Sunday, March 2, 2014

I’ve got the music in me!

I’ll admit it – I took piano lessons for years as I child and I’m pretty sure the only song I could play today would be Chopsticks.  Why did my parents force us to play?  And why didn’t I take advantage of all those years of practicing and do something with it?

Playing a musical instrument has, apparently, been passed on for several generations in my family.  My dad not only played the piano and the organ but he also played the accordion.  I know he took piano lessons as a kid, probably why we were made to carry on the tradition.  I can just imagine him practicing on this piano that was in the living room of my grandparents’ home.  I remember after Grandma passed away there was a lot of discussion about what to do with the piano – I think it ended up being sold since no one had room for it.

Loraine Piano

My dad took organ lessons his entire adult life until just a few years before he died.  I remember on lesson nights we’d be banished to our rooms – or at least away from the organ – while he worked through all of his musical pieces with the instructor.

Here’s his beloved organ – it broke my heart to know it sold for just $300 at the estate sale last year.  I am happy, however, to know that a couple with two young children took it home so now I can visualize (as my dad loved to say) a new generation of organ players.

My daughters loved to sit with Grandpa while he played and they have so many wonderful memories of the sounds filling the house.  I’m sure they wished they could grow taller so they could work the pedals themselves.

Gordon playing organ

Sometimes the piano or organ was used for something other than music – often times it was a seat used to pose for pictures!  Here’s me with my dad in the late 1980’s.


We were so happy that our life long friends, and Mom and Dad’s next door neighbors, took the piano for their daughter and her family after Mom passed away.  Now their grandchildren will learn to play on the same piano I sat at for all of those years.

And who else in my family played a musical instrument?  My second great grandmother, Bertha Schwartz Gunzendorfer.  I’m sure you’re wondering how I can know that?  Because look what I found!

Look at this treasure!  This is the first page you see when you open the book.

I can’t quite figure this book out – this looks like a Table of Contents but when I look further into the book, nothing corresponds with this.  I’m wondering if she bought different sheet music and compiled them in a book.

I found this one very interesting.  Not that I can read any of this language but if you look real closely, the stamp at the bottom says “A. Waldteufel Music Store, First & Fountain Street, San Jose”.  That may not be too exciting to anyone else but since I was born and raised in San Jose, this little tidbit is newsworthy!

There are many pages of music included in the book – here’s an example.

I can just imagine Bertha (aka Birdie) sitting at a piano (or other musical instrument) practicing her music. 

Bertha Schwartz c 1878
Bertha Schwartz, c. 1878

Sadly, I think the music gene has ceased to exist in me.  My girls both played the flute as they were growing up but that, too, has ended.  Maybe one day one of my descendants will take Birdie’s book, practice for hours and fill their home with music.


  1. Debi, I adore that photo of you and your dad. It is a really wonderful one. This post tracing music in your family was fun to read. Bertha is beautiful.

  2. Oh, Debi, those estate sale results can be painful to consider. We are going through that very same thing with my aunt's home in Ohio right now, and her beautiful things are getting bids of pennies on the dollar at the online auction. She had an organ much like your dad's, though she sold it years ago--hopefully for something closer to what it was truly worth, and to someone who would love to play it.

    Your photos today were a treat, and that music book a treasure. The cover page may have been more of an advertisement of other music available for sale than a table of contents. I have seen old music like that.

    True confessions: I, too, had to endure those accordion lessons! I'm with your girls: flute lessons were my preference.

    1. Our goal with the estate sale was to dispose of anything we didn't want (and there was a lot!) without having to do the work and not have to pay anything to haul it away. We succeeded with that goal (even put some money in our pockets) but it was hard knowing so much was virtually given away. Thankfully, we weren't there to see it happen.

  3. While music lessons are a luxury, they are also important in so many ways, and I don't mean just to learn to play. My girls took piano until they got into orchestra in school (I let them quit piano since they were still getting music education). I took piano as a kid too but can't play anything today. It's true: if you don't use it, you lose it.

  4. Musical talent is something I do not have. Fortunately our children got it from my husband. We also have a 1929 piano passed down through his family. Our oldest daughter, who loves music, knows the piano will be hers next.

  5. What warm and wonderful pictures! Your love for your family shines through. I look forward to learning more about them and you. Thanks for following my blog as well.

  6. Loved your post! How nice that your dad took piano lessons as an adult. I have been kicking the idea around myself. :)