Inside: Fathers can powerfully influence their children in many ways. Here are two world-renowned musicians who were impacted musically by their fathers. These fathers paved the way through encouragement and love which resulted in their sons’ musical successes. And about my father who in very simple ways influenced his children to have a love and appreciation for music.
A Father’s Music & Influence
Do you have a parent that influenced you musically? One that encouraged you to practice your instrument and supported you during the rough years of learning a musical instrument?
During these beginning years of learning a musical instrument—parents can be a HUGE influence—mothers and fathers both!
There are many books, articles, and essays written on a mother’s influence on her children. But, there are also stirring examples of a father’s influence on his children, too—even a musical influence.
Two fathers of famous musical sons are Hiao-Tsiun Ma—father of world-renowned cellist, Yo-Yo Ma, and Ellis Marsalis, Jr.—the father of famed trumpeter Wynton Marsalis.
Both of these men had a powerful musical influence on their sons. You will discover that neither father pushed, screamed, prodded or pressured their sons like Mozart’s and Beethoven’s fathers—they lead by kind and gentle example
Here are their stories…
A Father’s Music & Influence: Hiao-Tsiun Ma—the father of Yo-Yo Ma
Hiao-Tsiun Ma is the father of Yo-Yo Ma—the most famous and renowned cellist in the world.
The elder Ma was a violinist and professor of music at Nanjing National Central University. He was an impressive example of support and encouragement to his famous son, Yo-Yo Ma.
Yo-Yo Ma began playing the cello at age four, and six months later he was playing Bach suites.
His father taught him the cello and was careful not to put too much pressure on his young son. In fact, he insisted that young Ma practice only 30 minutes a day, learning only two measures of music, but playing them technically perfect.
By following this system, he had memorized three Bach suites at the young age of seven.
When Ma was fourteen, it was obvious to people in the music business in New York that he was virtuoso material, but his father wanted his son to be “normal.” Therefore, Ma did not enter competitions, and he rarely gave concerts.
He said, “My father wanted us to be educated, good people first, and musicians second.”
It was while he was at Harvard University pursuing a liberal arts degree that he began to realize how very important music was in his life. It became clear to him that his first desire and priority was music.
Today, he is internationally recognized as one of the greatest cellists in the world.
His father, Hiao-Tsiun Ma also saw his son’s talent. But he chose to support Yo-Yo with kindness and gently guided him. Unlike some fathers of virtuosos (i.e. Mozart’s father), Hiao-Tsiun knew when to encourage and how and when to support. He practiced what he taught his son—educated, good people first, musician second.
Clearly, this technique worked because he raised a good son, an educated son, AND a virtuoso.
A Father’s Music & Influence: Ellis Marsalis Jr., the father of Wynton Marsalis
Another example of a father’s influence and support for his musical son is Ellis Marsalis Jr.—the father of Wynton Marsalis—the famous jazz/classical musician.
Wynton was raised in a musical home. His father was an accomplished jazz musician who played the piano and came from a long line of talented musicians.
Wynton was 6 years old when he started to play the trumpet. His father did not force him to practice, but rather encouraged his young son and made lessons available to him.
When Wynton turned twelve, he realized that music was something he loved and he began practicing diligently every day with his father’s loving support. He learned about “shedding” which is what jazz musicians call “burning the midnight oil” and practicing hard. He began “shedding” up to 6 hours each day.
With serious dedication and the support of his parents—particularly his father—Wynton Marsalis has become a nationally renowned musician.
If you want to introduce your children to an enchanting story that incorporates music check out: “Listen to the Storyteller.” It is a trio of musical tales from around the world.
The first, “The Fiddler and the Dancin’ Witch” is composed and narrated by Wynton Marsalis with Joshua Bell on the violin.
It has all the trappings of a fairytale and is about a young boy named Simeon who loves music and loves listening to his father play a magic fiddle. But, this magic fiddle calls out a witch and then strange things begin to happen…get the CD to find out the interesting end of this enchanting tale!
A Father’s Music and Influence: Musical Memories of my Dad
This last story is about my own father—a man who supported me musically at a very young age and although I’m a very mediocre musician—my dad’s musical influence made a huge impact on my life.
My father, Max C. Peck was born in 1918. He was raised in humble circumstances but was given piano lessons and learned to play both by reading the notes and playing “by ear.” He learned many pieces from the great classical composers but he loved the big band era most of all. Those are the pieces of music I remember him playing.
During World War II, he was enlisted in the Army Air Force as a radio operator for B-25 bombers.
He married my mother in 1947 and together they had eight children.
For some reason, my dad instinctively knew that music and children created a duet so he made certain that all 8 of his children had music lessons until they left for college. This was a big sacrifice because my father was a blue-collar worker (he worked in an open-pit mine) and money was scarce.
I started playing the piano at age five. My piano teacher, Mrs. Robinson, told my parents to stop wasting their money on lessons for me because I was not going to amount to anything musically. It was my father, who noticed that I loved music, and felt that I should continue…with another teacher. Another teacher was found and I continued playing the piano.
I doubt seriously that if my father had not observed my love for music and saw to it that I continued with music lessons, I would not have graduated with an undergraduate degree in the arts, started a community orchestra, and wrote a book about music.
I owe a debt of gratitude to my dad—for his consistent encouragement of my musical endeavors, for attending my recitals, and for those steady pats on the back! Thank you, Dad!
My Father’s Music and Influence Continues
One memory that stands out in my mind is about a certain piece of music my father always played.
We had an old black upright piano that “lived” in our basement. It was the piano that my siblings and I learned to play on. Occasionally, my father would go downstairs and play a certain tune on the piano. We would all race downstairs and hover over my dad while he played. The best part? Watching my dad’s smiling face and the laughter in his voice as he played away!
Thanks, dad for this fun musical memory—and by the way—I’d really like to know the name of that piece of music!
On October 5, 2013, my father died at the age of 95. He was an example to our family for his love of the arts, his kindness, and patience, his love for his country, and his love for his family.
Fathers can be a strong musical influence on their children as shown by these three examples. Hiao-Tsiun Ma and Ellis Marsalis, Jr. saw their sons grow up to be accomplished musicians. My father saw me grow up to have a love for music. Either way–fathers can make lasting musical impressions on their children by paving the way with love and support.
What is your musical story? Was it a parent, a grandparent, or someone else that influenced you or your children musically? Please share in the comment section below.