Category Archives: composers

Happy Birthday, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart!

Young MozartPosted by Elizabeth Devereux


In honor of what would be Mozart’s 257th birthday, I’d like to share a very silly video of Bobby McFerrin and a comedic Polish string quartet called Grupa MoCarta enjoying Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nacht Musik in many new transformations…



Happy Birthday, Ludwig van Beethoven!


Posted by Elizabeth Devereux





One of my most memorable experiences so far as a violin teacher is the first time I played Beethoven for a classroom full of 3-6 year-olds.  It was in my first year of teaching private violin lessons full-time, and I taught one Suzuki group class of beginner violinists.  Each month I chose a composer whose birthday fell in that month to celebrate; we would listen to their music, read about them, and share what we thought of them and their music.  My goal was to get these young violinists to care about what they heard, not necessarily to get them to like what they heard.  Beethoven, though, made it easy for them to both care about and like the music.

Beethoven was born on either the 15th or 16th of this month in the year 1770.  On the first Thursday…

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Happy Birthday, Dmitri Shostakovich!

Posted by Elizabeth Devereux

On this day 106 years ago, the composer Dmitri Shostakovich was born in St. Petersburg, Russia…and SO much has been written about his life and his politics, that I’ll let you do your own research about all of that, and make up your own mind about the hot topic among Shostakovich music historians.






Instead, here I’d like to tell you about my own introduction to Shostakovich, and why every angsty teenager, every adult who’s ever felt angry or despondent, and every child who has to get up and dance whenever they hear energetic music…



I remember being 14 years old and hearing Shostakovich’s music for the first time: I was at a summer music festival called Eastern Music Festival.  EMF had two student orchestras which rehearsed six times during the week before performing in concert on the weekends.  It was the other student orchestra, the one I wasn’t playing in that week, which was performing Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5.  All of the students in the “Shosty 5” orchestra suddenly went around as if they had been fortuitously admitted into an exclusive and really cool club.  At the age of 14, I almost never wanted to part of any cool clubs, because as soon as anything became “cool” or large enough to be a club, I found that the strong non-conformist inside of me–especially strong in my teenage years–quickly became wary and ready to run the opposite direction of “cool”.  BUT the Shosty 5 club was a different story.  I began sneaking into the other orchestra’s rehearsals during our breaks, and the Friday night concert, for all of the inevitable student orchestra faults, was a life-changing experience.


…and I haven’t been able to remove the hook since.

And it is a HOOK–not a Brahmsian blanket, not a pair of Mozartian dance shoes, not a Haydnian garden stroll–a HOOK.  Shostakovich’s music catches and tugs.

Give a listen and see if you can extract the hook afterwards…make sure you listen past 16:18 (or skip there, no one will know!) before you let me know about that hook extraction:

Joke of the Week

Posted by Elizabeth Devereux, from 50 More Jokes in Four Minutes

What did Mozart and Beethoven turn into after they died?


Happy Birthday, J.S. Bach!

Posted by Elizabeth Devereux

Today would be the great composer’s 327th birthday were Johann Sebastian Bach alive today.  Last year for Bach’s birthday, I posted videos of his music–some pieces in their original form, a few reinvented…

This year I’d like to write a bit more personally about what Bach’s music means to me.  In last year’s post, I wrote:

If you ask many a professional musician, especially violinists, what three composers’ music they would bring with them to a deserted island, Johann Sebastian would be among those three for almost every musician you ask.

It’s a fun game to play–a fun conversation starter with musicians you’re meeting for the first time:

What music would you bring to your desert island? 

When we musicians put ourselves in the role of Tom Hanks in Cast Away…

…our “Wilson” might be a series of melodies by different composers that we’d sing to ourselves; they would be our sanity, our company, in isolation.

Four and a half years ago I was in a car accident with one of my closest friends and her sister (my friend was driving and I was in the passenger seat).  Our car flipped off the side of the road and landed upside down.  We were extremely lucky to find that all three of us were safe and unharmed.  We were, however, stranded on the side of one of the most remote roads in all of North America–the Dempster Highway in the Canadian Arctic.  The accident itself was scary; the fear of being stranded in bear country overnight was scarier.  In those frightening moments after the accident, I found serenity and strength by imagining that I was playing Bach’s Sonata in G minor for unaccompanied violin.

I’ve never been to a deserted island, and I will likely live my entire life without experiencing that level of isolation.  I have, however, lived through a few frightening experiences–such as the Arctic accident–and will likely live through many more.

In those moments, I have felt, and will continue to feel in the future, SO LUCKY to know even a few pieces by Bach well enough to be able to “play” them in my head, or, if they’re not for violin, to be able to sing them silently in my head, as if turning on my mind’s own personal Bach songlist.  This is one of the gifts I hope to be able to pass onto my students: the gift of Johann Sebastian Bach.

Happy 220th Birthday, Rossini!

Posted by Elizabeth Devereux

I loved happening upon this Google Doodle YouTube video this morning:

As I’ve blogged about before, I love the whimsy of the Google Doodles.  Discovering the accompanying YouTube video on my search for some Barber of Seville humor this morning was an added bonus to the doodle.  I didn’t even know that it was Rossini’s birthday today!

The only thing I would change in this fortuitous and fun chain of events is the music accompanying the Rossini Google Doodle video–yes, it is fun music, but why not choose one of Rossini’s own upbeat and ridiculous compositions?!

I’m confident this scene from Rossini’s Barber of Seville would’ve been silly and energetic enough to accompany leaping frogs!

Gioachino Antonio Rossini even looked like a jolly (and well-fed) fellow!

As the most popular opera composer to date when he was composing in the early 1800s, he must’ve had a lot to be jolly about.  I’m glad we too get to enjoy the jolliness today through his music.

Happy Presidents’ Day! And What’s on Honest Abe’s iPod?

Posted by Elizabeth Devereux

Last year for Presidents’ Day, I blogged about the surprising amount of musical talent that’s passed through the White House over the years.  This year, I’d like to direct you all to a great NPR segment on Abraham Lincoln’s musical interests called “If Abraham Lincoln had an iPod”.

I’d love to find an extensive musical-historical project that researched historical figures’ musical tastes and listed their “iPod favorites” as well.

What do you think was on Socrates’ iPod? Babe Ruth’s? Harriet Tubman’s? Genghis Kahn’s? Jane Austen’s? Christopher Columbus’? Marie Antoinette’s? W.E.B. Du Bois’? Adolf Hitler’s? Pablo Picasso’s? Henry the VIII’s? Charlemagne’s?

Oh, the list could go on and on…any guesses?  Share them in the comments space below!