Remember the Importance of Music In Our Schools

“Music education opens doors that help children pass from school into the world around them – a world of work, culture, intellectual activity, and human involvement. The future of our nation depends on providing our children with a complete education that includes music.”

President Gerald Ford


Libraries on Long Island recently had their budget votes. Thank you to all who came out to vote on ours! Coming in May are the school budget votes. It seems I’m always preaching to the choir, as they say. If you’re reading The Quarter Notes Blog, you are already an ardent music fan. However, I feel one can never emphasize the importance of music in the life and education of our children enough.

Two recent news stories come to mind which I am sharing with you to illustrate my passion for keeping music in our schools. Long Islander, Kwasi Enin, a senior at  William Floyd High School in Shirley, NY was accepted to all 8 Ivy League colleges. In addition to all his outstanding grades and activities, he plays viola in the school orchestra and is in the youth and bell choirs at his church. Enin has said that music has played a significant role in his life: he states that music “has become the spark of my intellectual curiosity. I would not have the admiration of my teachers and friends if I had not let the charisma of music persuade me to become a performer in my school, town and state.”

A few weeks ago, a family member sent us this link to the following video of people in Syracuse, NY (my home town, where I attended graduate school and both our daughters did their college studies). Not being well-versed in popular music, I just thought it was a great song in the background of an equally great video and left it at that. However, on the CBS Sunday Morning show, this past April 13, 2014, they presented the singer/composer of that very same song: “Happy”.  Now, not only did I have a face and personality to link with the song, but I found out that he, Pharrell Williams, is a well-respected and very successful musician, a seven-time Grammy award-winning artist.  He gives all the credit for his musical passion and talents to his public school music teachers, going so far to say that if it hadn’t been for them, he would still be in Virginia, doing something totally different from being the extremely successful musician that he is today. Read his story and then remind yourselves to vote for your school budgets so that music will continue to be an important part of our children’s and our lives.

Our “Did You Know?” for today is about Georges Bizet, composer of Carmen, one of the most famous and popular operas of all time. Bizet’s ability as a pianist and sight-reader impressed Franz Liszt so much that he pronounced him his equal. His composition teacher, Fromental Halevy later became his father-in-law, as he married Halevy’s daughter. Bizet’s given name was Alexandre Cesar Leopold. He just liked Georges better!

Lastly, please check out a few brand new acquisitions to our Library’s music collection which I am very excited about:

1.  In honor of the 300th anniversary of the birth in 1714 of C.P.E. Bach (second son of J.S. Bach), we have added The CPE Bach Collection, a 13-CD set, just released in March. C.P.E. Bach composed in numerous genres, including keyboard works, symphonies, solo flute works and much more. There’s enough music on this collection to keep you inspired during quite a lot of listening!

2.  A brand new 2014 book, by Kathy Caton, called Da Capo From the Beginning, should be on your list of must reads. The subtitle is “Inspiring Life Lessons from the Other Side of the Baton” which gives you a hint of what it’s about: teaching music.

3.  Published in 2013, Joanne Lipman’s book entitled Strings Attached:  One Tough Teacher and the Gift of Great Expectations looks at the life of a tough Ukrainian immigrant music teacher who transformed his students and daughters into better musicians and better people.


Stay tuned to the Quarter Notes Blog and in tune with all the music in your life!

E. Susman

April 16, 2014



Take Your Pick

“If children are not introduced to music at an early age, I believe something fundamental is actually being taken from them.” –Luciano Pavarotti

Have you noticed how much choice we have in this country? It’s just amazing: from appliance brands, to types and brands of cars, to brands of running shoes and all sorts of foods. Even in peanut butter (our dog is a big peanut butter lover and doesn’t care which kind she gets!), there’s natural, honey, low fat crunchy, low fat smooth, regular crunchy, regular smooth and the list goes on.  Now with spring planting upon us, which flowers, seeds, vegetables and plants do we plant in our yards?  I always feel there are so many, it’s very hard to make up my mind! Growing up in a very musical household, we had a recording (vinyl of course) of pretty much most of the standard classical works. It wouldn’t have occurred to my parents to purchase copies of the same pieces,  performed by different musicians. On the other hand, as I peruse catalogues and websites ( is one of my favorites) of classical music recordings, I become overwhelmed with the number of  recordings by different performers of the same pieces. As a classically trained musician who often listens to recordings of pieces I am working on with my music groups, I find it very interesting and useful to compare different recordings of the same piece.

