Dead Men’s Music

Ask Diane

This week, I received a delightful Facebook message from a reader:

While teaching Nicholas today, he asked me who Haley Allison-Lauria was and whether she was (or he) the “Extraordinary Kid” in the Piano Town Piece.

I responded:

Yes, Haley Allison-Lauria was the little girl I wrote the piece for. And she was an extraordinary little girl, bright and a bit of a handful. I wrote the entire piece in my sleep, and got up in the morning and wrote it all down – all completed. That’s the only time that ever happened. Haley was a delightful little girl, and the line about Hayley’s comet was a nod to her name. Thanks for asking!

Long ago, in another lifetime, I was feeling differently about composers.

”It’s sad,” she said. ”All those people alone in rooms practicing dead men’s music.”

That was me. Quoted in the New York Times in an article called Not One of the Elect, But One of the Happy way back in 1989. At the time, I didn’t realize how apt the title was, or how many people would still be sitting alone in rooms practicing dead men’s music these many years later.

Not that it isn’t great stuff. As I write this, I’m listening to Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto. (Martha Argerich – my favorite pianist.) 

This week my student Jacob made a little video for the composer Elissa Milne. Why? Because she’s alive! Just like me. And Wendy Stevens, Melody Bober, Cathleen Rollin, Dennis Alexander and Nancy and Randy Faber. All of us are walking around on the planet right now! Connected through the web and writing for you and your students.

I love to hear from people who are enjoying my work. I read what you write to me. I respond to your questions. I like to help solve thorny problems. I know what it’s like to feel isolated as a teacher and embarrassed to ask for help.

I will never write music as amazing as J.S. Bach. Or Ravel. Or Rachmaninoff.

But I’ve got one thing going for me that they don’t. I’m alive.

Is there a composer you need to connect with today?