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Thalia Book Club Camp offers up-close interaction with renowned children's book authors and illustrators, book discussions, and book-related field trips around the city. This blog follows the camp's activities.

The Musical that Changed My Life

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Published on April 9, 2009

Getting ready for Wall to Wall Broadway, we’re asking people to name The Musical that Changed Your Life. Isaiah asked me, and my answer was immediate: West Side Story. I was about ten or eleven years old, slogging through the usual beginner/intermediate piano repertoire with my wonderful teacher, Hadassah Sahr. I was not a particularly inspired piano student, to say the least. Until one day, she presented me with the piano score for West Side Story. I fell in love with it and would play practically nothing else for the next year. The rest of my family probably once loved this music, too, but after 12 months of unrelenting “Tonight,” “Maria,” “Somewhere,” “Something’s Coming,” etc., I think they haven’t been ready to hear it again until the current revival—and I won’t say how many years that’s been.

Sometime near the end of my playing-it-to-death period, my parents’ old friend Schuyler Chapin came over for drinks one night. And who did he have in tow? Leonard Bernstein! As I might have said then: OH. MY. GOD. And…they asked me to play a couple of numbers for him. Well, you can imagine the terror, and the thrill.

So how did this change my life? In my idolatry, I soon moved on to other Bernstein music, and then to other music that Bernstein played and conducted, and on and on. I studied conducting in college, but didn’t have much—or enough—actual musical talent. So I decided to follow in the footsteps of my other role model, Schuyler Chapin. Full circle. Luckily, the arts management career choice has turned out pretty well.

So how about you? What musical changed your life? We’re anxious to hear all your stories!


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