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The Weekend Vote weekend vote: Do you play regularly with a spouse or other family member?

April 16, 2010 at 9:17 PM

This week I've been preparing for my upcoming recital, and I've had the privilege of working with a husband-wife team who work together so well! It made me think about musicians who perform regularly with spouses and/or family members.

I don't happen to have any musicians in my family, but certainly many musicians work with family members and spouses on a regular basis. For example, Gil Shaham performs with his sister, pianist Orli Shaham, and with his wife, violinist Adele Anthony. Just last week I also saw the Romero brothers play as a guitar quartet together, a few days before Celino Romero (nephew to Pepe Romero) played the Rodrigo concerto with the Pasadena Symphony. They play extraordinarily well together, and what fun they seem to have!

The great violinist Yehudi Menuhin performed frequently with his sister, pianist Hephzibah, and later with his son, Jeremy. Here is what he said about the matter in his book, The Violin: An Illustrated History:

"I feel as if God has blessed me, by giving me a sister, and then a son, with whom I have been able to share my passion and my vision of music. And, in a general sense, each of my collaborations with pianists has been not only a source of musical enrichment, but above all a human experience. They have given rhythm to my days and my travels, because, unlike a pianist, a violinist who sets off on tour never travels alone. The spirit of a violinist, who only makes music with others, is fundamentally and intrinsically communitarian: life unfolds in an extended dialogue with other musicians."

Do you regularly play or perform with a spouse or other relative? Please share your thoughts and memories about making music within the family; also you can use the space below to discuss especially successful or interesting family groups.


From Michael Divino
Posted on April 16, 2010 at 9:21 PM

 Sadly, no. 

From John Hartge
Posted on April 16, 2010 at 9:35 PM

Not classical music, but my brother plays jazz guitar, his wife plays as well.  We live on a family farm and on evenings weather-permitting, we jam until the dusk falls and the chickens head back into their roost.  

From Laurie Trlak
Posted on April 16, 2010 at 9:40 PM

I said no, but I wish I did. I had started to teach one of my grandsons to play a few years ago, but he's lost interest, and so far, none of the other grandkids has shown no interest in playing, although I've tried to encourage it (the youngest one so far is only a year old though). Hopefully one of the other grandkids will want to learn at some point!

From Steve Reizes
Posted on April 16, 2010 at 9:41 PM

Unfortunately no, my wife does not play an instrument.  I have played on occasion with my father, who plays piano, but not regularly.  Lately he has been dealing with some arthritis in his fingers and is playing even less. 

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on April 16, 2010 at 9:50 PM

I play with my daughter, who is 10.  I enjoy that a lot.  I wish my spouse played an instrument or was musical, but alas, he isn't.

Posted on April 16, 2010 at 11:27 PM

Back in the day, and especially every Thanksgiving morning it was duet time with my dad. I really did not fully appreciate the bonding experience at the time. What I would not give for a session right now. (my father passd away 12/19/1993)

From Mendy Smith
Posted on April 16, 2010 at 11:43 PM

Close to 30 years ago I used to play with my dad regularly...  accordion and viola.  What a combo!

From Marsha Weaver
Posted on April 16, 2010 at 11:58 PM

No, unfortunately.  No one in my immediate family plays an instrument of any kind.  Last summer an uncle of mine passed away -- he played several instruments quite well -- mandolin, banjo, guitar, piano, etc.  I wasn't playing the violin yet the last time we got together for a bluegrass music session (along with an aunt on autoharp, a cousin on mandolin, another uncle on harmonica and my brother and I whistling).  I wish I'd had a chance to team up with him on my fiddle!

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on April 17, 2010 at 1:22 AM

No, I don't have family who play.  Some members of my family tried to play an instrument for a few months but didn't persist... (my sister clarinet and mom tried cello one month)

I wish so much I did, I envy (kindly) all those who were born in a talented musical family...  Perhaps it brings kind familial competition but it also brings conversation and mutual understanding!

When I played twinkle to accompagny the cello when my mom did her month cello trial, I used to call her "simili Slava" to joke and really I felt how wonderful it would be to have another string instrumentalist (or pianist) in the family...  But it was just a "mirage" in the desert...


As for my spouse, you see he doesn't play himself alone... ; )   


From Nate Evans
Posted on April 17, 2010 at 4:09 AM

 Literally, everybody on my GFs immediate family plays instruments, with the exception of her.  Her dad can play almost every instrument with a string (except the violin, lol) everything from upright bass to mandolin.  He currently professionally plays the mandolin in a bluegrass band, but played professionally in the past in a rockabilly band playing the upright bass.

  Her 2 sisters play upright bass, bass guitar, and acoustic guitar in coffee shops just for fun on the weekends, and her mom plays guitar whenever the familiy is just jammin.

  They have jam sessions in the living room almost nightly and it's fun to be around, even as a spectator just watching them improv and just have fun.  I used to play the flute, but wanted to get back into music and am now learning the fiddle.  But, I don't play with them when they jam....not yet atleast :)

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on April 17, 2010 at 4:14 AM

Like so many others, I'm sad that I don't have a family member to play music with.  For a while, I dated a guy I met at a jam session, and we spent a lot of our time together jamming.  It was wonderful!  I even taught him how to play the fiddle.

