Write Now: Doors That Were Locked Are Opened By Classical Music

I have two words that helped forge my listening skills — classical music.

I had a love-hate relationship with classical music. That relation was mostly because I didn’t give it time to wash over me. When I let in classical music, it opened up doors that were previously locked. Because of classical music, I know some music theory, and with music theory, I appreciate music more than I did when I did not know as much theory as I do now.

But let’s start at the beginning. I guess classical music was all around me, but I didn’t really pay attention to it. I heard it in my house growing up. I heard it in movies, and I heard it in TV shows. I went to Persell Elementary School, and was exposed to the great composers there. In music class, we listened to Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Bach, and others. I loved the first movement of Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 5.” I didn’t give much thought other than it sounded perfect. I began taking drum lessons in fifth grade, but still did not understand how the drums were connected to an orchestra. At that time, I was just starting to listen more to pop music on the radio.

In seventh grade, at Lincoln Junior High School, is when I made the connection between the drums and orchestra. I was in band and learned about the intricacy of the percussion section. It wasn’t just about playing rudiments on a snare drum at loud volumes, but rather how the section had to play and listen to the other sections to become one harmonious unit. At Lincoln, I also began learning that most of the rock musicians that I was listening to, borrowed from the great composers I had learned about earlier at Persell.

It was like putting puzzle pieces together and seeing a bigger picture evolve. So, I started paying more attention to the symphonic, sometimes called classical, music that was played in band. I did this through ninth grade. As I was taking drum rudiment lessons, I was lucky enough to get a drum set. I was all in with playing drums. I was learning how drums were important in a symphony and why a drum set was important in a rock band. At Lincoln, I really started listening to The Beatles, and I also began reading album liner notes. There was so much information available. To me, reading liner notes was like reading a book. I can say with pride that I reading liner notes helped me with reading comprehension. The same words were used, but different information was disseminated.

So move on to Jamestown High School, I played drums in the marching band, and in the symphonic and concert bands. In high school I began taking lessons on a second instrument — bass guitar, and played it in the jazz band.

During that time, I was very interested in music. MTV just became available in Jamestown, and I was glued to the TV because where else could I get news about my favorite musicians and learn about others? But still, I learned from MTV interviews that some of the musicians I watched being interviewed said they borrowed riffs by studying classical music. Just like I was told earlier in my life, that information was validated by those interviews. The only problem then, was I knew very little about music theory. So when I was senior, I took a music theory class at JHS. That class changed my life because I gained the knowledge of music theory. In that class, I learned why the notes had names. I learned about intervals — Major and minor seconds and thirds, Perfect fourths and fifths, sixths, sevenths and octaves and more. I learned about Major and minor scales, and Major and minor chords. I could play a scale on my bass, but before that class, I couldn’t tell you why it was major or minor. After that class I could. And Mr. Brian Bogey, the then JHS director of the A Cappella choir taught the class in such a way, that he connected the information to my life.

At graduation, at Chautauqua, he enlightened me even more. I knew he played piano, but I didn’t know he played organ. I was amazed. During rehearsal, the organ was out on stage, and he got behind it. I asked him if he new the theme to the movie “Rollerball.” I hummed the melody and he said “Oh, you mean ‘Toccata and Fugue’ by Bach. And I said “sure, I think.” And before I finished my sentence, he was already playing it.

I went to Jamestown Community College and SUNY Fredonia and took classes about music history and music theory because I wanted to know more. It has helped me so much with writing about music and interviewing musicians.

I still love learning about music theory and music history.

I have classical music to thank for it.