Friday, March 30, 2012

Right Back At Ya

I was shocked to bring up a website the other day and see my very own face staring back at me. I instantly grabbed my cell phone to text my son, because there was his face was right next to mine on the screen.

You may remember that two years ago, our family found ourselves in a situation where we needed to ask for some help. Thanks to the Modest Needs Foundation, we received it and my son was provided with an opportunity that gave him a strong start in college, a place that once seemed out of reach for him.

When I say our Modest Needs experience was a gift I’ll never forget, it’s as much about how a generous act can turn one’s life around as it is about the monetary help we received.

So when Modest Needs Executive Director Keith Taylor asked if we'd mind being featured on their redesigned website, I happily agreed. (A professional photo shoot that included an incredibly talented television biz make-up artist? Why, I’d be happy to oblige!) A couple months went by and we hadn’t heard whether our story would be selected to be featured on the home page.

Then suddenly, there we are. Along with a fashionably hip new look, Modest Needs has also invested in technology to make it easier to find your way around the website, search applications, and process your donation to a specific deserving person you’d like to help. It’s a unique model of charitable giving, legitimate and highly rated, and the most personal way I know to do some good in the world.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

“Excuse Me, How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall?”

Blog inspiration grabs me in the funniest places.

At the symphony, for example.

Like many a musical child, I remember being taught that Ludwig van Beethoven had become completely deaf by the time he composed his most magnificent symphonies. He never heard so much as a single note of his most famous pieces.

So why did I get goosebumps as I sat next to my own musical daughter and heard the tale yet again from Philadelphia Orchestra Assistant Conductor Cristian Macelaru at a recent preconcert talk? Because life experience now gives such stories deeply personal perspective.

Maestro Macelaru described how, when Beethoven realized there was no reversing his descent into silence, he began to fill notebook after notebook with simple scales. The composer was contemplating suicide. But, as Beethoven wrote, “it seemed impossible to leave the world until I had brought forth all that I felt was within me.” And so he toiled for days upon end to commit perfectly to memory each distinct tone of every musical scale.

If not for the simple scales transcribed like a beginner student, there would be no Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Or Beethoven’s Third, which describes through instrumental music his struggles with failing health and which he called “The Heroic Symphony.”

It was completed not long after his return from a respite in the German town of Heiligenstadt where he penned a secret letter to his brothers, revealed to them after his death. (Don’t leave until you’ve read it here.)

So how did Beethoven (or at least his music) get to Carnegie Hall? “Practice, my dear. Practice.”