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“You’re the most own-drummer person I know”

Posted on August 5, 2012 at 09:59:26

Posts: 5437
Joined: April 7, 2002

Excerpt: Hersch is extremely reluctant to talk about his abilities, but Jamie has talked about them, publicly: If Michael heard a song, even once, he knew all the words, forever. And all the notes, forever. He could also draw things with photographic realism. Jamie was progressing on the French horn, and is, in fact, a professional today. He pestered his older brother to listen to some classical music, which he finally did — at age 18. It was Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, in a videotaped performance by Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Michael knew what his life would be.

He quickly learned to play the piano. He wrote his first composition at 19, a piano fantasy. (Mozart wrote all five of his violin concertos when he was 19.) As the music critic Tim Page wrote in 2005, “Hersch discovered, as geniuses will, that he somehow already knew what he was doing.” Hersch himself will allow only this: “My mind works for music.”

“Miraculously,” he says, he was admitted to the Peabody Institute in Baltimore. He earned two degrees in composition there. He started teaching at Peabody in 2006, when he was 34; he became chairman of the department (the composition department) four years later. But we’re getting too far ahead in our story. ...

When money got tight, he worked part time for his father, selling beef. This was while he was teaching at Peabody, and had umpteen international prizes on his shelf. He would finish a lecture on Bruckner, then go to the phone to call federal penitentiaries, talking up beef. A colleague said to him, “You’re the most own-drummer person I know” — an excellent observation, and a high compliment.


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