We can all thank my father for passing on the importance of music and education to his children, his grandchildren, and his great-grandchildren.
My father came to this country from Poland in 1921. He went to high school in Brooklyn but was unable to go to college because he had to work to help support his mother and sisters and brother. After he and my mother were married and had children, his hard work continued so that my brother and I could get good educations and also take music lessons. He insisted that we go to college, and he insisted that we take music lessons – and practice.
And so, my brother and I took piano lessons. I actually liked playing the piano, but I tortured my parents because I didn’t want to practice. They would give me a timer to put on the piano to make sure that I practiced long enough. I would try and fool them with the timer – or I would run and go to the bathroom – or I would do this or I would do that – I would do anything not to practice. I really tortured them.
I also gave my father a hard time about college. I did not want to go to college. I wanted to go to high school, graduate and marry Steve. But my Dad would not hear of it. And so, I went to Brooklyn College and majored in math and education. My brother took another path and went to medical school. I know that my father was very proud that his son became a doctor, and that I became a teacher.
When I had children, I insisted that they all take music lessons. In those days, in Westbury New York, the public school started giving the children music lessons in the in the 4th grade. Josh wanted to learn a wind instrument. But because he had braces, we had to ask the orthodontist what he could play that wouldn’t ruin his bite. The orthodontist said french horn - and so, Josh played the french horn. In the beginning, the sound that came out of that thing was not so pleasant - and Ken was so mean. He would not let Josh practice when he was in the house because he said it sounded too horrible. But despite that, Josh persevered, and he played the french horn throughout high school - and played it well. Josh went to Notre Dame and played in their marching band for four years. Now his son Eli also plays the french horn in the Charlottesville Virginia Symphony. Eli is taking his love of music to another level entirely.
Ken wanted all the girls to play the flute – and, he was not too flexible. We had a piano, but he said, “I want you girls to all play an instrument, either the flute or the flute!” He liked the flute because he said that it is easy to carry up and back to school. The first to take flute lessons was Liesl. She played it very well but she did not love it so much – she would rather spend her time being a cheerleader.
Next was Alice. Alice was very accomplished on the flute and the piccolo. Because of his connections with pawnbrokers, Ken was able to get her a sterling silver flute which she still plays today.
Then there was Susan – she played her flute beautifully but tortured me about practicing (much like I tortured my parents about playing the piano). The other kids still can’t believe I did this, but I did – but I would bribe her with money to practice. She had a great deal of talent and even competed at a New York State flute competition.
The tradition of music continues with the grandchildren. As I mentioned, Josh’s’ son Eli plays the french horn – JP played the drums in high school – Becca excelled on the flute and piccolo and played in the marching band at James River High School – and now Luci plays the flute! It is a little too early for Josh8, Anna and Baby Matthew, but if I had to guess, I would guess that there are instruments in their future.
My father would be so proud knowing that HIS legacy of the importance of music and education continues today, in the lives of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Thank you, Papa!