Culture > Music

Music: Triumph of discipline

Music | Marsalis's Classic Wynton shows what a difference good parenting and God's grace can make

Issue: "Quayle's presidential bid," June 19, 1999

Classic Wynton incorporates recordings going back to 1984 when young Mr. Marsalis first burst on the American music scene with a triple concerto album. Establishing himself as a champion of the Baroque trumpet, he is at 37 both a lion of the music world and a self-effacing individual who has endeared himself to colleagues. Wynton Marsalis's discipline began at home, with two parents who took special interest in his training. He attended school in New Orleans where his father was a music educator. From age 12 he practiced trumpet 5-6 hours daily. After high school, he attended Juilliard. By the age of 19 he had signed a contract with Columbia records. His combined jazz and classical CDs have sold over 5 million copies and won 8 Grammy awards. He has also won a Pulitzer Prize (a first for a musician) for his oratorio about slavery, Blood on the Fields. Classic Wynton showcases articulate passagework in Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, lyric beauty in Hovhaness's "Prayer of St. Gregory," and high virtuosity in Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee." The album also includes unrivaled recorded examples of the Hummel, Haydn, and Tomasi concertos, virtuoso works like Arban's "Carnival of Venice" variations, and Stanley's "Trumpet Voluntary." In a nation of mindless slogans about "self-expression" there are too few Wynton Marsalises. There are reasons for his success: determination and discipline. These are not developed in a vacuum. We might wonder what would have happened if Wynton's parents in the 1970s had ignored his gift or discouraged him from practicing, taking lessons, or even listening to classical music. He might have continued playing, but he would not have practiced six hours a day, gone to Juilliard, or become the greatest trumpet player in America. Parents cannot create genius, but exposure to resources like Classic Wynton, local performing ensembles, and good books can give children a taste for excellence that, with God's grace, will help them survive the culture wars. Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 may be a challenge to the average teen, but it sure beats cruising the Net for bomb recipes.

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