My Best Gift Ever

National Public Radio in the USA requested essays on the topic “My Best Gift Ever.”  Below is my submission.

Miami, Florida
December 19, 2002

The best gift I ever received was a bassoon.  Yes, a bassoon, the largest in size and deepest in tone of the woodwind musical instruments.  This gift had an immediate and joyful impact on my non-work life and, eventually, a dramatic influence on my professional life as well.

My former wife, the late Alice Dawn, knew that I came from a musical family.  I told her that I played the piano as a boy.  She also knew that I learned to play the bassoon in high school where I was a member of the orchestra and concert band.  After high school my music-making stopped.  I left home for college and the bassoon stayed behind at Taft High School, in The Bronx.

 In the early days of our marriage Alice and I attended a variety of concerts and recitals in New York City where we lived and worked as teachers.  Alice observed my enthusiasm and emotional attachment to serious music.  She also noted what I might call “nostalgia” for playing.  Even though we owned a piano, a wedding gift from my parents, I had abandoned all my playing, both piano and bassoon.

One day Alice walked into our little apartment in Brooklyn with a large leather case with a sweet ribbon around it.  I knew immediately from the size and shape that the case contained a bassoon.  To her astonishment, I screamed, “You got me a bassoon!”

I found a teacher from a list provided by The Julliard School of Music in New York, and before long I was playing bassoon with community orchestras in Brooklyn and The Bronx.

Job transfers took Alice and me to Philadelphia and eventually Boston.  I always managed to find a community orchestra that needed another bassoon.   I never really got very good, but I did manage to toot my way through some beautiful orchestral music.

And after the concerts, Alice and I usually threw a big party at our house.  I think she was more proud of my accomplishments than I.  That gift she gave me also inspired her to become more interested in classical music.  And she always knew when the bassoons were playing.

Most importantly for me, that bassoon brought me back to music, to rehearsals, to practice strategies and to enhanced understanding and interpretation of classical music.

My bassoon playing led me inexorably to return to the piano.  After more than thirty years of separation, I picked up where I left off.  I took lessons again, and made some serious improvement.

Six years ago I moved to Florida with my piano and my bassoon.  After many years in the business world, I decided to go back to my original occupation.  I was more than apprehensive about returning to a classroom so it dawned on me to become a piano teacher.  I was encouraged by Bill Gordon, my new piano teacher here.  I took courses at the Music Department of Florida Atlantic University.  With a little advertising and some word-of-mouth,   I have a full schedule of students, from five years old to eighty-two!  Yes, it's never too late!

And so, that thoughtful and generous gift has paid many dividends to both me and Alice.  The bassoon brought us back to the music we loved.  The bassoon transported me back to the piano.

And now because of Alice, and through me, young children of all ages are being transported to a new adventure.  They all can feel today the infinite influence of a thoughtful and loving gift spontaneously given so many years ago.


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