Note: This article was selected as a finalist for The Norman E. Alexander Award for Excellence in Jewish Student Writing Contest. About 100 high school contestants from around the country answered the following question: “Choose a living or deceased person and write about his or her legacy in any musical specialty. Why are his or her accomplishments meaningful to you?” The contest is sponsored by the Jewish-American Hall of Fame and The Jewish Week Media Group.
I didn’t realize until recently just how unusual it is for a seven-year-old to sit rapt in the audience of the opera “Don Giovanni” in New York City, listening to her mother playing flute in the orchestra pit.
I remember standing on my tiptoes, peering into the pit at you, as I nearly burst with pride and admiration. My childhood has been filled with many memories of sitting in theaters, craning my neck out to see you, as you performed or conducted your students. You’ve always been able to drop everything else in order to share the gift of music. When you realized my middle school didn’t have a band program, you worked tirelessly to create a program from nothing. Suddenly, familiar melodies filled the hallways of my school and the grateful community was evidence that you understood the impact music has on a child’s life.
Whether you are conducting a school band, teaching a private flute lesson or playing the flute in your own ensemble, I am constantly in awe, not only of the deep-rooted love you have for your own music but also of the joy you possess as you interact with each individual you teach. But the most meaningful part of your living legacy is the music you are able to infiltrate into our home at any given moment. When my brother Sam is practicing the trumpet, my sister Lucy is practicing the clarinet and I am practicing the piano, you are always there to help us and add your own music to ours. You show me how making music with someone else allows people to bond together, sharing an experience unlike anything else. When we play flute and piano duets or even sing together (until everyone else in the family begs us to stop), I feel more present than at any other time in my life thanks to the power of music, a feeling you have passed on to me.
When I find sheet music scattered throughout the house with versions of “Hatikvah” and “The Dreidl Song” that you have transcribed for your students, I am reminded of your understanding that our Judaism can be shared and enjoyed through music. Your beautiful voice stands out at Passover Seders as you lead us through the tunes everyone else has forgotten over the year, bringing family and friends together with Jewish traditions. On Friday nights when we light the Shabbat candles, the singing of prayers reminds our family of the beauty of a Shabbat together.
Mom, I would like you to know the impact that your musical legacy has had on me. You have inspired me and continue to inspire me every day of my life. Thank you, Mom, for using your most precious of talents to bring music into our home.
Sophie Abner is a rising junior at the American School in London.