Inspiration and the Art of Story Telling

The other day, one of my students reminded me how stories and background can really add an entirely different dimension to music.

The student came in and played a movement from one of the Brahms Sonatas. While it was technically correct (notes and rhythms), it lacked soul. After a few attempts at trying to get him to play more musically, I decided to tell him a little background information. I told him about Richard Mühlfeld, the clarinetist Brahms wrote the piece for. Brahms was so inspired by his playing that he came out of retirement towards the end of his life and wrote two clarinet sonatas, a trio, and a quintet for him. I asked the student if he could imagine the kind of playing that was so beautiful and inspirational that it could have that kind of power. He said, “It gives me chills just thinking about it!” His playing was so musical after that!

Classical music (or any music for that matter) is not just a bunch of notes, it’s the expression of emotion. It should give us chills, make us smile, make us cry! It’s just as relevant today as it was years ago, we just need to make it real.

I can relate, who knows if I would have played clarinet if I had not heard Peter and the Wolf as a child. This is why community outreach is so important. And one of my favorite pieces when I first started listening to classical music in middle school was Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. I have a great love of E-flat clarinet because it was so thrilling getting to play the part of the witch once I got to high school!

If you have a great love of music, share it and make it come alive. You never know how you might inspire someone.