From Corwin Slack
Posted on April 17, 2010 at 4:56 AM

 My wife is a fine pianist and we are playing the Brahms C minor piano quartet (with two ringers) early next month.

From David Beck
Posted on April 17, 2010 at 5:58 AM

Once upon a time I played string quartets with my wife, a 'cellist and HIS wife. We got as far as doing a broadcast then fell out because the viola lady didn't follow my lead. Later we ALL divorced and my wife got the Vuillaume violin.

Guess these things don't always pan out.

From Margaret Lee
Posted on April 17, 2010 at 6:09 AM

3/4 of us play piano, not superbly but good enough for some accompaniments. We also have a quartet among the four of us, but sadly we play quartets only once in a while.

From Nigel Keay
Posted on April 17, 2010 at 8:39 AM

 There's been a tradition of playing together in my family; my father played piano with me when I was learning violin, and was able to play the accompaniment when I did some grade exams (under the British system). I have a daughter that plays violin and another that plays cello, and in the past we have been able to play the odd string trio together, notably one by Beethoven when they were still at a relatively young age. My violinist daughter is now living in London (I'm in Paris) and we are able to work on musical projects together. In March we recorded with the oboist Marika Lombardi one of my works (Diversions) along with another quintet by Jonathan Besser, and this will be coming out on a CD shortly. My daughter also participated in a new recording of my String Quartet No.2

From David Beck
Posted on April 17, 2010 at 12:16 PM

Nigel, very nice, your String quartet No. 2 but since this thread's about home-grown contributions I have to confess that I wrote my own piece, same title.

No family members of mine were involved in the recording of my work, see the reasons above. But the first violinist and the 'cellist on the recording are married, and have worked successfully together for many years. Proves it's possible !

From Jeanie Sprengel
Posted on April 18, 2010 at 1:33 AM

My sons and I had a string quartet for 5-6 years, until the cellist left for college.  I treasure it as one of my life's greatest pleasures. We learned Beethoven, Brahms, Mendelsohn, Haydn quartets, etc...on and on.  We actually had a quartet lesson each week with a teacher.  We are all amateurs, but did perform a lot for our local church and weddings.  I really miss it!

From Vivian Hsu
Posted on April 18, 2010 at 10:59 PM

Once in a while I cajole my husband into playing guitar chords along with me while I fiddle. Then we turn the tables and I improvise under his guitar playing, which is less fun, as my impovisational skills need a lot more work. I love it. If I didn't have anyone to play with, I wouldn't play at all.


From Amy Barlowe
Posted on April 19, 2010 at 4:38 AM

I'm very fortunate that my husband, Alan Bodman, is a wonderful violinist.  We have a duo, (AB2) and sit next to each other as concertmaster/ assoc. concertmaster in the chamber orchestra I founded called Akron Baroque.  We also teach at the Meadowmount School of Music in Westport, New York, where we met 21 years ago.   We both play on violins by Peresson and bows by Sartory.  I enjoy writing music for our duo, and we love to make music together. Check out my website for demo recordings we've made.

From Paul Grant
Posted on April 19, 2010 at 5:30 AM

For some reason I found it funny that someone would play with their ex.

From K Gray
Posted on April 19, 2010 at 3:02 PM

I play with my family when we get together at my mom's farm, usually holidays and birthdays.  My step-dad plays the banjo (he's very good, lightening fast picking) and he'll lead.  My mom plays the guitar and sings.  My brother is trying to learn how to play guitar so we'll slow down and wait for him to switch chords.  And I kind of improvise (badly lol) along on my violin and we all sing.  Usually old folk tunes and stuff.  So much fun.  I wish my mom had found my step-dad sooner so we could have done this the whole time I was growing up! :D

We're kind of a merry group of amatures muddling through the songs but we have fun with it just the same.  It doesn't matter that no one else would ever want to listen to us. 

From John Cadd
Posted on April 19, 2010 at 6:02 PM

I wonder if violin and piano teachers ever thought of linking up their pupils.They could become musical matchmakers.I would much rather meet a piano player for a duo.The technical side would be put below the musical side.That sound combination has always been special.

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on April 19, 2010 at 10:24 PM

I agree John, teachers should take two (or more) = advanced students and make duets, quartets etc (if the students wish...) to offer them opportunities to play together. This could create good friendships and there are good chances that no one will "play the teacher" if they are about in the same ages.  When you just have time to attend lessons, it can be very difficult to find appropriate music partners.


About matching piano and violin students this could be great but the pianist (I imagine. Perhaps I'm wrong!) should be way more advanced... Usually, it's already tough in itself to play piano that if the student has to follow the violinist that doesn't see the piano part and is also a student... It could be quite a sport... ; )   It also takes a pianist that can starts anywhere in the score (the same for the violinist of course).  I have been told that the way the piano is made, just very good pianists can start anywhere in the score. Is this true?  (hope I'm wrong!)


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