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Debra Wade

The Invisible Influence

April 18, 2008 at 9:08 PM

I can’t honestly say that I know many of my neighbors by sight, let alone by name. And that is kind of sad considering how close in proximity I live to them. Anyway, little incidents have been occurring lately that made me realize how much of the influence of classical music is felt outside of the concert halls and semi-annual recitals.

Where I live it is no secret that I’m a violinist as I’m seen lugging my violin, music, and all the requisite accessories up and down three flights of stairs and across the parking lot multiple times a day. And, after all that, if anyone had any doubt all they’d have to do is look at the bumper sticker on the rear window of my car proclaiming: Classical Musician – Handel with Care.

But sometime ago, as I was grabbing my mail a man stopped me in my tracks with the question: “Are you the woman upstairs who plays the violin?” A little surprised I said yes and he told me that he liked to sit and listen after he got home from work and had time to relax. As we chatted he mentioned that several nights before I had played something he had really liked. I thanked him and asked him if was a long-time fan of classical and he said no that he never “listened to it.” For a moment I was slightly offended…what on earth did he think I was playing? But after we went our separate ways I realized that he had actually given both me and classical music a compliment. He didn’t associate my music with his preconceived notion of what he thought classical music was – stuffy, elitist and hard to understand. After thinking about the music I had played the night that he mentioned I realized that I had been pressed for time that night and so I spent 20 minutes or so playing one of my favorite pieces – Mozart’s Adagio before rushing off somewhere.

Only a week or so ago, I was deep in the middle of a practice session when a knock sounded at my door. I answered the door a little annoyed that I had been disturbed. A woman was there and told me that she was on her way home but she wanted to let me know that she appreciated hearing me play. She said that she had always wanted to learn to play but never had. Before I could say more than thank you she said good-bye and went home.

These little “blips” in my life are a critical reminder to myself that above everything else, classical music is about sharing and communicating with the listener. When I play, I hear the many facets of the music, technical and musical, but when that neighbor downstairs hears me play they hear something beautiful.

May I never forget that many years ago hearing something beautiful was where I began…where we all began.

From Bernadette Hawes
Posted on April 18, 2008 at 9:38 PM
Debra, well done. It may not be a bouquet of flowers on stage after a performance, but it's every bit as much, if not more so, a sign of appreciation. Someone has finally overcome their shyness to come and tell you and thank you in person.

We lived in a flat when we first came to Poland, and nearby lived a young girl who had been studying piano at music school for many years. She would always do tons of practising prior to exams in the summer and it was a joy to listen to her. Very often I would stand on the balcony outside of our flat listening for some minutes while she played with her window open.
I got the opportunity to tell her how much I enjoyed her playing, when I finally worked out who it was!

It's wonderful to think that people who might not go to a concert are enjoying classical music!

From Bill Busen
Posted on April 18, 2008 at 9:47 PM
Haha! Well, the girl downstairs once knocked on my door and asked me to give her piano lessons, so I know what you mean. (I did; it was great. We both learned a lot, and I was forced to keep up my practicing until she moved.)
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on April 19, 2008 at 12:29 AM
I, too, live in an apartment (condo) building, and I sometimes fear that one of the neighbors will raise a fuss about my playing. I teach in my home, so my neighbors have to lesson to my students, as well. However, I've been fortunate. People are always telling me that they like hearing me play. One woman even said that she liked hearing my students play. I never thought of this as a way of bringing classical music to people in their own homes, but I guess it is.

For a while, my next door neighbor was a music teacher, musician, and composer. He later told me that he really enjoyed listening to me practice. Some nights one of the neighbors would play country music, especially "Ache-y Breaky Heart," very loudly when he was trying to sleep, and he absolutely could not stand it. He'd go to sleep on the couch, where he could listen to me practicing. There he'd calm down and sleep. He especially liked hearing me play Bach. Several years later, after he had moved away, he started a community symphony orchestra, and he invited me to join. I never suspected that while I was playing I was also auditioning.

Classical music makes a chain in which the person playing and the people listening are linked. sometimes out of the concert hall.

