Firinn Taisdeal


When I was a little boy, my parents sent me to a music teacher, a stern woman named Madame Maxwell. After only a few sessions, Madame Maxwell told my mother that I had extraordinary hearing, and was musically gifted. The response of my parents was swift and thorough; they removed me from the music school, and never spoke of it again.

In elementary school, I was completely unable to learn to read music. The explanations of musical notation made no sense to me. I just couldn't learn what they tried to teach me. This was very frustrating, and given that I had been removed from the music school with no explanation, I was convinced I was not only without musical talent, but had a learning disability.

But when I was sixteen, a strange thing happened. I discovered a supplement on musical notation in the back of the Random House dictionary, and in a single hour taught myself how to read music. Then something even stranger happened. I picked up a piece of music, and when I looked at it, I could hear everything. Not only that, but I could remember everything of the music I had just seen, and heard in my mind. I then went to the piano, with which I had no experience, having never had lessons. In another hour, I taught myself the beginning of a Mozart sonata, from music I was suddenly able to read.

I was stunned, and completely baffled. Clearly, I had a gift. But how could I have had no knowledge at all of this gift for the first sixteen years of my life? Then I wondered: How many other people have gifts of which they are unaware?

I went on to study piano with a truly excellent teacher named Peter Baner, a graduate of Juilliard and the Paris Conservatory. In a single year I attained advanced technique, and continued to develop both musically and in terms of technique such that now I periodically give concerts. As an example, here is my concert from September, 2012, a program of Scarlatti, Bach, Chopin, Brahms and Scriabin in the Steinway showroom in San Francisco.

While most of my involvement with music has been with European art music, commonly known through the misnomer "classical music," I grew up on rock and roll, and love music of all different kinds. What I don't like at all—despise in fact—are the shallow, phony, vapid songs being produced in such profusion these days. The art of musical composition is in a terrible state these days, as are all the arts, as is all of culture.

What are we going to do about it?

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