DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!


Jun 22 2012

ShareReads: Alice’s Piano

by Ken M

I just finished Alice’s Piano, a biography of the concert pianist, Alice Herz-Sommer, who is now the oldest living Holocaust survivor. Her remarkable story is one of determination, triumph and optimism.  This is one of two recently acquired titles about Ms. Herz-Sommer.

Alice was one of twins, and part of a musical family. All the sisters in her family learned to play the piano, and her brother was a violinist. After evening meals, the family often made music together, and word of these musicales spread throughout her town. She received fine musical training at the German Musical Academy in Prague, headed by Alexander von Zemlinsky (a prize pupil of Johannes Brahms, and later the friend and brother-in-law of Arnold Schoenberg). Alice made her debut playing the Chopin E-minor concerto with the Czech Philharmonic, and gave many concerts, including radio broadcasts; she was also highly regarded as a teacher.

After the Germans occupied Czechoslovakia, she was sent to Theresienstadt, along with her husband, Leopold, and their very young son, Stephan. Her talents were already well known upon her arrival, both to guards and prisoners alike. She was expected to continue to practice and give concerts in the camp; while she did, she strove to give her young son as normal a life as possible.  She made a project of mastering all the Chopin etudes, gradually performing them in groups, and then as a whole concert made up of both books. She gave weekly concerts from her copious repertoire, and brought temporary solace and even joy to all those who heard her.

After the war, Alice taught at the Jerusalem Conservatory.  Stephan took the Hebrew name, Raphael, and took up the cello, becoming a fine artist and teacher himself, and living and working in Great Britain. Alice followed him there years later.

Though it might seem like it, I really haven’t told you everything about Alice and her family. She’s a wise and optimistic person, who cares as much for people as she does for music. She’s still with us, beloved by friends in at least eight countries. I hope you can make time in the near future for her inspiring life story.


Mar 11 2008

Learn to Play an Instrument!

by Chris S

Music has been one of my passions since I was a small child, making up songs about space travel, dinosaurs, and the like.  In fifth grade I learned to play the trombone and stayed with it (despite the “band nerd” label) all the way through high school.  I also started playing acoustic guitar in 8th grade, and have continued that ever since, occasionally accompanying group singing or performing, but most often playing at home for my own enjoyment.  My wife and I recently acquired a very nice piano from my mother-in-law, and we both have the goal of learning to play well and teaching our children the same.  Music can add a wonderful dimension to your life, and using the library can help you learn an instrument.

Total Keyboard – a ten lesson introduction to learning piano or electronic keyboard with chapters on MIDI (computer) recording.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Playing Piano – no experience required.  Starts from the very beginning and guides you through the basics of music notation and the keyboard.  Includes a CD.

Bass Guitar for Dummies – learn how to provide the foundation of the modern pop/rock/jazz/funk band with a bass

Acoustic Guitar Songs for Dummies – the best way to learn is not (only) practicing scales and learning theory, but by playing songs you actually like.  Really just learning to play 3 or 4 chords can give you a large repertoire.  Just ask Johnny Cash or the Ramones!  (Or for a better response, a living person – but you get the idea!).  🙂

Don’t be shy about it.  Learn to play something!  And use your library to help you get started.

Oh, and there’s an entertaining article in this morning’s New York Times by mystery author Alexander McCall Smith about amateur musicians.

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