I am a retired classical music composer and a current member of ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers). I had no family background with music – my early training was actually in visual arts. I went to Brooklyn College as an art major because there were a lot of famous artists like Mark Rothko teaching there. While at Brooklyn College I took two years of piano lessons and harmony and counterpoint classes and discovered music was my real passion…so I ended up with a double major in art and music.
After Brooklyn College I went straight to Indiana University because I was told they had great teachers there. My main composition professor was Bernhard Heiden – a Jew who had to leave Germany because of Hitler. In 1933 Bernhard was conducting an orchestra in Berlin when the second oboist stood up and said he wouldn’t play for a Jewish conductor…so Bernhard knew it was time to leave.
Interestingly enough, a few years later I was coming home from Youngstown State for Christmas recess. As I was getting into the cab a black man asked me if he could share the ride to the airport. We had a pleasant conversation as we rode along – I told him I taught music and he told me he was in town for a track meet. When we got to the airport we shook hands and he asked me if I knew who he was. I shook my head.
“I’m Jesse Owens.” He said.
He was the black athlete who defeated Germany’s athletes and crushed Hitler’s theory of Aryan supremacy in the 1936 Olympic Games!
He was the nicest and most humble man you could imagine…
I graduated from the Indiana University with a masters in composition and music theory and history minor. After college I taught musical composition and music theory for a while but ended up working in the Patelson Music House across the street from Carnegie Hall. The Patelson Music House was a famous and ancient music store we thought would never close. But the internet destroyed us because people would just order the music on Amazon. It went out of business in 2009. I’m not being critical, but it kills me that there were so many retail stores when I was growing up and now there is nothing left. Since I don’t use the internet, if I want to get music I have to call the Juilliard book store. Classical music is slowly going extinct. Back in the day there were a dozen radio stations playing classical music in New York but now there is only one.
Anyways, in addition to working at the Patelson Music House I continued to write my own music and I’ve had professional orchestras in France, Bucharest, Madrid and Carnegie Hall play my music. I didn't make much money but I don’t really care – it’s a thrill to spend your life pursuing your passion and hearing your compositions being performed by professionals all over the world.