Why Music? – Tom Stone

Cypress Quartet second violinist, Tom Stone, talks about his formative musical experiences of his youth. "When I was a young boy, I always enjoyed playing music. I never liked practicing but I always liked music. I always did this for the genuine love of playing, and not for some kind of more career-oriented ambition. I remember the summer I was 17, I went to Tanglewood to participate in the orchestra and I had a life-changing summer. When I was there, our orchestra was conducted by Leonard Bernstein and we played Brahm’s First Symphony, Candide overture and Barber’s Adagio for Strings. I will never forget experience of sitting Assistant Concertmaster and being just a foot away from Bernstein in those orchestra rehearsals. His charisma and his passion for music were intoxicating. The connection we had as musicians with him as a conductor was incredibly personal. He really was engaging with the orchestra and sharing music with all of us. It was an amazing experience. That same summer, I also worked with Eugene Lehner, who was the violist of the important Kolisch Quartet in Vienna, and who premiered a lot of important music. I was playing in an honors quartet there and coached with Mr. Lehner every week for two months on a Beethoven quartet, eventually performaning it. Lehner was actually Bobby Mann’s mentor, of the Julliard Quartet. I only knew him as a sweet and gentle and elderly man. I didn’t understand the importance of his status in history, or as a legendary performer and teacher of the Viennese tradition of chamber music. Yet I remember his coachings vividly. I remember the sound of his voice and how he would sing different passages of music in order to show us what he was looking for. I remember how he described music with words in the most creative and imaginary way. We were just captivated in those coachings. Looking back at them, I learned so much, and it was such a pleasant experience and I am so happy that I didn’t have the pressure. I just enjoyed it in the most youthful and innocent way. That summer, my violin teacher was a member of the Boston Symphony, who had just joined the orchestra as a young man. He told me that if I practiced really hard, I could play in an orchestra when I grew up. If I learned up my excerpts that I could play in an orchestra like the Boston Symphony if I worked very very hard. All three of those experiences happened that summer in Tanglewood. I also forged many important friendships with people at Tanglewood, many of whom are professional musicians today with whom I have stayed in touch with from time to time. That was the moment that I understood that I could be a musician if I wanted to. I learned from Lehner how to be a musician and I learned from Bernstein why to be a musician. I learned how powerful music can be - and what a force for humanity.

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