“A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence.” – Leopold Stokowski
My father was born at the height of World War II to the daughter of an Italian immigrant. He was blessed with the heart of a musician but lacked support of the pursuit, at home. Inevitably he was able to do what most parents do; he was able to live vicariously through his child.
At the urging on my father I began piano lessons by age seven. I still remember the upright being delivered and the first time my fingers glided across the keys. That first lesson consisted of learning the range and moving parts. Two songs would be assigned to me and one would change the course of my life. Played only on black keys were “Polly’s Piccolo” and “Teddy’s Tuba.” I fell in love with the rich, depth of the lower tones. It was then that I began to tell anyone who would listen how I was going to play the tuba.
When I get an idea in my head there isn’t much give; I will gnaw on that bone until satiated. I get that from him. For two years my father researched and reached out to professional tubists and conductors. He purposefully found a female player in order to show me the possibilities.
By the time I was nine, our family were season ticket holders for the Battle Creek Symphony Orchestra. I was taught to cross my legs with poise. Children were to be seen and not heard. You were to never unwrap hard candies and only uncultured swine clapped between movements. I was immersed in the arts. Our dinners were typically accompanied by classical pieces, sometimes blues ,jazz or Celtic works. Not only did he push a love for the symphony, but the theatre, opera and ballet. My childhood was rich in experiences.
The birth of my daughter would be heralded by Tibetan singing bowls. As a mother I have tried to instill those same experiences, curiosity and love. But, I also fear instilling the same pressures and expectations of perfection that were placed upon me. Living vicariously through your children can be a dangerous line.
Stage moms come in various forms. I was nothing more than a painted china doll on display. I remember the music. I remember the silence. I remember hot cider, the fur coat and Kalamazoo society.
This week I had the privilege of walking my daughter into a music store for the first time. We, along with my father, have spent the last couple months discussing instruments. The flute was uncomfortable and the tuba too large. She fumbled to balance the trombone over her left shoulder. The french horn, however, was just right. A mere child playing her first notes and it was the most beautiful sound.
I understood my father in that moment. This new journey will be a test of my past. She may never play on a collegiate level as I once did, but I envision for her years of friendships, memories and music.