Telling a musical story

love-opera-victoria-bakerOn November 13, the Greenwich Symphony will present a program for children called “Musical Stories.”

Featuring music by Tchaikovsky, Copland, Grieg and Smetana they will expose children to the many ways composers use music to tell a story. The concert is geared towards children in grades 4-5 and promises to take them on an exciting musical journey through Europe and back to the U.S. with the music of Copland. For more information log onto

Of all the composers on the program, Aaron Copland is the most quintessentially American. The free spirit of his music captures the essence of the prairies and the freshness of Appalachia. Born in 1900 in New York City, Copland began to study piano as a child. Subsequently he had lessons in harmony and counterpoint with composer Rubin Goldmark and began to compose.

Some of his most popular works are Billy the Kid, Rodeo, and his beautiful piece for the choreographer Martha Graham, Appalachian SpringFrom speeches and letters of Abraham Lincoln he derived the text for his fine Lincoln Portrait for Narrator and Orchestra, the featured role of which has been essayed by Eleanor Roosevelt, Adlai Stevenson and various entertainment celebrities. His Fanfare for the Common Man became enormously popular, and he later incorporated it into his Third Symphony.

He helped found numerous musical organizations, such as the American Composers Alliance and the Yaddo Festivals. He was head of the composition department at the Berkshire Music Center and in 1957 he became chairman of the faculty. He lectured widely, and in 1951-52 he gave the Charles Eliot Norton lectures at Harvard.

Aaron Copland is the most honored of American composers. A list of his prizes and awards would be too voluminous to compile here, but some of them ought to be cited. There was a Guggenheim Fellowship, several N.Y. Music Critics Circle Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, a Gold Medal from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and an honorary membership in the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome. He received honorary doctorates from Princeton, Brandeis, Harvard, Temple, Rutgers, Ohio State, New York University, Columbia and in 1986 he received the National Medal of Arts.

I hope this upcoming concert will also express to the children that maybe composers aren’t the only ones telling stories. Maybe a dancer expresses with the body, a painter tells the story of life using a paintbrush, an athlete expresses the indomitable power of the spirit through his or her endurance. No story is too small to tell. Perhaps the true goal of any concert goes beyond exposing us to art or music.

Perhaps, at its core, exposure to art is about inviting each and every one of us to express the story latent within us all.


Victoria Baker, of Greenwich, is an opera singer. Winner of many prestigious competitions, she has performed and worked with distinguished artists all over the world (notably at Lincoln Center). Should you have any questions that deserve answers and may be in print please call 203-531-7499 or e-mail [email protected]

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