Dvořák is one of my great musical loves; singing the Stabat Mater — my first time — has me thinking about the musical influences in my life. Especially my piano teacher and first great musical mentor, Lois McCracken.
I’m sharing these Dvořák-themed photos from our 2013 tour in her honor. Lois was an extraordinary teacher who loved seeing kids in the small town I grew up in fall in love with music of all kinds. For many years, she opened her house to local teen musicians to play chamber music, to experiment and compose and discover what instruments, voices, and creative minds could do. (She even let us play the strings on her Steinway with tennis balls.)
Lois introduced me to Dvořák, Bartók, Kodály and other eastern and central European composers. I became a Dvořák fiend, playing oboe and English Horn with a number of chamber groups and orchestras in the region.We listened together to the record of a Deutsche Grammophon recording of the Requiem that I’d bought in a supermarket sale bin when I was 14 (really!) She came to hear me play English Horn in the Mercer County Symphony’s performance of the New World Symphony. She let us try out the wonderful Cassavetes organ at the local Presbyterian Church (I couldn’t reach the pedals, so had to team up with a taller musician.)
As I wandered through Prague, that magical city where music is everywhere, I felt her presence, particularly during our performance. I was filled with gratitude for having a teacher who opened up expansive musical worlds that have sustained me throughout my life. I was sorting through photos the other day and came across my collection from our tour in Prague. What memories they brought back! I was in a state of constant delight as I walked the streets. And to sing Dvořák’s Requiem at the Rudolfinum — I know I’m not the first BCCO singer to put that performance on a list of top singing experiences ever. Singing with BCCO at this time in its history has renewed for me the a deep connection to a mentor and continues to serve up increasing doses weekly musical joy.
(Feel free to share your own photos from Prague, or your own stories of musical mentors in the comments!)