Back a couple years ago I asked several friends to take a trip back down their memory lane and send me a message with their answer to what had made them love music Here’s seven that I found as I was organizing my old blog posts:

Yalil Guerra, Cuban American, composer, multi-instrumentalist, educator

As far as I can remember, my love for music came through different sources: at first my parents, who left in me a great love for popular music. I listened to them performing many beautiful Cuban and Latin American songs…

A few years later, when I was about 13 years old, I traveled to East Berlin with them. One day they gave me an allowance.  Guess what was my request? I asked them to take me to a record store and I purchased as many classical vinyl albums as I could.

As part of that collection of albums I got Bach’s Mass in B minor, Handel’s Water Music… fifteen records that I purchased which were crucial to my developing a love of classical music.

Later, I started studying classical music in Havana, developing my knowledge and the desire to expand my mind to take in an infinite world of music that never ends. That’s why music is so magnificent, you never stop learning. That’s what fascinates me.

Eben Wagenstroom, South African pianist

It was probably during my kindergarten years that I had my first conscious interaction with music. This was primarily in the form of soundtracks to Disney films and their television off-shoots, as well as radio-friendly American ‘popular’ hits (from various genres) of the time being broadcast on local media outlets.

However, it was in my eighth year that I seriously became interested in Western Classical music: my father, having been born to musical parents but not having acquired their musical abilities, developed and still possesses a love for opera (Verdi and Puccini in particular). He was a subscriber to the now-defunct Classical Collection-magazine and had magazines and cassette-recordings of music by Vivaldi, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Tchaikovsky and Dvořák.

Heidi Yenney, violist

It was by sheer chance that I stumbled upon these. It was a hearing of Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik on one of these cassette-tapes that made me decide to venture into becoming a Classical musician.

Though they were Aeronautical Engineers, my parents were both amateur singers. My mom sang in a group called “The Mother Singers” and dad sang in the Church choir.

When I was six, I got a violin for my birthday. Mom took me to hear my older sister play cello with the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra and I couldn’t wait until I could play with them. The conductor would give me Xerox copies of the violin parts. That was really motivating. I was a tiny little kid and I enjoyed the positive attention I got from playing the violin.

There was also a wonderful piano trio in residence at Stanford that we would go listen to. Chamber music was my love from the very beginning.

João Carlos Rocha, Brazilian conductor, composer, pianist

As a Brazilian born kid from the early 80’s, I was exposed to a great amount of popular music, mainly the composers, singers, and bands from the Tropicalia movement (my mom’s side of the family) and from the universe of the Samba (my father’s side.) This mixture of rhythms and musical colors was also nurtured by collections of Classical Music and a quite big library that we always had at home.

My first instrument was the Brazilian Cavaquinho, learned in a first moment by a dear uncle of mine and later in a Conservatory. This is a quite funny part of the story as I was learning basically classical and Brazilian folkloric tunes in an instrument closely related to the popular music – mainly Chorinho and Samba.

When I was a teenager, I remember having heard the Overture to Die Zauberflöte and saying to myself “Hey, wait a moment! I understand what this harmony is all about!”

And then I tried a couple of times to emulate at least the harmony of that work on that instrument. I believe that moment was capital for my relationship with music to become a lifelong one. Probably in that moment of “Eureka” I decided to dedicate myself to it for the rest of my life.

Matei Varga, Rumanian concert pianist

I grew up in the last (and tough) few years of the Communist regime in Romania. Entertainment options were spare. My parents – in their youth – listened to a lot of ABBA and French chansonettes (Piaf, Greco, Brassens) but hardly any Beethoven or Schubert…

I remember falling in love with a famous (and very talented) Romanian pop singer by the name of Corina Chiriac. She was a big star at the time, and a constant presence on the national TV programs which were basically two hours every day, from 8 until 10pm.

I learned all her songs by heart and my mother wrote the lyrics for each one of them in a math notebook… Then I started concertizing this repertoire, either at home for my parents or their guests, or outside while taking a walk, waiting in line for food, etc.

So, I must say, my first hero was Corina, not Rubinstein! My first piano crush was, perhaps surprisingly, not a household name but a fabulously talented young pianist whom I watched during the TV broadcast of the 1995 Queen Elisabeth competition – Victor Chestopal.

Paula Mlyn, co-founder, A440 ARTS GROUP, Feline Caregiver

I grew up in a home where classical music was pretty much the only music played–except for Edith Piaf, Yves Montand (my mother had a crush), and Harry Belafonte.

I was raised not so much on opera (although my mother had a particular fondness for soprano Victoria de los Angeles, and certainly for many Italian and French operas.) Sadly, in our household there was a lack of German opera recordings (although my mother did have some Lieder recordings). This was likely due to my mother’s first-hand experiences in Europe after World War II. She lived in Paris during this period and worked with an organization that helped with the resettlement of Jewish refugees. In her work, she saw first-hand the tragedy and ravages of the war.

Sadly, this experience also gave her an unfortunate dislike of Germany – and she, like some others who lived through this period, refused to listen to quite a bit of German music. Oddly, she kept the famous Debussy recordings of pianist Walter Gieseking, a known Nazi collaborator (perhaps because he was born in France.)

In any case, I came to German opera and conductors and other musicians on my own, much later, and when I was in conservatory. Piano and string recordings were “king” in our home and I grew up on a steady diet of Heifetz, Piatigorsky, Horowitz, Josef Lhevinne, Schnabel, Rachmaninoff, Novaes, and lots of Russians such as Richter, Gilels, Oistrakh and many, many others. Orchestral recordings that were part of my parents’ collection included a good deal of Toscanini, Szell, Reiner, Cluytens, Ansermet, Sir Adrian Boult, Horenstein, and others (memory is kind of foggy here…)

I began playing piano at a very young age and making up my own music. I began playing piano at a very young age and making up my own music .I was already in bed, and I would hear it from my bedroom as my parents finished off listening to the evening news: The Scherzo of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. It was something I heard every night from my bedroom. I knew it was the end of the evening for my parents, and I always felt a bit scared that I knew the house would be silent after it was over.

Gary Briggle, Singer, Actor, Director

My first recollection of a visceral response to music was being introduced to Beethoven Symphonies when in elementary school, as played by The National Symphony Orchestra in Washington D.C.

My parents observed my accurate sense of rhythm when I listened to music while still in a playpen. And, like Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny, as well as Danny Kaye, I was a highly energetic “conductor “ of Rossini Overtures and Offenbach’s “Gaiete Parisienne”!

Ultimately, it was Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts which absolutely enthralled me, and set me on my path towards a career as a musician, I believe.

My 7th grade music teacher assigned me to write a report on Gilbert & Sullivan when I was but a lad of 13 – and my fate was sealed.

Rafael de Acha © 2022

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