The past few weeks have been difficult for my family, as we have been dealing with the deaths of both my paternal grandparents. I won’t get too personal in this post as this blog was not really intended for that sort of thing, but I have been thinking a lot the last several days about the ways my grandparents influenced my life. One big area of influence has been my musical career. As a child, I remember being told that my grandfather had been a professional musician – he played clarinet for a time in the North Carolina Symphony. Even before I got into music this was a source of interest and pride for me, because being a professional classical musician is such a rare career. In high school when I started thinking seriously about college majors and possible career choices, I was inspired by my grandfather’s time as an orchestral musician. Although he had given up the clarinet long before I was born, having that tangible connection to a family member who had played professionally was important in giving me the confidence and perseverance to pursue music and stick with it. Thinking back on things I wish I had talked to my grandfather more about orchestral playing, as I’m sure he had some great stories.
Both of my grandparents were tremendously supportive of my musical pursuits, and as long as their health allowed they attended virtually every concert, recital, and other public performance I was involved in. My grandmother dutifully kept a binder of programs and other memorabilia related to musical performances in which my sister (an oboe player) and I participated. The last recital of mine they were able to attend was in March of 2008 when I gave a guest recital at my undergraduate alma mater, Appalachian State University. Although they might not always have said it, I knew that they were proud of me and supported what I was doing. They helped buy my first horn, and provided financial support during my graduate school years.
Some of their other less-direct but equally important influences involved passing on certain attitudes and approaches to life. Both of them lived through the Great Depression, and consequently they valued hard work and perseverance highly. While I can’t recall either of them ever specifically telling me about their views on this sort of thing, they nevertheless passed them on in countless subtle ways. My grandmother was a two-time cancer survivor, and also dealt with diabetes for a large portion of her adult life. I don’t remember ever once hearing her complain about these life-threatening diseases; she just faced them with courage and determination. My grandfather was quite simply one of the most stubborn people I’ve ever known. Once he got an idea in his head he wouldn’t give up on it until he succeeded. Although he was sometimes stubborn to a fault, I prefer to remember the more positive benefits of his never give up, never say die attitude.
They both lived long, full lives, and although they are no longer here, I will always remember their love, encouragement and support.