By Kate Amatuzzo
Music has always run in my veins, but to be honest, it's entirely plausible that I may have had a blood transfusion at a very young age. As a performer, I am often asked the question "Do you come from a musical family?" It's a logical query, noting my affinity for singing, the piano, and all things musical theatre. Music is such a predominant part of my life that it only makes sense to assume I was raised around other musicians. This couldn't be farther from the truth.
I was raised around a radiologist and an automobile salesman, both parents to a child who began piano lessons at the age of three. I'll never know why I cultivated an interest in the piano at the same time I was learning not to shove things up my nose, but I'm grateful just the same for my mother's support on both topics. Early on, she encouraged me to start listening to music, even though she, herself, was not a musician. I remember receiving odd Christmas gifts: a cassette tape of The Magic Flute, a panpipe, an autoharp, and definitely a few Fisher Price plastic instruments. Was this the beginning of my passion for music? It's hard to say, seeing as how I had an equal passion for wearing bejeweled princess clothes to Perkins on a Saturday morning.
I've often wondered what it would have been like to grow up in a musical family. There were times that it was hard for me to explain my love of scales, theory, and the circle of fifths to my parents, but they were unfailingly supportive, nonetheless. As I learned more and more about music, their interest in it grew as well, even though my mom was fully aware of her inability to sing church harmonies on Sunday mornings. As she tells it, I had a consistent reaction to her attempts at harmonization. Apparently, I would calmly place my hand on her hymnal, turn my head, and whisper a gentle but insistent "NO" into her ear.
I remember one car ride where I tried to give her vocal advice. I would rehash the story here, but this is a forum clean and devoid from profanity.
Despite my parents' lack of natural musical ability, they continued to support my interest in the area. I was never denied a musical opportunity. When piano interests turned more serious, I had a piano in the house. When the timing was right for voice lessons, they found me a teacher. And when Christmas of 2000 rolled around, I received one of the most influential gifts of my entire life: a 2 CD pack of John Williams' greatest hits...an album that stuck with me throughout my entire life.
Who are we to thank for our natural passions? Is it nature? Certainly not in my case, otherwise my fascination for music wouldn't have survived my mother's rendition of Celine Dion's "The Prayer," as sung by a bass singer (it is possible, and in this case, certainly avoidable). For me, I'm indebted to nurture...the nurture of my parents as I fell more in love with music. Without their support, I'm convinced I wouldn't be where I am today. They may not have been my piano teacher. They may not have been my voice teacher. And they certainly were not qualified to be my dance teacher after their rendition of "The Carlton" dance move from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. But they were my teachers, in a different way.
They taught me how to pursue something because your heart tells you to. They taught me that it's okay to have different interests in life than those of your family. And they taught me how to work at something if I wanted to succeed. I may not have had a "musical" family, but my family made me musical. Parents, let your children sing. Children, let your parents sing badly.