With the onset of spring and the lazy hazy days of summer to appear soon after, why not check out some of our vast collection of recordings by different musicians of the same piece? Really listen closely to tempos, phrasing and dynamics and see if you can hear differences in interpretation and style as you plant your garden or relax in the warmth of the seasons.  I’m sure it’d be a great learning experience if you have never done this.  Since March is a month full of famous birthdays ( J.S. Bach on March 21, Bartok on March 25  and Haydn on March 31 to name just a few) here are my suggestions from the works of these birthday boys for your listening and analyzing pleasure:

J.S. Bach Brandenburg Concerto No. 2: Festival Strings Lucerne conducted by Rudolf Baumgartner or English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Raymond Leppard

Bartok Violin Concerto No. 2: violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter with the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Seiji Ozawa or violinist Isabelle Faust with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Daniel Harding

Haydn Symphony No. 94 “Surprise”The Academy of Ancient Music conducted by Christopher Hogwood or Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt

Our “Did You Know” for this post is about our very own American composer, conductor and pianist Leonard Bernstein. While at the Curtis Institute of Music, studying conducting with Fritz Reiner, Bernstein received the only “A” Fritz Reiner ever awarded in conducting class. Bernstein became an overnight sensation on November 14, 1943 when he filled in for Bruno Walter to conduct the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall at the age of 25. Bernstein introduced his “Young People’s Concerts”, the first program of its type, with the NY Philharmonic, telecast on CBS. I remember watching them all religiously with my family, growing up in Syracuse. The Library has some wonderful sources for you to check out: The Leonard Bernstein Letters, Dinner with Lenny: the Last Long Interview With Leonard Bernstein, Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts (DVD): With the New York Philharmonic, Candide: Final Revised Version, 1989 (CD), The Unanswered Question: Six Talks at Harvard

Speaking of educational music programs, come join your fellow music lovers at the Huntington Public Library, 338 Main Street, Huntington, NY on Sunday, April 27, 2014, at 3 p.m., as the Northport Symphony Orchestra gives a free live performance entitled: “Ideas to Music: Composer, Orchestra and Listeners”. Your own Half Hollow Hills Community Library will present the following free programs in April which any music lover would enjoy: Listening to the Movies: Great Songs from Great Motion Pictures on April 6 and Tosca: Music by Giacomo Puccini on April 10. Call the Library at 631-421-4530 to get more information. Don’t feel you have to pick between these programs; come to all of them!

Stay tuned to the Quarter Notes Blog and in tune with all the music in your life!

E. Susman

March 26, 2014

In Memory of a Remarkable Pianist

“I am by nature an optimist. But I am pessimistic about future generations’ willingness to remember and care about what happened to the Jews of Europe, and to us in Terezin.”–Alice Herz-Sommer, in the British newspaper, The Observer, 2010.

In a previous Quarter Notes post, I included a link and information on Alice Herz-Sommer. This amazing Holocaust survivor and professional pianist, passed away on February 23, 2014. As the oldest known Holocaust survivor (she was a prisoner with her family,  in Theresienstadt, also known as Terezin, for over a year, the same concentration camp as my maternal grandfather), she was 110 years old at the time of her death. Her spirit and optimism throughout her life, as well as her passion for classical music will serve as an inspiration and model for me always. The 38-minute documentary about her life, “The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life” just won the 2014 Oscar for documentary short subject. Watch for it to come to the Library as soon as it’s available in DVD. The Library has two books you might be interested in reading, which I am adding to my must-read list:

A Century of Wisdom: Lessons from the Life of Alice Herz-Sommer, the World’s Oldest Living Holocaust Survivor by Caroline Stoessinger, either as an e-book or printed book and, Alice’s Piano: the Life of Alice Herz-Sommer by Melissa Muller

Thank you for your long life and for keeping music alive during the most desperate times. Rest in peace……

E. Susman, March 2014

Spring is in the Air

“In music, in the sea, in a flower, in a leaf, in an act of kindness…I see what people call God in all these things.”—Pablo Casals

With this harsh winter we’re having, let’s be positive. It’s almost March and Spring is right around the corner. To help you welcome Spring, why not attend one of your Library’s wonderful music programs:

The Bay Big Band, a 19 piece jazz orchestra in the style of the Count Basie Orchestra will perform on March 2, 2014, at 2 p.m.

At 2 p.m. on March 9, 2014,  come to a free concert  of very talented high school and college flutists. These are the winners of the Long Island Flute Club Solo Competition. Sit back, relax and be prepared to be impressed. On March 22, 2014, at 2 p.m., join members of The Northport Symphony Orchestra as they celebrate J.S. Bach’s birthday in a free sight-reading session for all string players. Either come to listen or register as a string player by calling the Library. You would need to download the music from if you intend to play.

Here is a list of pieces available at your Library, that will help you to welcome Spring:

The Beaux Arts Trio performs Spring Music by Ned Rorem

Britten’s Spring Symphony with Andre Previn and the London Symphony Orchestra

Copland’s Appalachian Spring performed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring performed by the renowned “5 Browns” arranged for FIVE, yes that’s 5, pianos!

