National Public Radio in the USA requested essays on the topic “My Best Gift Ever.” Below is my submission.
December 19, 2002
The best gift I ever received was a bassoon. Yes, a bassoon, the largest in size and deepest in tone of the woodwind musical instruments. This gift had an immediate and joyful impact on my non-work life and, eventually, a dramatic influence on my professional life as well.
My former wife, the late Alice Dawn, knew that I came from a musical family. I told her that I played the piano as a boy. She also knew that I learned to play the bassoon in high school where I was a member of the orchestra and concert band. After high school my music-making stopped. I left home for college and the bassoon stayed behind at Taft High School, in The Bronx.
In the early days of our marriage Alice and I attended a variety of concerts and recitals in New York City where we lived and worked as teachers. Alice observed my enthusiasm and emotional attachment to serious music. She also noted what I might call “nostalgia” for playing. Even though we owned a piano, a wedding gift from my parents, I had abandoned all my playing, both piano and bassoon.
One day Alice walked into our little apartment in Brooklyn with a large leather case with a sweet ribbon around it. I knew immediately from the size and shape that the case contained a bassoon. To her astonishment, I screamed, “You got me a bassoon!”