Life in Harmony
Igrew up with three siblings. My little brother, Craig, was only a year and two months younger, so we were almost like twins, sharing a room through high school and doing just about everything together. One of our musical rituals as little kids centered on our parents’ LP collection. We’d switch on the turntable and “rock” to our (or rather, our parents’) favorite songs―I remember taking Sergio Mendes and Herb Alpert for frequent spins. Even then we were extremely picky about which tracks got played. With our own collection of 45s, songs not making the grade got mercilessly marked up with pencil (the labels, grooves or both), which didn’t go over too well with the folks. On the plus side, it did demonstrate the passion behind our musical tastes.
The teenage years brought diverging musical tastes. I took up the piano and became obsessed with Mozart and Beethoven, while Craig went deep into heavy metal and plastered our bedroom wall with posters of Ozzy Osbourne and Def Leppard.
It was an epic confrontation, neither of us budging. It was also a reflection of trying to figure out who we are and who we want to be, learning to deal with internal and external conflicts. Our eventual departures for college resolved the situation, at least temporarily. But it took quite a few years before Craig and I could look back and laugh.
It turned out that music continued to play a central role in our lives, and the teenage musical dogmatism we practiced gradually gave way to expanding musical boundaries and an attitude of open-mindedness. Over the years Craig and I grew close again, not only in our relationship as brothers, but also in our mutual appreciation for music. Not surprisingly, the two seemed to go hand in hand.
Our most recent conversations always pivoted to music. Last year we were talking by phone and texting about how much his beloved dog Molly had enjoyed listening to Celtic Woman’s
Destiny album. Molly had died recently and so Craig was having a difficult time listening to those songs. But he told me which tracks I should check out. So I did … and it created another wonderful musical bond between us.
Our last musical connection came about from another sad event. Our mother had passed away in 2016 and I composed an elegy for violin and piano. I played it for Craig, and later he kept telling me he wanted to hear it again. I had just sent him the score so he could play it back in the notation program. It was the last thing we talked about before he died suddenly.
I know that Craig would have agreed that music is one of the things that makes life worth living, as it brought him so much joy, something that can bring us all closer together as we undertake this wonderful yet uncertain journey. Pianist, instructor and musicologist Erik Entwistle received an undergraduate degree in music from Dartmouth College. He earned a post-graduate degree in piano performance at Washington University in St. Louis. He earned his doctorate in musicology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He teaches on Sanibel.