Journal logo

My Musical Education

Part 1

By Dr. Randy KaplanPublished 2 years ago 6 min read
Photo by Dayne Topkin on Unsplash

When I was young, perhaps five or six, my parents saw fit to enroll me in a musical program at a famous music school in South Philadelphia named the Settlement Music School. The program they enrolled me in was a class for kids to play the recorder.

Photo courtesy of veneto.landd

My parents felt like nothing they said I had to do needed any explanation, and I needed to do what they said and not question it. After all, they were making another sacrifice for me. They had to pay for me to attend the program.

I will point out that when I became a parent, I always explained to my kids why I thought it would be good for them to do what I suggested. My kids were never TOLD what to do. It was always their choice.

My life was quite different than the one I wanted for my son and daughter A attended the Settlement music school for three or four years, eventually becoming a competent recorder player. Of course, the recorder was a renaissance instrument. The recorder is not used in present-day orchestras. It is primarily used for concerts focusing on the baroque or renaissance periods. At the end of my time at Settlement, I couldn’t do anything with my musical education thus far. My parents had sent me to what was, at the time, a dead end.

Don’t get me wrong. That education served to teach me about the basics of music. That was important for what was to come next in my musical career.

In the third grade, I was able to join the school orchestra. The problem was that I had to choose an instrument to play. The choice of the instrument came by way of the orchestra conductor. His recommendation was for me to play the saxophone.

Photo courtesy of

There I was, a small kid given a full-size saxophone in a full-size saxophone case. I had to carry that thing from home to school several times a week. We lived about three city blocks from school. It was not a long walk. The saxophone was heavy, and carrying it was causing some pain in my groin. My mother went crazy over that, ending my career as a saxophone player.

Although the orchestra conductor was upset that I was quitting the saxophone, he was not upset about my possible injury. He was upset that now he had to find another saxophone player. He had a very difficult life.

I was disappointed that I did not have an instrument to play. As luck would have it, one of the kids who was going to play the cello dropped out, and the orchestra leader asked if I wanted to try the cello. The cello was physically larger than the saxophone. I wondered what my mother would think when I walked into the house with a cello.

It turned out that the cello was lighter than the saxophone. It was just bulkier. Taking up the cello began my musical education as a cello player.

Perhaps the best thing that happened was that I met my lifelong friend William. Of course, I didn’t know he would be my lifelong friend. I would have to live a life to know that. I am 66 now, and William is still my good friend.

Among all the people I’ve known in my lifetime, William is the one person who was my best friend. We did everything together. Playing cello was a small part of everything we did.

William was very educated and intelligent. While we were growing up, I felt he was always more intelligent than me. One of the things he knew quite a bit about was music and playing the cello. It was through his knowledge that I learned about classical music. While I was growing up, classical music became my favorite kind of music.

Although the orchestra played many different kinds of music, sometimes we would play Bach and Vivaldi. I loved the music of this period because it was so mathematically precise. It put me at peace with myself. As I began accumulating a record collection, music by Bach, Telemann, Vivaldi, Purcell, and Handel was prevalent among my records.

From second grade through eighth grade, I played the cello. In junior high school, a dramatic shift was about to occur in my musical upbringing. My teacher at the time, Ms. Hagemann, was my music and cello teacher. She noticed that I wasn’t improving in my cello playing.

Photo courtesy of

Ms. Hagemann was sensible; one day, she asked if I had ever practiced. After lots of tears on my part, I told her that I didn’t practice. So ended my cello playing. That was tough for me because it was a monumental failure. Until then, there was practically nothing that I ever failed. The cello was one of my first failures in school. It was heartbreaking for me.

Around the time the cello and I parted ways, two things happened. The first was that Ms. Hagemann was awarded a grant from the Ford Foundation to start a program for a new kind of music. The program involved setting up the first electronic music lab in the country in a junior high school. I didn’t know what electronic music was until I heard the music of Walter Carlos.

The music of Walter Carlos is quite old. It originated in the 1960s. At the time I was introduced to it, it was brand new. Walter Carlos produced the first all-Bach music album. All of the music on this record was made by a Moog synthesizer. The Moog synthesizer was the great granddaddy of a new kind of instrument. It was an instrument that produced music through electronics.

I should point out that music was also changing in the 1960s. It was the time, for example, when John Cage was experimenting with radically different forms of music. For instance, in one concert, he was known to have an audience sit and listen to only environmental sounds. Cage’s work shook my understanding of music.

There have been dramatic changes in technology and music since synthesizers were introduced.

The sound produced by a synthesizer was entirely artificial. A single Moog synthesizer could replicate an entire orchestra. You could create that orchestra by overlaying track after track of music for each instrument. I was blown away by what you could do with a Moog synthesizer.

The founder of the company that made the synthesizer was Robert A. Moog. The Moog Company is based in North Carolina. Mr. Moog is no longer alive, but he did leave an indelible mark on music and musical production. I never met him (Ms. Hagemann knew him), but I surmised from how she described him that he was a genius in electronics, sound, and music. The components of his synthesizer were renowned, and his company’s successors continued to produce synthesizers with similar elements built from modern technology.

Photo courtesy of of Robert A. Moog and the Moog Synthesizer

The grant Ms. Hagemann received was given to her and the junior high school to equip a laboratory for experimentation in electronic music specifically for junior high school students. This lab would be the first such lab of its time in a school that served in a very diverse school district. Keep in mind this was the 1960s, and this particular school was unique. To be selected to participate was quite an honor. This laboratory was the beginning of the next phase of my musical education.

Although Part 1 of this story is complete, this story is not yet finished. There is more to come. Part 2 will be coming soon. I hope you enjoyed the history of my experience. Thank you for reading.


Well, that's about it for this article. There will be more to come.

STAY TUNED FOR PART 2 — Build a Lab, Traveling, and Teaching

If you have any questions or want to comment on this article, please feel free to do so. I would appreciate your comments and questions. You can reach me by leaving a response to this article.


About the Creator

Dr. Randy Kaplan

Welcome to my Vocal page and storicles that are published here. I write about tech, the human condition, and anything else that interests me.

Enjoyed the story?
Support the Creator.

Subscribe for free to receive all their stories in your feed. You could also pledge your support or give them a one-off tip, letting them know you appreciate their work.

Subscribe For FreePledge Your Support

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insight

  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

Add your insights

Comments (1)

  • Karen Mengel about a year ago

    Lovely story.

Dr. Randy KaplanWritten by Dr. Randy Kaplan

Find us on social media

Miscellaneous links

  • Explore
  • Contact
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use
  • Support

© 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.