Joe Rebman

I first discovered the harp through the Disney movie Fantasia.

The film begins with the orchestra in silhouette as they warm up, including the harps. The first musical scene of the movie is Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor arranged for orchestra. There are some very clear harp lines in this arrangement, and the hands of the harpist are clearly shown during those lines.

I was instantly hooked.

When I finally met my harp teacher, she played her own arrangement of Linus and Lucy from Charlie Brown. I was amazed and was very excited to eventually learn that piece.

Those are my two strongest memories of what first made me fall in love with the arts.

Joseph Rebman, harpist



My first recollection of a visceral response to Music was being introduced to Beethoven Symphonies when in elementary school, as played by The National Symphony Orchestra in Washington D.C.

My parents observed my accurate sense of rhythm when I listened to music while still in a playpen. And, like Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny, as well as Danny Kaye, I was a highly energetic “conductor “ of Rossini Overtures and Offenbach’s “Gaiete Parisienne”!

Ultimately, it was Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts which absolutely enthralled me, and set me on my path towards a career as a musician, I believe.

My 7th grade music teacher assigned me to write a report on Gilbert & Sullivan when I was but a lad of 13- and my fate was sealed.

Gary Briggle, Singer, Actor, Director



I grew up in a home where classical music was pretty much the only music played–except for Edith Piaf, Yves Montand (my mother had a crush), and Harry Belafonte.

I was raised not so much on opera (although my mother had a particular fondness for soprano Victoria de los Angeles, and certainly for many Italian and French operas.)

Sadly, in our household there was a lack of German opera recordings (although my mother did have some Lieder recordings).

This was likely due to my mother’s first-hand experiences in Europe after World War II. She lived in Paris during this period and worked with an organization that helped with the resettlement of Jewish refugees. In her work, she saw first-hand the tragedy and ravages of the war.

Sadly, this experience also gave her an unfortunate dislike of Germany – and she, like some others who lived through this period, refused to listen to quite a bit of German music.

Oddly, she kept the famous Debussy recordings of pianist Walter Gieseking, a known Nazi collaborator (perhaps because he was born in France.)

In any case, I came to German opera and conductors and other musicians on my own, much later, and when I was in conservatory.

Piano and string recordings were “king” in our home and I grew up on a steady diet of Heifetz, Piatigorsky, Horowitz, Josef Lhevinne, Schnabel, Rachmaninoff, Novaes, and lots of Russians such as Richter, Gilels, Oistrakh and many, many others.

Orchestral recordings that were part of my parents’ collection included a good deal of Toscanini, Szell, Reiner, Cluytens, Ansermet, Sir Adrian Boult, Horenstein, and others (memory is kind of foggy here…)

I began playing piano at a very young age and making up my own music. While I do not want to “age myself” — yes, it’s vanity, but this was the first music I heard as a VERY young child:


I was already in bed, and I would hear it from my bedroom as my parents finished off listening to the evening news. The Scherzo of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was something I heard every night from my bedroom.

I knew it was the end of the evening for my parents, and I always felt a bit scared that I knew the house would be silent after it was over.

Paula Mlyn, Co-founder, A440 Arts Group. Feline caregiver.



Matei Varga, Rumanian concert pianist

I grew up in the last (and tough) few years of the Communist regime in Romania. Entertainment options were spare. My parents – in their youth – listened to a lot of ABBA and French chansonettes (Piaf, Greco, Brassens) but hardly any Beethoven or Schubert…

I remember falling in love with a famous (and very talented) Romanian pop singer by the name of Corina Chiriac. She was a big star at the time, and a constant presence on the national TV programs which were basically two hours every day, from 8 until 10pm.

I learned all her songs by heart and my mother wrote the lyrics for each one of them in a math notebook… Then I started concertizing this repertoire, either at home for my parents or their guests, or outside while taking a walk, waiting in line for food, etc.

