. I can't imagine living without music as a vital part of life. Whatever you prefer, whether it's classical or pop, new or vintage, I wish for you and all the world the gift of music as a joyful part of everyday life.