Video: Ashokan Farewell (violin: Kathy Larsen, piano: Rachelle Larsen, tin whistle: Steve Smith) played at a retirement community in Idaho July 2009 as part of the annual Larsen Family Musicale.
Music flows through every aspect of my life. As I write this, I am sitting at my laptop waiting for my second violin student of the day to come for her lesson. She is one of many students I teach from my home studio. Later today my oldest daughter will give piano lessons. When we are not teaching lessons, my four children take turns at the baby grand piano or in the studio on the upright grand piano. One of my daughters is also a budding soprano who shares her beautiful voice more frequently and loudly than her sister prefers. Three of my four children also play either the violin or viola. Of course I get some practice time in there too! (I play my violin in Symphony North, one of the many community orchestras in the Houston area.) At times it seems my home is never without someone singing a show tune or playing Bach on the piano.
In many ways, my home now is like the home I grew up in. My mother learned to play (and still plays) the piano. My father played the trumpet and baritone in his high school days. Each of their ten children played at least one instrument while they were going through school. We could have made up an entire orchestra with violins, viola, cello, flute, trumpets, clarinet, trombone, French horn, baritone, saxophone, drums and piano! Of course all of us could sing on pitch, too. My siblings and I chuckle to think we were frequently banned to practice in our rooms, the garage and even the backyard! My poor mother at the end of the day would have to ask us to stop practicing our instruments so the younger children could go to bed.
Classical music did not have exclusive rights in my family. If we were not practicing, we were listening to the popular rock groups on the radio or on tape. I don’t consider myself very old but when I was a teenager, the” Walkman” portable tape player was the rage. For all you young people, a Walkman was a portable tape player complete with headsets. It preceded the MP3 and CD players.
My older sisters and I frequently played in our family string quartet on our violins, viola and cello. We performed in church, at weddings and for holiday programs. We also had our own brass quartet with a trumpet, French horn, trombone (me) and baritone. The high school band director from a neighboring school district even joined us on his trumpet for practices and provided a wide variety of sheet music. I loved playing Scott Joplin’s “Entertainer”! Christmas was always a special time where the quartet would play Christmas carols while the rest of the family sang along. When we are together over the holidays we still continue that tradition. Wonderful memories. . .
Music has been in my blood for generations. My paternal great-great grandfather, Lemuel Hardison Redd, had a small organ in his home in Utah in the late 1800’s. His family sat around the organ and sang for hours most nights after the chores were done. The tradition continued down to my family, although now we sing around the piano. My husband’s side of the family also valued music and had a piano around the house. As part of the annual Larsen reunion, we perform various musical numbers for nursing homes and retirement communities. My husband has a wonderful bass voice. In fact, that was one of the things that turned my head in his direction. His mother tried in vain to get him to practice the piano and he quit after a few years of lessons. Like every other adult who dropped piano lessons in their youth, he vowed his children would learn this valuable skill. With this intent he purchased our first piano (the upright grand that sits in the studio) before I met him.
Now we bask in the wonderful music that fills our home. I could give a lecture on the many benefits of playing an instrument but I’ll save that for my students. Music has the ability to reach every person on the earth regardless of circumstance, religion or nationality. I truly believe it is the universal language. It can inspire the widest range of emotions and attitudes from loneliness and despair to triumph and ecstacy.
What a blessing music has been in my life!
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