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Sharing Memories Of Music And Nearly A Century With Barbara Rice
photo providedBarbara Rice looks at life through her favorite lens of music. With a grin she suggested we share with all Valley Voice readers her secret to longevity. " Age is a number, " shared Barbara. " Pick one and forget it, but never stop playing music!"
photo providedPlaying from memory at the Christmas Eve care home where she resides, Barbara shows not her 98 years of age, but her devotion to the piano and the classics that she studied as a child and at Julliard.
Tuesday January 14, 2014
By Cookie Steponaitis
When Barbara Rice was born on a crisp April 19th morning in 1915 her Vermont home and community was abuzz with activity. The only child of a farm family, Barbara joined mother Lou and father Clifford on a Randolph farm that boasted Jersey cows with as Barb explained it, “the most gentle eyes that would shine with a luminosity and heart.” Spending time with them was one of her greatest joys as a child and part of a wonderful set of double discoveries that occurred when she was but six years old.
“I always had a good time with the cows,” reminisced Barbara. “I would go out with my father into the barn and do what he did. I remember showing him proudly that at six years old I could milk. After a bit of shock on his face he saw I was telling the truth and my milking routine began.” It was in that same summer that Barbara began the other love affair that would continue through her life and be the soundtrack of her 98th New Year’s Eve, music.
“My aunt Sylvia studied in Canada and was a superb classical pianist,” shared Barbara. “She started me at the piano when I was six and was my teacher up until my high school years. She taught me not only to love music but to see and feel it as well. More than just notes on a page the classic pianists put their souls into the pieces and created music that captured feeling. The piano and I would be partners for life.” While growing up Barbara and her family moved several times. Her mother was a school teacher and her father was not only a farmer but a superintendent of schools and changing schools became common for Barbara and her anchor point was always her music.
Barbara crossed paths in high school with a music teacher who would not only become her mentor but later in life her husband as well. Blind, he nonetheless was a superb teacher and took Barbara to the next level of her technical ability and her understanding of the dynamic intensity in classical music. Barbara, as a graduate of the Julliard School of Music continued to play classical music on a number of different levels her whole life. While she performed on stages across America, her love was church, choral music and theater. Barbara not only inherited a passion for music but a love of all music from her family, taught piano in the Rochester area and to this day considers playing her greatest joy. Barbara, seated at the piano on Christmas Eve at the retirement home she lives in played from memory and gave the other residents a window into how a lifelong love of music looks still at 98.
“I’m not 98, I’m 30,” joked Barbara. “Really, age is a number but I must admit at this point mine can sometimes get the best of me. When I play music I really am going from memory because my vision will not let me read sheet music anymore. It is so wonderful that music is in me and a part of me.” In a lifetime spanning almost a century Barbara has literally an endless repertoire of memories of events, politics and music to choose from, but for her it always comes back to family and music, music, music.
“My grandfather lived with us when I was growing up,” recollected Barbara. “He played in a band and I think we still have his snare drum. He fought in World War One and lost two or three of his fingers during a skirmish. While he wanted to return to the battle they would not let him. I remember him being released from the hospital in Montpelier and coming home.” Other memories of her early years include a summer when Mark Twain spent the summer on the farm and really was, “quite a handful. That man never got dressed,” grinned Barbara. “He just wandered around all day in his bathrobe and smoking big cigars. I truly can’t say I was enamored with him at all.”
A woman who has witnessed the rise of the modern age in America, Barbara really has a more rural perspective on how to live life and where to place her values. “Television, ok, I guess,” she smiled. “Airplanes, never really had much of a use for them. Man on the moon opening a frontier, sure but my advice to the generation coming up now is simple. Never stop the music, playing it, studying it and becoming one with it. And most importantly don’t leave out the classics. Today’s music is ok but it is not the challenge, the passion or the depth of classical. Look into those pieces for inspiration and for your power.” Barbara, with one last grin ended the conversation as it began with a smile and the words, “Never stop the music.”
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