Classical Music and the Benefits of a Classical Education

Thanks to everyone who emailed, Pop’s surgery went well. It was harder than last time, the doctor said, but Pop is recovering and was able to go home the same day. PHEW.

Mom and I are such old pros at the hospital now, we know where everything is, what time the cafeteria closes, etc. But everytime my dad has surgery, I am always so struck by how CARING and NICE everyone is–from the nurses to the orderlies, to the doctors, to the guy who transports patients in the wheelchair (who basically lifted my dad from the chair to the car when we went home).

The doctor always comes to visit a few minutes before surgery starts, and no matter who it is, (my dad has a LOT of doctors) they always say "Don’t worry, we will take care of him" right before they wheel him in. They can tell how nervous everyone is. Just hearing those words makes us feel so much better. We are so lucky to have come upon so many kind-hearted, patient people during the course of my dad’s illness.

Even the paramedics who have come twice to our house (my dad had two emergencies in the past two years) – these big, burly guys, they could not have been more efficient, or more gentle. We are so thankful.

Last night Mike and I went to the opera to see La Traviata, a friend had tickets (third row–sweeet) that he couldn’t use and it was a nice distraction from everything. I have always enjoyed the opera, even though sometimes it feels like cultural medicine. But I like to think of myself as someone who enjoys opera.

The first opera I ever saw was Wagner’s "Parsifal", with friends from college who were opera buffs. We saw it at The Met, in Lincoln Center, and we had these nosebleed seats, but my friends who had grown up in the city, and knew how to enjoy life without paying for it, were shameless.

After the first act, they led us all the way down to the orchestra level, and we snagged empty first and second row seats. (They were $350 each if we had paid for them!) The old people next to us were so charmed by our brazenness–we were probably a good forty years younger than the average audience member (it helps when you are young and cute I think) that when they left after the second act they gave us their tickets so that we would not get kicked out. One of my fondest memories.

And then when Mike and I first started dating, I thought it would be so romantic to go see Wagner’s Ring Cycle. All four operas. We bought tickets way in advance, and when it came time to see it, I had just had my wisdom teeth taken out, so I slept through almost all of "Das Rheingold". And we forgot to check our tickets for the next one, and when we arrived for Die Walkure (you know the one that goes Kill the Wabbit, Kill the Wabbit from Bugs Bunny), the little screens in the back of our seats said "Act II". We were flummoxed! How did we miss Act I? It turned out that the opera was so long, that it started at 6:30pm and not 8:00pm as the others did. And it was just a coincidence that as we were going in at 8pm, it was intermission and people were returning to their seats. We still laugh about that one. 

Verdi’s "La Traviata" was by far the most enjoyable. I think you really have to be an opera fan to appreciate "Parsifal". During Act I, when they were doing the Drinking Song (a really famous melody), I felt the baby kick! So perhaps the little guy or gal is an opera buff. 🙂

Everytime I go to see an opera or classical music, I am always glad I got a really solid classical education at Columbia. Columbia is famous for its Core Curriculum- you have to take two years of required courses in Western history, philosophy, literature, art, music, science, non-Western history and now math (yuck, but I’m glad I wasn’t there when they added that one). It just gives you a really solid liberal arts education. I can’t believe there are kids out there who have graduated from Harvard or Yale and who have never read Plato or studied Bach’s concertos. (Yes, I’m talking to you, my siblings.)

My Music Humanities class was taught by this really cool chick who played in a band downtown (we saw her play at the knitting factory) and she would play Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze and then make us listen to Mozart. She was awesome.

Anyway, I have thirty pages to write of ANGELS today. There’s a lot of music in the book (but not opera) so I guess that’s why music has been on my mind… I want to fast-forward to June 15th when I turn it in, but I know I have to slog through the writing process first.