I Got the Music in Me, from My Mother

VoiceWhen my dad asked my mom to marry him she replied, “I will on one condition, that you buy me a piano.” So Dad carried a bride and a piano across the threshold of their basement apartment to start a life together.

I used my mother’s strategy when I was proposed to, but I asked for a red Jeep Wrangler 4-cylinder engine, manual 5-speed with a sliding sunroof, AM/FM cassette player, running boards, grille guard and leather seats.

Apparently that was a deal breaker, so I settled for just eternal love and devotion.

But Dad meeting Mom’s condition began a marriage, and music career that recently celebrated fifty years.

Of course, my mother’s musical passion and talent began long before tall, dark and handsome Daddy-o swept her off her feet with the promise of complete fidelity and a piano. Mom was a child prodigy. While most kids whine (like mine), “Please don’t make me take piano lessons!” my mother whined, “Please let me take piano lessons!” Unfortunately, her parents couldn’t afford it at the time, but the music inside her would not wait. Mom went to the local music teacher and begged for piano and vocal lessons in exchange for housecleaning.

A star was born.

After spending her youth singing and playing the piano at community, school and church venues, she burst onto the collegiate scene as a vocal and piano performance standout winning talent competitions, starring roles, scholarships and recognition as far as Washington DC, “The Met” in NYC and an Austrian performing arts conservatory.

Favoring family over fame though, Mom turned down prestigious opportunities for dear old Dad and a used piano. But there began her legacy of fostering talent in others as a piano/vocal teacher and a singing group/band leader.

I can’t even begin to count the number of people my mother’s music has touched over the past fifty years through performing, teaching, accompanying, arranging and composing. But I did try to find as many of them as I could on Facebook to e-vite them to a career celebration and retirement party in honor of my mother.

We had a big bash with food, mingling, and open mic and piano for students past and present to perform. There was a program and a tribute video montage of her musical life. Putting that together was my assignment for the party, and that twenty-minute video took freaking thirty hours to put together! My sisters got off easy doing refreshments and decorations. Well, my brother got off the easiest doing nothing. He did call two days before and ask, “Hey, was I supposed to do something for Mom’s thing?” He did help clean up though.

But giving thirty hours of my life to showcase fifty years of my mother’s musical contribution to society was the least I could do for her. She taught me, and so many others, to sing, play, read, lead, perform and love music and it’s a legacy that will live on in all of us.

As Dad watched the video showing the return on the investment he made in a piano so long ago, tears streamed down his face. Or maybe it was because I gave him the party bill (that was his assignment).

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