Vivaldi’s “Spring” from the Four Seasons, played by Anne-Sophie Mutter on the violin

Note all these composers who have birthdays in March, the beginning of Spring:

March 1, Chopin; March 2, Smetana; March 4, Vivaldi; March 7, Ravel; March 8, CPE Bach; March 9, Barber; March 10, Honegger; March 11, Piazzolla; March 13, Blavet; March 14, Telemann, March 18, Rimsky-Korsakov; March 19, Reger; March 21, JS Bach & Mussorgsky;  March 22, Sondheim;  March 25, Bartok; March27, Indy; March 31, Haydn.  Interested in finding out more about their lives and music? Give us a call or visit and we’re sure to have something for you to enjoy.

Our “Did You Know” for this post is about Hector Berlioz (1803-1869), orchestral composer, who wrote nothing for solo piano and practically no chamber music (as did many composers). In 1827 he fell in love with Harriet Smithson whom he eventually married. He composed his famous Symphonie Fantastique in 1831 as an expression of his love for her. Another “Did You Know” for today that I have to share, since J.S. Bach’s birthday is coming up on March 21st: one of his sons,  C.P.E. Bach,  has his 300th birthday this year, on March 8. Check out  a flute concerto of his, in d minor, which I played on my senior recital at Indiana U., chamber orchestra and all. It’s a lovely piece!

Stay tuned to the Quarter Notes Blog and in tune with all the music in your life!

E. Susman

February 24, 2014

Music is the Bridge

Without music, we might as well close the planet. Music is the lifeblood of everything.” –Lou Reed, 1942-2013, LI Music Hall of Famer

It is good to be back from 5 weeks as a trial juror in Riverhead, NY. Although our legal system never ceased to amaze me (in a good way!), I would need the hour it took me to drive home to ‘calm down’ from the intensity of the trial. What, you asked, helped me to return to a quieter, more pleasant frame of mind? Yes, listening to classical music, of course!  I breathed a sigh of relief as I started driving home and the music brought me back to my reality, from a world of deception and fraud.

I have found music to be a wonderful bridge between stress/anxiety and calmness. This week, I have learned first hand how it can also be a bridge between nations. We are enjoying watching the unbelievable feats of the Olympic athletes. Have you noticed what a large part music plays (no pun intended) during the Olympics?  During the opening ceremonies and during the figure skating events, you heard many different classical music pieces accompanying the events. However, have you heard the Russian Police Choir perform? They have been in existence since 1939 and recently performed prior to the opening ceremonies at the Olympics. Check out this video:  Russian Police Choir at the Olympics

Two renowned musicians who recently passed away may also be considered as ‘bridges’ in the music world:

Claudio Abbado, the conductor of the Vienna State Opera, the Vienna Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic as well as holding long relationships with the London, Chicago, Philadelphia Orchestras and the New York  Philharmonic, to name a few, always conducted without a score. He felt it would better convey the music to the audience as well as interpreting for the musicians in front of him, if he knew the pieces so well that he didn’t need to use a score, thus bridging or relaying what the composer intended for all to enjoy. His legacy will live on as he created numerous youth groups to continue the traditions of classical music, such as the Mahler Youth Orchestra and the European Union Youth Orchestra (go to this last link to read a beautiful and detailed tribute to Claudio Abbado by a former member of the Youth Orchestra). Treat yourself to some of his recordings from the Library: 5 Symphonies; 7 Overtures by Mendelssohn , Sempre Libera -Italian opera excerpts with Ann NetrebkoWozzeck (DVD): opera in 3 actsViolin Concertos by Prokofiev21 Hungarian Dances by Brahms.

As a former member of the American Wind Symphony, a group of young adult musicians who perform on the inland waterways on a barge near Pittsburgh and surrounding areas, I had the extreme honor to play with Pete Seeger. He sang with us as we provided the accompaniment to him. What a wonderful musician and folk singer he was. His music bridged the world of folk music and social issues for  Americans past, present and future.  Take a listen to these recordings or check out our printed collection for interesting portraits of this American icon,  which you will find in your Library’s collection: The Essential Pete Seeger (CD) , Pete Seeger: the Power of Song (DVD) , The Storm King (CD biography), At 89 (CD) , Pete Seeger’s 90th Birthday Celebration from Madison Square Garden (DVD),  Pete Seeger’s Family Concert (CD)

Our “Did You Know” composer fact of the day:  Atonal, Viennese composer, Alban Berg, died at the age of 50 of blood poisoning from an abscess caused by an insect bite. His Violin Concerto is dedicated to Manon Gropius, the daughter of Alma Mahler and Walther Gropius, who died of poliomyelitis just before Berg began work on the piece.

