My First Experience in Determining My Own Aesthetic in Music

I began studying piano at age seven in Staten Island, New York in 1970. I am an only child and the youngest female cousin of a large family who all lived on the same street. Every family household on Beekman Street had an acoustic piano. As a little girl, I witnessed my older cousins share many happy occasions playing and singing around the piano.

As I grew, I wanted to emulate them and I, too, began studying privately with Ann H. Leeseberg. I was classically trained for ten years in pieces that she selected and presented to me.  At age 16, I was proficient enough and she began referring students to me as my talent exceeded that of my family members.

My mother exposed me to the early rock and roll sounds of the 1950’s at home.  I even had access to her old 45 record case and could play Elvis Presley, Bill Haley, and Buddy Holly records on my own. We would also dance together in the living room to the sound track of “American Graffiti” as she introduced me to the Lindy, The Stroll, and The Cha cha. (1,2,3 together…cha, cha, cha).  I delighted in her genre, but the joy and intimacy of the togetherness preceded.

My affinity for tradition church music began when I was exposed to religious hymns through worship at Mass and in music classes. As a Catholic School student, at age 11, my talent was prolific enough and I was asked to play the organ by one of the sisters for the first time at a school Mass. It was at that moment that I realized I had the ability to reach others emotionally as a music minister.

It was not until age 14 as a freshman in high school that I heard the sounds of the rock band Queen in the form of “Bohemian Rhapsody” played on my new stereo in my bedroom.   This afflatus kept me instantly captivated by this six-minute suite composed by lead singer, Freddie Mercury, and his four-octave vocal range. In 1975, record executives said it was too long and would never be successful as it was unorthodox to not have a chorus and a love theme. Instead it had an intro, ballad, operatic passage, a hard rock section and a reflective coda. Its vast shift in style and dynamics kept me enraptured as the tension built, and so my interest intensified. It was at this moment that I found my own style and love for this new sound of rock.

Fourteen is the age that one develops their own aesthetic.  When will your moment be?  What music will you call your own?

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