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Pauline Lerner

Fathers, Daughters, and Music

June 18, 2008 at 4:50 AM


The father-daughter bond can be very strong, but so can the music-daughter bond. Here are a few true stories about people I’ve known and how they reacted when the two bonds conflicted.

The Record Collection

She had loved classical music since childhood, when she started taking piano lessons. By the time she reached high school, she played quite well, and she had a collection of records which she bought whenever she saved enough of her allowance money. (For younger readers: Vinyl records came before cassette tapes, which came before CDs, which came before mp3s.)

Her father was an alcoholic, and her home life could be downright miserable. One night her father came home roaring drunk and angry. He went for her record collection, pulled out the Beethoven records, which he knew were her favorites, hurled them against the wall, and smashed them all.

Years later she told me, “Even when he was totally drunk, he knew what I loved the most, and he had to destroy it.”

The Sheet Music Collection

She loved to sing. She never wanted to be a professional singer or even a voice major in college, but she took some voice lessons and sang for fun with groups whenever she had the chance. She stored her sheet music collection in her parents’ home until she had a home of her own. When she went back to get her sheet music, she couldn’t find it. Then her father told her that he had sold all her sheet music at a yard sale, and she was furious. Her father said, “I paid for your education, including your sheet music, so it’s all mine, and I can do whatever I want with it.” She was angry and hurt, and she tried to tell her father why, but he just kept saying “I paid for it. It was mine.”

Years later she told me, “After that, I continued to do what a good daughter is supposed to do. I call my parents on their birthdays, buy them presents for Mothers Day and Fathers Day, and visit them for Christmas. But it has never been the same, never the same at all.”

The Violin

As a child, she loved her violin and practiced hard. Her hard work was rewarded. She became the concertmistress of her high school orchestra and eventually the concertmistress of her small city’s symphony orchestra.

Her father was an alcoholic, mean, and universally hated. One night, in a drunken rage, he smashed her violin to bits. She was heartbroken. She never played again.

Years later, after she had died, her husband, who was a very dedicated amateur musician, told me that he had always wanted to play music with her, and she always refused. He was terribly disappointed. He never blamed her, though. He always blamed her father.

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