Lastly, here’s a reminder for a terrific LOCAL event coming up: Flyer_W Islip  Orch Winter Concert 2014  I’m sure it will be a great concert as the violin soloist, Paul Little,  is also the assistant concert master of the Northport Symphony Orchestra, an organization near and dear to me, as you know!

Stay tuned to The Quarter Notes Blog and in tune with all the music in your life!

E. Susman

Quarter Notes is on Hiatus!

To all my followers: the Quarter Notes Blog is on hiatus for a bit longer. Please be patient: I am doing my civic duty and have been serving as a trial juror.  Hoping to be back in the swing of things soon. Until then, stay in tune with all the music in your life!

E. Susman

January 25, 2014

Music Is Everywhere…..Just Listen For It!…Update!!

Just had to share with you another uplifting story about the power and presence of music found in unusual and unexpected places. A recent CBS 60 minutes story showed us how the children of Cateura, Paraguay enthusiastically and proudly play in their Recycled Orchestra,  made up of musical instruments made from trash. Check out this link: Recycled Orchestra and be amazed!  A documentary, “Landfill Harmonic”, detailing this fascinating story is to be released soon; watch for it when it comes to your Library.

The Quarter Notes post today is a potpourri of music-related interest stories. Hope you enjoy!

The world is celebrating the life of Nelson Mandela as I write. Why is this relevant to The Quarter Notes Blog?  Quoting an official from South Africa: “In South Africa we dance and sing for births, weddings, birthdays and funerals.”  Again, the healing and celebratory power of music shines through our joys and sadness.

The same day I heard this quote, I saw  a  heartwarming story on CBS Sunday Morning about a retired gentleman who, at 90 years old, recently learned how to read. At the end of the story, he proudly stood up to perform karaoke, reading/singing the words to the song from the screen. How rewarding!

Here’s a heads up for a FREE local classical concert: mark your calendars for a concert by the Northport Symphony Orchestra, Friday, January 24, 2014, 8 p.m., at Northport High School. The program includes works by Mozart, Beethoven and Schumann.

Our “Did You Know” composer fact of the day: most agree that December 16th is Beethoven’s birthday (he was baptized on December 17th. Some biographers list that date as his birthday). Four years before Beethoven’s death, in 1823, he completed his Ninth Symphony. By 1818, he was totally deaf. However, he was scheduled to conduct it’s first performance. The orchestra agreed amongst themselves to ignore his conducting as they performed since he couldn’t hear at all and couldn’t keep tempos. The premier was a success. However, at the end of the piece, one of the soloists had to turn Beethoven around to acknowledge the applause Beethoven didn’t know had started since he couldn’t hear it.

While a student at the IU School of Music in the 1970′s, I will never forget taking a music theory final exam. Part of the exam involved analyzing a given classical piece as it was played for us in the exam room. We weren’t told what the piece was but were told to analyze it. To analyze a piece,  it’s really not necessary to know what piece it is. As the music started, you heard an orchestra, so I started to write my analysis. Then a solo instrument chimed in. I thought OK, I thought I knew most classical piano concertos, but not this one. I changed my analysis a bit and continued listening. Then ANOTHER solo instrument took over. I thought, hmmmm, it’s not Brahms’ Double Concerto; I was very familiar with that. And it didn’t sound as if it were from the Romantic period. Again, changed my analysis and continued listening. A THIRD solo instrument came in and I was stumped. However, I did well on the exam, analyzing it for what it was, including themes, form, instrumental exchanges, etc.

After the exam, my college roommate, a violinist, who was also in the class, and I, discussed the piece. She said “How did you like that piece, it was Beethoven’s Triple Concerto?” I thought at the time I knew most of Beethoven’s works, apparently not this one which I will never forget. I immediately got a recording of it and consider it one of my favorite Beethoven works. Celebrate his genius by checking out some of these items from your library:

Beethoven: the Man Revealed  a new book,  Beethoven in America  a book linking Beethoven to our pop culture!, In Search of Beethoven  a DVD giving us insight into just who Beethoven really was and finally, here are some recordings of his wonderful music: Complete Piano Sonatas , Missa Solemnis – a fine piece to sooth you during the holidays, Beethoven at Bedtime – actually a children’s CD with excerpts from some of Beethoven’s gorgeous slow movements; why not introduce this to your children and grandchildren when you’re together for the holidays…..just might make for a peaceful, well rested gathering! Come see or call us at the Library for more suggestions.

Lastly, I’d like to share a very uplifting and moving video my brother recently brought to my attention. It was of special interest to us because our mother’s family was from a town in Germany that eventually became part of Poland after WW II. Notice the presence of MUSIC throughout the video and enjoy:

  Museum of the History of Polish Jews .

My best to all of you for a wonderful and of course very musical holiday season. Stay tuned to The Quarter Notes Blog and in tune with all the music in your life!

E. Susman