David Bruce: The Funniest People in Music — Education, Fans


• As a young music student, Geraldine Farrar wrote Lilli Lehmann several times, asking to become one of her students, but she never received a reply from the great vocalist. Finally, Geraldine’s mother wrote Ms. Lehmann, and she received an immediate reply. Ms. Lehmann had received all of Geraldine’s letters, but the handwriting had been so bad that she was unable to read them.

• Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari was a brilliant student at the Munich Conservatory. An exam asked the students to compose a fugue in four voices. Instead, Mr. Wolf-Ferrari composed a double-fugue in eight voices, for which he used an original first subject. As a second subject, he used the theme his teacher had given on the test.

• British actor Stanley Holloway once mentioned to Jascha Heifetz that he was looking for a school for his son, and he named one school that accepted pupils very early in their life — at two and a half years old. “Two and a half,” Mr. Heifetz said. “What’s he going to do till then? Just loaf around?”

• Charlie “Bird” Parker is one of the greatest jazz saxophone players of all time, but even he had to learn how to play well. When he was a teenager, he played some jam sessions with local musicians. At one jam session, he made numerous mistakes and the drummer threw his cymbals at him in disgust.

• As a child, rocker Bruce Springsteen hated school. While attending St. Rose of Lima Grade School, he was totally out of control. Finally, his teacher found a way to control him. She made him sit in a trashcan which she kept under her desk.

• Giacomo Puccini was taught music by his Uncle Fortunato, who used to kick him in the leg if he sang a note incorrectly. Due to this training, when the adult Puccini heard a wrong note, his leg would involuntarily jerk.


• Even celebrities can make fools of themselves when meeting other celebrities. Gay author Michael Thomas Ford grew up admiring Lisa and Wendy, two women musicians in pop star Prince’s band, and he watched for them each time a Prince video was shown on MTV and attended Prince concerts just so he could see them. When he discovered that a friend of his knew them, he asked that a dinner be held so he could meet them. At the dinner, the first thing he said to his idols after being introduced was, “I love you” — something he had wanted to tell them for a decade. Wendy laughed, and Lisa held his hand and replied, “We love you, too.” The evening was fun, and Wendy and Lisa were fabulous, even without the teased hair and makeup they wore in the MTV videos and during concerts.

• In 1982, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, aka the Singing Rabbi, was in Jerusalem, where he was seen by some boys from the international Jewish boys camp known as Camp Sdei Chemed. Because Rabbi Shlomo was a Jewish celebrity, their mouths fell open and they stared at him. Rabbi Shlomo noticed the boys and crossed the street to greet them. The boys asked their counselor to request that Rabbi Shlomo sing a few songs for them, but he pointed out that it was nearly midnight and that the good Rabbi was probably going home tired after giving a concert. However, since the boys were insistent, he requested the songs. Rabbi Shlomo replied, “Sure! With pleasure! — and he gave them a two-hour concert under the stars.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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