Today would have been my father’s 79th birthday. He passed away over five years ago, though for me, especially today, it feels like it happened yesterday. He gave me many different gifts, and since his passing, I’ve seen them come together in ways I hadn’t expected, but that I think he’d be pleased to see. We shared a love for many things, including baseball and the Pink Panther movies, but I’ll focus here on the two most important – music and social justice.
First of all, the music world is very different from the one he knew, but there are many things happening now that he would have liked.
My dad believed that art was for everyone, and often lamented that more people didn’t know and love the music that was so central to his life. Anyone who’s read this blog before knows I have offered many reasons why great music has such a small fan base, and I’ve tried to offer some solutions to the problem – thankfully, many others in the classical music world are working on this, too – a development I know he would appreciated.
I started Bach and Boombox because of the connections between all kinds of music that my dad showed me. Along with countless new classical music concerts, he also took me to many jazz performances (he’d been a jazz pianist in his early days), and introduced me to the Beatles, too. He was a firm believer in the saying – “There are two kinds of music – good, and the other kind.”
Nowadays, I spend much of my time sharing the joy of playing music with kids who might not get to otherwise, through 4-Way’s String Project at Woodford Paideia. My dad helped open my eyes to the inequities in society early on, and we often talked about how they could be addressed – I think he’d be especially pleased that we’ve found a way to be of service through music.
This past weekend, ProMusica Chamber Orchestra gave our final concert of the season, and the program began with a brief performance by violin students from the orchestra’s Play Us Forward program, most of whom come from economically challenging circumstances. On stage with them were players from the orchestra (including yours truly) and our guest artists for the evening, violinist Vadim Gluzman (who has been a big supporter of the program) and violist Paul Neubauer, who a few minutes later would give a thrilling performance of Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante. In the picture below (courtesy of another ProMusica cellist – thank you, Cora!), you can see all of us, playing together – this is the kind of musical and social connection I’m sure Dad would have liked to see.
In his own music, my dad shared a great deal of himself, and you can hear his varied musical influences, from Schoenberg to Stan Getz. So to close, let’s hear a short dance for piano, performed by his friend Richard Becker, that gives you a good sense of him and where he was coming from. Like all his music, it’s both intense and subtle, and at about the 2:00 mark, it starts to sound (to me, at least) like an Earth, Wind and Fire record – a little bit of funk to finish.
Happy Birthday, Dad – I miss you.