From Mendy Smith
Posted on April 19, 2008 at 3:54 AM
I moved to the Portland area not long ago, and was lucky to join up with some other music lovers to for a quartet. After seeing 2-3 cars parked out front over several weeks and seeing various instruments being brought into and out of the house, my neighbors asked me if I wouldn't mind leaving the windows OPEN during practice time.

As long as the weather is nice, I always oblige.

From Bernadette Hawes
Posted on April 19, 2008 at 7:47 PM
I was practising this evening when a friend of ours came round. He stopped for a while, chatting to my husband. I'd set a timer to give myself one hour uninterrupted practice time, groaned inwardly a bit, knowing I wouldn't have the time later, then thought well, why should I stop. So I asked, 'Mind if I continue? I won't have time later on'.
"No, go ahead" he said, "Play something nice" (**!?!!!) So I played Riedings b minor concerto. It may not have been practising per se, as I've memorized it, but it was good practise in performing. No bow arm vibrato either this time, so that's progress. "That's a lovely concerto" he said when I'd finished. I then went back to my practising of etudes and some of my pieces, which came on a lot better today than the last few days, and he complimented me on those too.
It's likely to be the only performing I'll do in the foreseeable future, but it was fun to share, and pass on some enjoyment to someone else.
If I lived near you Pauline, I'd probably sit outside your door eavesdropping on your playing and freak you out! I don't think I'd mind listening to students either. I enjoy hearing 'work in progress' and improvements coming along too.
So all you teachers and non-beginners shouldn't mind blasting out at all!
From Terez Mertes
Posted on April 19, 2008 at 10:22 PM
Aw, what a great story! And to the others who commented and shared their stories as well.

Very cool.

From Bonny Buckley
Posted on April 19, 2008 at 11:42 PM
I love this thread. You reminded me of when I was in college, broker than broke, living in a building that practically swayed when a truck would go by, and sharing a 5 bedroom apartment with 4 biker guys, as in bicyclists. I had to practice a lot, and they liked hearing the practicing. I don't think any of them would have ever heard Bach Solo Sonatas otherwise. It even prompted one of them to start practicing barry sax again, and then a bass clarinet one of my college teachers had that otherwise was growing dust in a closet.
From William Yap
Posted on April 20, 2008 at 4:04 AM
I have a similar story. After moving for a week at my new apartment last year, I had this note placed in front of my door on my way out one night:

Dear Neighbour,

Hi, I am your neighbour opposite. I have two cats. My name is xxx.

I just want to say that whoever plays the violin/cello plays so beautifully! I love to listen to you. I am a huge fan of classical music, and I used to pay the violin myself (when I was at school!) Now I play the piano.

Anyways, I just wanted to tell you how lovely your playing is, and what a pleasure it is to hear.


As you can see in the video I just posted, my playing is not at all beautiful. Somehow those practise noises managed to touch a complete stranger. So, I guess the message is music, no matter how badly played, still able to touch people.

From Kim Vawter
Posted on April 21, 2008 at 3:31 PM
The world enjoys music-We have got it right!
From Aasheeta Dimick
Posted on April 21, 2008 at 5:49 PM
This was a wonderful story, and especially heartening to read after seeing the uncaring community comments after the Honolulu article.

I have a story of my own too... I was staying at a host family's house while subbing with a symphony, and spent the evening practicing the Bach EM Preludio painstakingly slowly and carefully. I was embarrassed to hear later that the family had turned off the tv and spent over an hour just listening to my practice session!

From Eitan Silkoff
Posted on April 21, 2008 at 10:21 PM
it made me so joyful to read your blog...
once when i was in my grandma's flat in London, I was playing the piano (mostly my own compositions, some chopin etc) and we heard a phone ring. My grandma told me to go upstairs to a friend of hers name Douglas. Douglas was always a pianist, and enjoyed my music lots. I didn't go back for years, and just recently I went for a visit, and I decided that i should go have a play with him. So i did, but before I went up my Grandma told me that he got altzheimers. And that he couldn't remember who i was or how to play... Well long story short, I began to play and little by little he remembered. He remembered the music he once loved so dearly, and to this day you can hear him pushing keys trying to make sense of what was once a part of him.

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