Confessions of a New Classical Music Fan

On one of several trips to the Kennedy Center in the summer of 2008, the MetroAccess driver chatted with us about what we had just seen. It was either “The Lion King” or a free performance of “The President’s Own,” the United States Marine Corps Band. John Williams conducted them as they performed some of his film music.

The conversation moved on to what he had recently enjoyed at the Kennedy Center. “It was something in F Minor,” he said. I could relate. So many times I’m enjoying a piece on Classical WETA 90.9, and I’ll recognize a pleasing melody, but I have no idea what it’s called. That day’s playlist usually answers my question.

Even after “Hooked on Classics,” the movie “Fantasia,” Strauss’ waltzes, music appreciation classes, a classical music dictionary a neighbor gave me, and many years of exploring all kinds of music, I still can’t keep the composers and their creations straight. Pronouncing their names correctly is still a bit challenging.

I used to think that liking classical music made you a snob. Happily, I now see how ridiculous this is. My embarrassment and awkwardness about it are gone.  The ringtone for my home phone is Beethoven’s “Für Elise.” Many people through the years have shared their love for classical music with me, and I learned so much from them. But I did get my share of ribbing. A former co-worker once teased me when I said, “That symphony certainly makes good background music, doesn’t it?”

I know now that classical music is so much more than something to relax to or the soundtrack to a workweek. In fact, the more I listen to something, the more I recognize favorite phrases and movements. I thought about how little I actually know about this genre, and I want to learn more. This music is very emotional, and there are so many stories behind them. I thought it would be fun to write about what I discover, a little at a time.