So, I must say, my first hero was Corina, not Rubinstein!! My first piano crush was, perhaps surprisingly, not a household name but a fabulously talented young pianist whom I watched during the TV broadcast of the 1995 Queen Elisabeth competition – Victor Chestopal.


WHAT MADE ME LOVE MUSIC : João Carlos Rocha, Brazilian conductor


As a Brazilian born kid from the early 80’s, I was exposed to a great amount of popular music, mainly the composers, singers and bands from the Tropicalia movement (my mom’s side of the family) and from the universe of the Samba (my father’s side.) This mixture of rhythms and musical colors was also nurtured by collections of Classical Music and a quite big library that we always had at home.

My first instrument was the Brazilian Cavaquinho, learned in a first moment by a dear uncle of mine and later in a Conservatory. This is a quite funny part of the story as I was learning basically classical and Brazilian folkloric tunes in an instrument closely related to the popular music – mainly Chorinho and Samba.

When I was a teenager, I remember having heard the Overture to Die Zauberflöte and saying to myself “Hey, wait a moment! I understand what this harmony is all about!”

And then I tried a couple of times to emulate at least the harmony of that work on that instrument. I believe that moment was capital for my relationship with music to become a lifelong one. Probably in that moment of “Eureka” I decided to dedicate myself to it  for the rest of my life.



Though they were Aeronautical Engineers, my parents were both amateur singers. My mom sang in a group called “The Mother Singers” and dad sang in the Church choir.

When I was six, I got a violin for my birthday. Mom took me to hear my older sister play cello with the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra and I couldn’t wait until I could play with them. The Conductor would give me Xerox copies of the violin parts. That was really motivating. I was a tiny little kid and I enjoyed the positive attention I got from playing the violin.

There was also a wonderful piano trio in residence at Stanford that we would go listen to. Chamber music was my love from the very beginning.

Heidi Yenney, musician

WHAT MADE ME LOVE MUSIC: Eben Wagenstroom, South African pianist

EBEN Final CopyEben Wagenstroom, South African pianist

It was probably during my kindergarten years that I had my first conscious interaction with music. This was primarily in the form of soundtracks to Disney films and their television off-shoots, as well as radio-friendly American ‘popular’ hits (from various genres) of the time being broadcast on local media outlets.

However, it was in my eighth year that I seriously became interested in Western Classical music: my father, having being born to musical parents but not having acquired their musical abilities, developed and still possesses a love for opera (Verdi and Puccini in particular). He was a subscriber to the now-defunct Classical Collection-magazine, and had magazines and cassette-recordings of music by Vivaldi, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Tchaikovsky and Dvořák.

It was by sheer chance that I stumbled upon these. It was a hearing of Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik on one of these cassette-tapes that made me decide to venture into becoming a Classical musician.


I asked twenty musician friends to take a trip back down your memory lane and send me a short Facebook message with their answers. Here’s the first of many in a series

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As far as I can remember, my love for music came through different sources: at first my parents, who left in me a great love for popular music. I listened to them performing  many beautiful Cuban and Latin American songs…

A few years later, when I was about 13 years old, I traveled to East Berlin with them. One day they gave me an allowance.  Guess what was my request? I asked them to take me to a record store and I purchased as many classical vinyl albums as I could.

As part of that collection of albums I got Bach’s Mass in B minor, Handel’s Water Music… fifteen records that I purchased which were crucial to my developing a love of classical music.

Later, I started studying classical music in Havana, developing my knowledge and the desire to expand my mind in order to take in an infinite world of music that never ends. That’s why music is so magnificent, you never stop learning. That’s what fascinates me.

Yalil Guerra, Cuban-born composer



Robert and Linda Ang Stoodley play together by the French nickname of Piano à Deux. She is Singapore-born, Robert is as English as you can get, and together since they met on line and then married just a few years ago they make beautiful all-American music in this all-Gershwin CD, with several albums already in stock and more to come. Their website: http://www.pianoadeux.com

Their latest CD (dda25183) for Divine Art Recordings Group is cause for celebration. Terrific playing, of course, paired to smart program notes by Iain Sneddon, impeccable engineering by Oli Whitworth, Stephen Sutton’s album design.

