John Lennon’s mother, Julia, played the ukulele, the piano accordion and the banjo, John’s first instrument. Julia bought her son a guitar but as John had difficulty learning chords, she taught him banjo and ukulele chords, which were simpler.
Jim McCartney, Paul’s dad, taught himself to play the piano and towards the end of the First World War, he started a swing band with his brother, Jack, on trombone. Jim also played the trumpet for a while. He encouraged his two sons to take up music by buying instruments for them to learn.
Louis Armstrong from the age of 7 lived with the family of Lithuanian Jews, the Karnoffsky’s. Mrs Karnoffsky used to sing lullabies to him at night in Yiddish and Russian. Morris Karnoffsky gave Louis an advance towards the purchase of a cornet from a pawn shop.
Abe Zimmerman, Bob Dylan’s father was a musician. He played in a band with his brother, Jack and sister, Marion. Bob Dylan’s mother, Beatrice Stone, was from a musical family and learnt to play the piano.
Leopold Mozart’s influence on his son, Wolfgang, is well known. Ludwig Beethoven began his studies with his father, a practising musician, at the age of 8. He was also taught the violin and the viola by his cousin.
Bach’s parents were musicians. Bach’s father was director of the town musicians and court trumpeter and his uncles all held professional posts as trumpeters, organists, court musicians, and composers. Bach’s mother died in 1694, when Bach was 9, and his father died eight months later.
The 10-year-old Bach moved in with his eldest brother, Johann Christoph Bach, an organist. He received valuable teaching from his brother, who instructed him on the clavichord.
Wayne Marshall’s parents (from Barbados) were musical. His mother would often play the family piano and her young 3 year old son, Wayne was a keen listener. He played purely by ear, listening attentively to what he heard and reproducing it on the keyboard. “It was the foundation of my instrument and my musicianship. All my improvising, all my listening by ear, really helped me as an organist. Most instrumentalists will start to learn by reading music, which is a big mistake. I would teach them by making them play on their own without music. The problem with
the reading approach is that its not developing the ear.”
Wayne Marshall has also something to say about communication: “I think it is so important to speak to an audience during a recital. Music is a language and it has to be communicated in a way that people understand.”
The famous Kanneh-Mason children, Isata, Braimah, Sheku, Konya, Jeneba, Aminata and Mariatu were surrounded by the sound of music at an early age. Both parents played musical instruments to a high standard but never pursued professional careers.
Jacqueline du Pre, when she was 4 years old, heard on the radio a cello being played and said to her mother: “Mummy, can I have one of those?