You could call me a “Jack-of-All-Trades,” or maybe even a Polymath, if you're being generous. As far back as grade school, I was very interested in music; my two older sisters studied piano, and my parents had fairly eclectic tastes in music, so I was exposed at a young age to a variety of musical styles.


I saw my first opera in 2nd or 3rd grade; it was Puccini's Madama Butterfly, performed (probably in English translation) at the University of Texas at El Paso, in 1966 or 1967. It would be nice to say I was bowled over by it, but I remember only spending a pleasant Sunday afternoon in the theater listening to pretty music, and that I really liked the lighting effects--no doubt the portrayal of dawn on Cio-Cio-San's last morning at the start of Act III.


Several years after that, my older sister received the two-LP set of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar as a birthday gift, and of course the whole family sat down in the living room to listen to it. It was at this point that I was “gobsmacked,” as the British say. Hearing a story with which I was very familiar told entirely through music was a revelatory experience. Around the same time, we were watching (as a family) the Sonny and Cher Variety Show on television, and practically each week they would do an extended musical skit, with sets and costumes, and usually humorous or melodramatic stories. This added the visual elements to my budding interest in storytelling through music.


When I was in the eighth grade I received a cassette recorder for Christmas. I became obsessed with recording plays, including a greatly shortened version of Hamlet that appeared in the weekly Scholastic magazine.


There was also a short dramatized version of “The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone,” a Sherlock Holmes story, that my sister and I recorded, playing the different parts and trying not to laugh at what must have been horrible British accents. We included music cues, since the plot hinged on a phonograph recording of Holmes' violin playing fooling the criminal at a crucial point in the plot.

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