The sheer delight that PORGY, PRELUDES & PARIS produces after not one but many hearings comes from a very idiomatic, very American, very cool, very laid-back, very down-to-earth, very unpretentious, very…Gershwin way of playing Gershwin.

There’s no grandstanding on the part of the Stoodleys when the big finishes loom around the corner, there’s no pretentiousness, nor is there any preciousness in their playing of the tunes of that most American of all American composers. They play with sheer joy and unabashed exuberance. When they need ersatz Viennese Schmaltz for By Strauss they can lay it on, and when the sweeping melodies of Porgy and Bess call for operatic opulence the Stoodley’s deliver in spades.

Gershwin had one foot planted on the Great White Way and the other on the big building at the corner of 57th and 7th in NYC. His music making evidenced this happy dichotomy made whole by his genius and the wisdom of Ravel who told the American fellow with big ideas to go back home with whatever he had learned and be himself. Which, in a way is what he did and what it is needed to play his music.

You cannot swing nor play stride piano unless you can counterbalance precision and meticulousness with an utterly relaxed approach to the keyboard. The Stoodleys have it all and Divine Art has a winning ticket with these two artists.

More please!

Rafael de Acha http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com


immaculata 1Mozart dedicated his String Quartet No. 16 in Eb Major, K. 428 – one of six – to his mentor, friend and idol Franz Joseph Haydn. As the opening of a Sunday afternoon concert at Immaculata Church by its string ensemble in residence, the surprisingly inventive composition allowed violinists Sophie Pariot and Saeyun Lee, violist Shelby Thompson, and cellist Jonathan Lee to do their impeccable playing, highlighting the piquant touches of dissonance with which Mozart spiced up this quartet.

To follow the Mozart with  the stringency of Leoš Janáček’s String Quartet No. 1 is not only imaginative but daring in the extreme, a hallmark of this vibrant new chamber ensemble’s triumvirate of artistic directors: Jonathan Lee, Hojoon Choi, and Kanako Shimasaki.

The 69 year old Czech master finished his work in less than two weeks in 1923, titling it Kreutzer Sonata and drawing his inspiration from Leo Tolstoy’s Крейцерова соната (Kreitzerova Sonata), a harrowing novella of jealousy and murder to which Janáček gives voice in restlessly unquiet music that rivets, disturbs, and ultimately provides a much needed catharsis.

Largely tonal and not lacking in modal, folk-inspired melody, the four movement composition runs its quick and violent course over roughly 18 minutes of dramatic outbursts. Janáček breaks many rules and calls upon the players to summon all their technical skills into play.

The first violin – here the formidable Kanako Shimasaki – must deliver extended sul ponticello passages of aggressively rapid tremolando bowing. On Sunday the young violinist shared the heavy lifting on the Janáček in a no-holds-barred performance with her worthy colleagues Christina Nam and Martin Hintz, and with the rock solid cellist Hojoon Choi.

The Brahms Sextet No. 2 in G Major, Op. 36 came after intermission, with Nam, Shimasaki, Hintz, Thompson, Choi and cellist Lee doubling up on violins, violas and celli. The work, with its generous outpouring of melody provided a very pleasing, at times bucolic, at other times energetic ending to an afternoon made special by great music-making.

As we drove out of Mount Adams we  could see a great view of the city at night. We thought how lucky we are to have music-making of the caliber we heard this afternoon throughout the year in Cincinnati

The group next plays next month two Bach to Bach evenings of violin sonatas and cello sonatas, and under their other name of Music Seasons String Players it takes on Mendelssohn and Mozart in April at Peterloon.

Rafael de Acha http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com