Friday, April 29, 2016

Where Did It Come From?

I began playing piano by ear when I was 3½ years old. Next came accordian lessons at age 5, piano lessons at 6, organ lessons at 7 or 8. At 8 the church choir director realized I had perfect pitch. In fourth grade I started playing clarinet. Then from fifth grade through high school, I was first chair oboe. As an adult, I sang alto with The Washington (DC) Chorus, the Tucson Symphony Orchestra Chorus, and the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus. Now I accompany the opera program at Youngstown State University.

I always wondered where my musical ability came from.

While I wait for the results of my DNA test, I'm doing more digging into my family tree, seeing how many more branches I can hang leaves on. Mainly I'm looking at the twentieth century nodes, trying to find cousins.

In the 1940 census, I found the listing for my first cousin, once removed (i.e. my mother's first cousin). At 34, Eleanor L. Griffin was listed as single and living at the Taunton State Mental Hospital. Her job was Musical Director. In 1930, at age 24, she was living at home with her parents, Harvey and Amy, in the home so beautifully memorialized by Edward Hopper. Her occupation was listed as Music Teacher.

Posts I've written about Hodgkins House - during a trip to Massachusetts, and on a trip to Chicago to see the painting in person.

The first musical person I found in my digging was our grandfather's great-uncle (our 3rd great-uncle), Charles [Stearns or Stevens] Hicks, who was born in Gloucester in 1812. The 1860 census shows him living in Boston and lists his occupation as a piano maker!

And of course I must reiterate here that my sister, Debbie, started piano lessons when she was six. Within a few years of my employment at Walt Disney World in Florida as staff accompanist and later as a Dickens Caroler, Debbie was living in Anaheim and singing for fun with a choir at Disneyland. She told me when she sings in choirs, other singers want to stand close to her so they can get the right pitch.

I will continue to be delighted each time I find a musical connection.

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