Thinking Outside the Bachs
Where does creativity come from?
In my family,my fourteen-year-old sister was the artist. At least that’s what I thought when I was seven-years-old.
I would watch, entranced, as she worked on her school art projects. She could paint realistic Victorian houses, driftwood, an apple and a watch, all in watercolor –– a difficult medium at best.To my young eyes, each painting was perfection itself. To be honest, I was intimidated and didn’t have the self-confidence to try anything in that visual world.Oh, I would lie on the floor listen to the radio and draw princess’s, castles and fairies with wings surrounded by butterflies, but no, I was definitely not an artist.
My father had always insisted that we watch The Firestone Hour on television.He loved classical music and wanted me to play the violin. I tried but simply did not get it. So, we switched to piano. But it was classical music, not some pop stuff. I didn’t even know you could learn pop music. In fact, I was surprised that all piano music wasn’t classical. I would play Bach, Chopin and Tchaikovsky.
My mother found a piano teacher who lived in Glendale, but came to our house to give me lessons once a week.She was a very good teacher –– encouraging me to play more difficult pieces and I enjoyed becoming better and better.She was also a bit idiosyncratic in that while teaching me, she simultaneously ate dinner which my mother had prepared specially for her.I don’t know if it was my mother’s cooking or my progress as a pianist that kept her coming back.
Twice a year, my teacher would have recitals at her home. While I was always a bit nervous about participating, I did so regularly until one year. I stepped up to the piano, sat down and completely blanked.I couldn’t remember the notes, the composition, or where I was. In a word, panic! I sat there with my hands frozen above the keyboard. My teacher very gently removed me from the stage and took me to her next door neighbor who also had a piano. She showed me the sheet music of the piece I was supposed to play. Then, miracle of miracles, it all came back to me! I returned to the recital, was introduced again, sat down and played. My performance was met with great applause. This was one of the best “can do” moments of my life.
After five years of diligent study, I progressed to the level of playing with three other pianists, eight hands on two pianos. It was quite challenging but I enjoyed it enormously.
When I entered junior high school, piano classes were not available so I gravitated towards the school chorus.Although I had never sung (other than belting out the occasional song around the house from the tv show, The Hit Parade) I continued my interest in music in junior high school by singing in the chorus.
Strangely, it wasn’t until I joined the a cappella choir in high school, that I discovered that I had perfect pitch.One thing led to another and soon I became the leader of the soprano section and a bit later, president of the choir.
Choral music became my passion and I remained in the choir throughout high school.While our group often sang classical compositions, I also participated in musicals. One day, I heard about auditions to become a song leader for the LA High Football Team. And in the words of Yogi Berra, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” I did and was voted head song leader. Loved every minute, but I didn't have a clue about football.
But, my interest in classical music really developed when I met and married my husband.We didn’t have much furniture –– two chairs and a coffee table –– but, boy, did we have a major stereo system!
He had been an officer in the U.S. Air Force and spent a lot of time in London where he bought top-of-the-line equipment, including two massive Tannoy speakers –– the same ones used by the BBC.
At breakfast, at the cocktail hour and at dinner, my musical world expanded as I listened to Bach, Handel, Mussorgsky, Elgar, Vaughn Williams, Britten, Rodrigo, Canteloube –– a veritable post-graduate course in the music of the world.
Over the years, we attended concerts at the LA Philharmonic and the Hollywood Bowl, but as wonderful as they were, nothing prepared me for the joy of going to the Frank Gehry masterpiece, The Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Hidden on a level above this exquisite building is a secret garden dedicated to Lillian Disney, The Blue Ribbon Garden. It was she, Disney’s late wife, who donated the initial $50,000,000 for the building of this masterpiece dedicated to her husband.
Frank Gehry knew of Lillian's love for Royal Deft porcelain. He and his team broke more than 200 vases and 8,000 tiles to create the mosaic for this fountain, "A Rose for Lilly."
You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality. -Walt Disney
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