Piece: Symphony No. 5 in D major/D minor, Op. 107 (Reformation)
Composer: Felix Mendelssohn
For the first 30 years of my life, I experienced music as a performer, a listener, a student, a conductor, a teacher, a consumer. I never imagined that experiencing music as a parent would be so different from everything else. Mind you, I've been eager to know what part music might play in my daughter's life from the beginning. At the ultrasound when we first learned we were having a girl, I instantly realized that it was the least of what I wanted to know about her. What's her favorite color? What's her favorite ice cream flavor? And, of course, what instrument will she want to play?
As it turned out, the answer was quite a lot of them. Over the years, she's played around with the violin, the saxophone, the harmonica, the recorder and on and on. At this point, she's pretty settled on three: piano, clarinet and bass clarinet. But, I know she'd play more if there were just more time in the week.
Now 14, she's getting to be pretty good. I don't say this to brag. I get annoyed when people brag about their kids, even with myself. I don't feel her story is truly mine to tell anymore. My wife and I are certainly stakeholders. We supplied DNA. We pay for instruments and lessons. We drive her all over northwest Vermont, it seems. We make her practice and cheer her on. But she's the one doing the work and if she were ever doing music just to please us, it stopped being about that a long time ago. Her love is genuine and her own talent, work ethic and passion are plenty enough to carry her far. I was always a kitchen-timer practicer with music. As soon as the time was up, I stopped. Not her. She'll keep playing. Because she loves it. I figured out a long time ago: that's really the only good reason to do it at all.
As we watch her progress with each difficult piece mastered, each audition passed, each hurdle cleared, there is certainly pride. But increasingly, my feeling is one of awe and, I can't deny it, envy. She has found her musical path a lot sooner in life than I did, not to mention the drive to follow it. Who knows where it will take her or how long she'll stick with it? But for now, it makes her happy, gives her a sense of pride and belonging. Not everyone has that at her age, or any age. She's not even old enough to appreciate how lucky she is.
This past summer, she got into a local youth orchestra. She now has the opportunity to play with similarly motivated musicians once a week. Together, they get to play more sophisticated music than she's likely to see in her school band program for a long time. In their first concert, they performed the exquisite fourth movement of Felix Mendelssohn's "Reformation" Symphony, his fifth. The following was performed by the New Philharmonica Orchestra, conducted by Riccardo Muti: