What Happened? Musicians Share Their Musical Beginnings

PART ONE:

Think about spending most or all of your life playing, practicing and performing music. What is it that makes musicians do this? How does it all begin? Here are some of their stories:

NealGrandstaffGuitarist and guitar teacher, Neal Grandstaff says it all started with an uncontrollable connection to sound. “ I heard rhythmic sounds and the rhythm of everything around me, Neal explains. “ You know… the white noise or the wind that sounds like a faint or sometimes profound musical piece…or the sounds that a fan can make or for that matter the ocean.

“I remember my mother saying something to me and my dad when I was 5-7 years old that when she talked it sounded like a song. Later life analysis tells me that rhymes and human speech have rhythms and catch phrases that, for whatever reason, my brain and, seemingly, my soul or chi or internal self, was and is drawn to.”

Mary Kogen, musician and taketina instructor says that when she was 7 year old, “I Mary pictook piano because one of my parents suggested that I do. Later we moved to the Bay Area, and I took from Madame Boris.  She was Russian and very old and had flabby upper arms.But did she love music.  When I would play Fur Elise, she would move around the room calling in a plaintive voice “Elise…EeeeLiiiseeee” It really worked! I quit when I was 11 or so…(I don’t know why…..maybe because my parents divorced….and sometime  later my mom (thank goodness) suggested I take lessons from this weird, wonderful lady  who smoked and wore curlers when she taught me.  I can still see her greeting me at the front door. She called me “sweetheart” and “honey”, and we just fooled around…mostly harmony and ragtime stuff. I loved her dangling cigarette and actually really enjoyed the lessons.  It improved my ear immensely.  As a matter of fact, I could play well by ear but couldn’t sightread,  but I kept very quiet about that.

“When I was 12 or 13 my Dad suggested I return to “real” lessons.  He rarely suggested anything to me, so I did. He didn’t chip in financially, so I cleaned my piano teacher’s house in return for lessons. She was a retired opera star,  Verna Osborne.  I think the fact she was more a singer than a pianist was a real gift to me.

“Then my mother (bless her) enrolled me in a very posh girls prep school to keep me out of trouble.  I was furious but ended up loving this school. I received scholarship piano lessons from Faith France.  She was a very good piano teacher,and loe and behold, I became the best pianist in the school! (Tho I still could not read music very well.)

“My senior year of High School, the Dean of Studies called me in about college.  I had no clue, no future ambition. I just loved to learn.’Where do you want to go to college?’ she asked. ‘And in what subject do you want to major?’

I must have looked bewildered or blank, because she then said ‘Well, you are a good pianist, why not go to music school.’Then Mary Kogen, musician and taketina instructor says that when she was 7 year old, “I took piano because one of my parents suggested that I do. Later we moved to the Bay Area, and I took from Madame Boris.  She was Russian and very old and had flabby upper arms.But did she love music.  When I would play Fur Elise, she would move around the room calling in a plaintive voice “Elise…EeeeLiiiseeee” It really worked! I quit when I was 11 or so…(I don’t know why…..maybe because my parents divorced….and sometime  later my mom (thank goodness) suggested I take lessons from this weird, wonderful lady  who smoked and wore curlers when she taught me.  I can still see her greeting me at the front door. She called me “sweetheart” and “honey”, and we just fooled around…mostly harmony and ragtime stuff. I loved her dangling cigarette and actually really enjoyed the lessons.  It improved my ear immensely.  As a matter of fact, I could play well by ear but couldn’t sightread but I kept very quiet about that.

Nightclub musician/drummer/vocalist, Dave Royer said, “My home was always full of music. Before I could walk my mom said that I was standing in my crib attempting to sing ‘Ain’t She Sweet’ with correct melody and phrasing but lacking proper enunciation.”

When I was 4 or 5 and put to bed, I lay in my bed listening to my parents and their friends playing music. My mother was a pianist and would frequently get together with fellow musicians for jam sessions in our home.

Lisa Coffey, professional harpist and instructor says.“As early as I remember, music was in the ether at our house.  My mother was a classical singer who attended the Eastman School; my uncle a pianist who studied in Paris, and there was an enthusiastic pleasure taken in music on both sides of our family.  We had a little portable record player that played 78 rpm records (that was the only record speed back then!)  We had a set of Little Golden Records that introduced the instruments of the orchestra, and another that introduced famous excerpts from classical music.

We also had records of operas such as “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” and other children’s records selected by our mother who cared about the quality of what we were listening to.  A favorite activity was to sit on the couch next to our mother as she held a song book on her lap.  We sang together, a capella, as we did not yet have a piano at that early time.  One of the song books was a book of Christmas carols.

The carol “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” had an illustration showing an angel “bending near the Earth to touch [her] harp of gold.”  I loved that picture, and I loved that harp. I thought the harp was simply the most beautiful thing that existed in the world, and I knew I had to have it!  That was the beginning of a relationship with the harp that has been the guiding light of my life ever since.”

Alice Cotton, guitarist and songwriter who teaches her 8 – 11 year old music students how to perform and create music enjoys remembering placing her head under the lid of her families baby grand piano. “I plucked the strings and filled my head and ears with the amazing sounds I heard in there.”me performing 12

“Then there were the singing machines, like the clothes dryer when it was on. I would spend hours, or was it really many minutes,  singing harmony with it, making up tunes.”

“I remember that Beethoven and Bach recordings were always playing around the house.

“Then there was music school at the Cleveland Institute of Music where I learned music theory and piano.  Then I quit that many years later to follow my interest in playing guitar mush to my piano teacher unhappiness. She was hoping I would be one her star pianists. But alas, I was meant for playing the strings like the ones I used to explore under the piano lid.”

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Author: Alice Cotton Books

Artist, musician, teacher and author of unique children's books that integrate all of the above. Children learn basic musical concepts as they join in the adventures of musical characters like Largo, the half rest who goes on a search for his list key in places like Bomgo Drum Park and Detective Reed who solves the mysteries of where disappearing notes have gone. These books are sold on Amazon, Kindle and in the store at Threedashespub.com Check out: Musical Tales,The Case of the Flying Note,The Secret at Willow Wail,Adventures on a Blue Moon And more Detective Reed Mysteries are coming.

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