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March 11, 2003

Reader Responses, & a New Question

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Question of the Week

The Question for this week is:

“If you could direct a contribution of $1,000 to a musical organization, which one would you choose, and why?”

To respond, please click here.

These are reader responses to last week's Question of the Week:
“What was your most memorable childhood musical experience?”

Sylvia Amorino, Concord: My most memorable musical childhood experience was meeting Beverly Sills backstage at a SF Opera production of "La Traviata" when I was about 10 years old. After her long performance, Miss Sills was as gracious as ever, giving me the flower from her hair and sharing some wonderful advice on singing. What an inspiration for a young opera lover! Today, as Artistic Director of a Solo Opera — a chamber opera company in the East Bay Area — I will never forget that moment and how it made me feel!

Linda Anderson, Palo Alto: As a performer, singing in the Washington All State Choir in high school. As a "consumer," going to live musical theater with my mother.

Rebecca Bannister, Albuquerque NM: My mother played violin with the Cañada Symphony in the Bay Area. I attended their concert of Beethoven's Emperor Concerto. I had never heard it before and the delicate tinkling right hand variations on the theme by the pianist in the first movement and the theme played by the French horns brought tears to my eyes. I'd never been moved to tears by music before.

Bob Baron, Millbrae: I had two. Very diverse actually. (1) Listening to Saturday morning Metropolitan Opera broadcasts in the 40's and 50's. My introduction to opera and I have enjoyed opera (mostly Italian) ever since. (2) I heard the LP recordings of Benny Goodman's Carnegie Hall 1938 concert in May of '51. Rushed out and bought the album. Still a favorite for over 50 years.

Leonard Becker, Berkeley: “I was in the audience for a live radio broadcast of Arturo Toscanini conducting the NBC Symphony Orchestra in the 1940.” I was in the audience for a live radio broadcast of Arturo Toscanini conducting the NBC Symphony Orchestra in the 1940"s. I can still picture him in his black jacket waving his pearl handled baton. It was such a spellbinding experience for me when I was either six or seven years old that I can still visualize him now when I'm 65.

Vera Breheda, Concord: Attending the Cow Palace performance of the Moiseyev Ensemble and being thrilled by their songs and dances.

Linda Hathaway Bunza, Portland: One summer when I was 5 years old and not allowed to cross the street on my own, I was lured by the sounds of music coming from across the street. Elizabth Cushman, a Boston concert pianist, had left her windows open and I felt as though I had been captured by a spell. Riveted to those sounds, I crossed the street, the hid in the bushes so as not to get caught. The sounds pouring forth from the open window were the most beautiful music I had ever heard and I began to cry. Years later, I heard those sounds again while attending a concert. Bach's Partita #1 again brought tears to my eyes, and I knew I was home.

Richard Claeys, Saratoga: My first live concert took place when I was 11--a performance by the SF Symphony under Pierre Monteux at the Richmond Civic Auditorium, sponsored by Standard Oil.

Jeff Dunn, Alameda: My first love at seven years old was a recording of Mozart's 17th piano concerto in G, K. 453. I still remember the smell of the leather-covered portable phonograph that played it, and the baroque palace on the cover. From then on, rock and roll didn't have a chance, and I was joined at the hip to a now-marginal art form.

Bethany Gill, Oakland: Playing the triangle in the kindergarten rhythm band. I thought that was the GREATEST, and then when the teacher asked me to sing a song while playing, OH JOY, OH BLISS.

Laurie Hunter, Palo Alto: Hearing the Vienna Choir boys sing.

James Keolker, Napa: The year was 1943, the opera Carmen, the occasion my first trip to the SF Opera courtesy of the SF Opera Guild. What amazed me was Carmen bit an apple and spit it out at Don Jose — to the beat! I couldn't get over that, nor have I since. I was eleven and opera has been a good friend lo these many years ever since. Thank You, San Francisco Opera Guild!

Marian Kohlstedt, Berkeley: First would have to be the "angel choir" at my church, which I joined as a 5-year-old, under the direction of the most wonderful choir director, Colleen Kirk, who was on the music faculty of the University of Illinois. Second is probably listening to my parent's recording of "Hansel and Gretel."

Adrian McNamara, Burlingame: I was taken by my father to the Oakland Auditorium Theatre to hear a free concert by a WPA orchestra. I know it must have been free because the family had little money. I vividly remember being late and walking up the inclined ramp to the balcony, my hand held by my father, as the orchestra began to play what I believe is called the "Italian Symphony". Such is my limited knowledge, I forget the name of the composer but I can Hum the first few bars . . . Bah dah dum, bah dah dum, bah dah da da da. It was my earliest musical memory although, about that same time in my life (at which I had to be younger than the age of five) that I sang "Red River Valley" on some local radio station, whose studio was on fifth avenue near Foothill Blvd. in East Oakland.

Kurt Rohde, San Francisco: One that basically set everything in motion, leading me to eventually decide on becoming a musician. I was about 9, and my parents would let my brothers and sisters and I play their LP's on their record player. Pretty brave on my parent's part; I am sure we ruined more than a boxful of records, and destroyed many needles. Nonetheless, in the back of the record cabinet, behind the Beatles, Carole King, Aretha Franklin, Miles Davis, and Earth, Wind and Fire, was a record of Eugene Ormandy conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra. They were performing Beethoven's Third Symphony. That was it! After hearing that recording, I wanted to play an instrument, and more importantly, I wanted to write music. It was a thoroughly engaging and altering experience. To this day, whenever I hear Beethoven's "Eroica", I am still moved in a strangely profound way, no doubt in part because of that 'first time,' and its lingering effect.

Kurt Servos, Menlo Park: In fourth grade, in a small rural town in Germany [in the Rhineland, not far from Düsseldorf], at the end of summer vacation (1938), our teacher asked each of us in the class to describe how we spent the recess. (I had already seen the Drachenfels on a family excursion, the legendary place where Siegfried slew the dragon.) When we had each made a statement, we asked the teacher (who had been our teacher each year since first grade) what he had done. He told us he had gone to Bayreuth to hear some operas. He then told us the story of Lohengrin, weaving abundant local history into the narrative. At the end of the story, he jumped on a student's [not his own!] desk and sang, "In fernem Land." His offering hooked me on opera forever since then — that was 65 years ago.

Greg Steinke, Green Valley, AZ: Hearing the Rite of Spring for the first time.

Karen Wedsted, Santa Rosa: We had a couple of classical music albums — one by Grieg, one by Tchaikovsky . . . which I played by the hour as I turned the crank to power the record player. I remember how tired my arm would get . . . I was 6 years old and how I loved that music. It was several years later before we got a record player powered by electricity.

Helene Whitson, Berkeley: Being able to study and play the Mendelssohn G Minor piano concerto and Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue (in the privacy of my own home — not for public consumption). Would that I had known about choral singing — or any singing at all, for that matter! I didn't learn about that until graduate school. I'm a late in life convert. They're the worst kinds.

Margaret Wunderlich, Cupertino: My father took me to the Met to hear "Tales of Hoffman". I was eight years old. I can still recreate the overwhelming sound of the music — and see Olympia "wind down".

Datevig Yaralian, San Francisco: Watching a "Song to Remember" as a 5 year old and falling in love with the piano music of Frederic Chopin. I knew then and there I wanted to do something with music. Preferably play the piano (specfically Chopin's music). When I got older I took piano lessons and discovered it was too difficult for me, but ended up taking voice lessons and becoming a singer.

©2003 Robert Commanday, all rights reserved