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By Allyson Jay

Shout, Cry, It’s Classical Music!

August 13th, 2023

I was three years old when my mother’s best friend got married. As she walked down the aisle, I stood up proudly on the bench in the church and shouted, “It’s Water Music by Handel!”

The next year while my friends wanted to play dolls and house, all I wanted to do was play for them my favorite musical that I had just seen at a local theatre, Pirates of Penzance.

This love of music and the arts was fostered by my mother, the middle school English teacher/theatre director, and my father. At five years old, I volunteered to be the first kid to audition for the part of Gretl in The Sound of Music at what would later be my high school in West Linn, Oregon. I landed the part, and from that time forward knew I would study and have a career in music. The following years brought piano lessons, violin lessons, voice lessons, dozens of choirs, dozens of musicals, and finally the opportunity to study music at Brigham Young University.

Music has always been a way for me to connect with my emotions. My family can attest that I’m not a very sentimental person, nor prone to crying, but play one measure of Pavarotti singing out “Mimi!” at the end of La Bohéme, and I weep every time.  When I was 23, after returning home from living in Italy for 18 months as a missionary, my parents took me to hear a small chamber ensemble perform my favorite song, “Appalachian Spring” by Aaron Copland. It had been a while since I’d been able to hear live music, and I was moved to tears. It was a concert I will never forget.

After graduating with a BA in music, I got a job as an elementary music teacher. Since I designed the curriculum, we always listened to and learned about composers from Bach to Bernstein. I loved seeing my students’ excitement as they learned to recognize a certain composer or a certain instrument. When my husband and I started our family, I wasted no time introducing our kids to classical music. By the time our son was three years old, he could hear one measure of “The Four Seasons” and stand up on his chair and shout, “It’s Vivaldi!” He’s 15 now, and along with our two daughters, fills our house with the sounds of Debussy on the piano.

In January of this year, my husband and I had the opportunity to travel to Los Angeles to hear one of our favorite singers, Juan Diego Flórez. He performed music from Gluck to Puccini and every single song was exquisite. My favorite was a piece I’d not heard before by Édouard Lalo from his opera Le Roi d’Ys called “Vainement, ma bien aimée.” This time I stood on my chair and shouted, “Bravo! Encore!” When I returned home, I went back and listened to that song again and again which is what I like to do until a new song becomes a part of me.

People may not think of classical music as something that can both bring you to tears and make you stand up and shout, but for me it has always been just that. I hope it always will.