When I was in elementary school, we listened (and sang along) to a lot of what would later be called "Classic Rock" at home. But occasionally I'd hear something else--whether at home or at school I'm not sure, but at some point I heard plain-old Classical music...and it was awesome. When the time came to think about joining the band, I was all over it--and my instrument was chosen for me (because the daughter of a friend of my grandma's had a clarinet and would sell it to us for $60--so I played the clarinet). It wasn't long before I was super into the whole Classical music thing. When I was 11 I told my mom that I wanted to be a professional clarinet player, and there wasn't much looking back. I took lessons, I listened to recordings, and sometimes I even practiced. I had dreams of playing in a major orchestra.
One of the authors of that dream is someone with whom I share a birthday and who would be 100 this year: Georg Solti (1912), longtime conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He coaxed such beauty and mystery and passion and wonder out of a group of people holding apparently inanimate objects...it's like a miracle every time you go to a concert or even hear their CDs. He liked to experiment, to broaden the horizons of both musicians and audience. He insisted on being absolutely-together, an excellence of ensemble that continues today. He took the orchestra on its first ever tour outside the United States. That orchestra wins Grammys for a reason, and Solti is a huge part of their history, reality, and legacy. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra was my goal for a long long time, and going to DePaul to study with people who play in the CSO was such a part of my dream that I didn't even apply to other schools. While concert-clarinetist wasn't my ultimate path, following it to Chicago was a huge part of leading me where I am now. And I do still love the CSO! And I love the ethos of Solti--excellence, ensemble, experiment.
Thank you for the music, birthday buddy!