Transcript:

Speaker They came here prior to the war. They settled in New York City. And finally they had this, you know, they were two children, Terry and Marvin. That's it. I can't do it again. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. That was it. It was my best shot.

Speaker Okay. I just don't want to look like you're out of the bag.

Speaker So my parents came from Vienna. My father was musician in Vienna. They came here prior to the war and settled in New York and had two children. Terry, my sister and Marvin. And there we are in New York City. And my father being from Vienna starts to realize, as I'm about four years old, that I'm talented in music because of the things that I could possibly do, like I can. Hombach saw that he was playing or my sister was taking piano lessons and I would go up to the piano and kind of dig out some of the notes, you know, on my own with my very good ear. And he realized, you know, this kid's got something. What should I do now? If you're from Vienna and you know you're in New York City, you start asking everybody, you know, you just start estimate. You don't have this talented son with you. And one thing led to another. And he kept hearing the word, Julia, I'd come up. Julia. Julia. So he decided, this is it. Julia is the place for this kid and goes to Julia to find out what you have to do. And they tell him about this examination that you have to take them. So I come in at the age of six and a half for my examination in the preparatory division, but I haven't taken lessons like in Bach and Beethoven. I don't even know who Bach and Beethoven are. If they didn't play for the New York Yankees, I don't know them. So they say to me, what are you going to do? You have to stand. This is an examination of three people in a room. I walk in these three people looking me expecting me to play back and Beethoven. And I say to them, well, what I can play, I said is I can play certain songs that I've heard on the radio in any key. And at the time, the big hit song was a song called I'm Yours, which was on the radio all the time. So now, of course, they had no idea the song I'm yours. So I sat down, I played I'm yours and see that I played I'm yours and D then in a flat, I just kept saying I'm yours. That was it. That's. I knew that somebody else called out song. That was my examination really when it was over. I mean I thought to myself, well there's no way we would make this school, you know. But the truth of the matter is that rightly or wrongly, they took a chance on me and said, yes, we are going to go with this kid. You know, he's got something with his ear. We're going to go with him. And that's how I started out at Juilliard.

Speaker Those early days of pre college, you know, I guess going on Saturday. What was it? What was it like? They said now you could play more than nine yards. What were your first days like at the school?

Speaker Well, there were. You went to school twice. Once was on a Saturday. When you took your courses, like in theory and harmony and all that amongst other children. Right. Amongst other very talented children who were all seven, eight years old, whatever. And then there was that other day, one day a week where you took your piano lesson, which was a private piano lesson. And I my teacher was Mr. Edgar Roberts. And I remember. So my earliest things that I remember were the fact that at a very early age and I mean really like my eight by eight or nine relearnt rather early, though I was loving playing the piano, though I was having a very good time. I was doing very well. Everything was fine. I said to my father one day, I said, you know, I don't know why I'm I'm doing all this. Because the truth of the matter is I'm not going to be. Horowitz, you understand? I was surrounded by children who all wanted to be Horowitz, and I wanted to be, you know, like, you know, Cole Porter, you know, I mean, I had this love of show music at a very early age. And so I said to my father, what do I need this for? What it why am I doing this, you know? And he gave me probably not only a great answer, but probably the reason I stayed at Juilliard and it worked out so well. He said, we look two things. If you want to be able to write music and play your music for people, you want to be able to play it well, you want to be able to play it in such a way that people say, gee, I like that song, but. And he played it well, you showed it off well. So that was important. And there's so many other things about music that I wanted to learn that he realized would make me a better musician, for instance, to learn to conduct, to learn to, you know, know the theory, to learn to know the history of certain things, that the music to make me a well-rounded musician. So therefore, hearing all that, I decided, OK, it'll be my little secret. I won't tell my teachers I want to be Horowitz. I'll just learn all this stuff. And later on, apply it to what I really want to do.

Speaker But that was quite a bit of foresight, really, considering you were so small.

Speaker I mean, do you think that I mean I mean, I'm sure you've now seen people in the pre college or known the whole pre college experience. And it seems like I was reading actually the very, very beginning of your book. You sort of said, you know, you've got to have these parents that foster you like crazy. And there's the good fostering and there's the. You know, some of these kids even have an idea of why they would want to be. I mean, did you feel, you know, why they would want to be doing this when you were there with such other little kids that you feel like a lot of people were under high pressure to live out other people's dreams?

Speaker The lucky thing for you is that you were saying, well, let's say the thing about the pressure and I think pressure is a word that is synonymous with Julia. It's I don't want to just use Julia as the only place. I mean, I think this pressure and a lot of places, you know, certain places which put a real premium on a certain talent that you might have or in my case and a lot of cases trying to hold on to a scholarship. I mean, if I hadn't been on scholarship, there would be no chance for me to continue with Julia.

Speaker So this pressure is something that one has to deal with. And it's difficult because you're six, you're seven, you're eight years old, you're nine years old. And here's where the pressure comes from. One piece of pressure is simply having heard at home from your parents. I'm sure this is a God given gift. God is the one who gave you this gift. You now must pay back to God. You you it it's like if he gave you this gift, then you'd actually just, you know, throw it away. You're going to do the most you can with that gift. So you have that going in one ear. You have your teacher saying you're really good. I mean, but, you know, combined, you could be better. You can you have all these pressures.

Speaker Plus there's this other world out there called reality. You know, the kids who go to regular school, the kids were playing, you know, stickball on the street. I mean, when I was growing up, I was called fingers. And I love baseball and I want to play. And my mother said, you can't play because if you play, you might hurt your fingers. So you've got a lot of things going on. So what happens finally, as I would watch my class and, you know, see them on a weekly basis, is you have certain kids who are wildly talented, wildly talented, but cannot take this kind of pressure finally and will break literally just say I can't do this anymore. You'll have other kids who are wildly talented, but unfortunately don't have the desire, the real desire to really do more than they do in school, you know, to to get past the school. You know that there's a cocoon in school, you know, I mean, you can be graded in school, but it's not like the whole world watching.

Speaker So that's another thing then you have. What happens in the real world, which is you have a lot of talented people and a lot of people don't just don't make it. A lot of talented people just you know, there's always so much place for so many people. You know, we're only hiring so many. I mean, so one has to decide what their real goal is. What's the goal here? You know? And then some people, unfortunately, find out early that it's the wrong place to be. That, you know, it's one thing to be the apple of your eye, of your parents eye.

Speaker It's another thing to be around that many talented people. So it's a privilege to go, Julia. But it's also a terrific weight on one's shoulders because you're in a very power packed kind of, you know, assembly of people. And I'm just talking about you call it the free college. I mean, I don't even know what the word college meant. I was seven years old, for God's sakes. I mean, I was just pre everything free, living free, life free, anything. I was this was just called prefatory, you know, which means preparation. We're just preparing for something. And you better prepare and you better be ready quick. And then, of course, you can imagine what it's like if you're seven years old and you're you're the head of the West Side. You know, I'm I'm the kid from eighty first three. I'm good. I'll send you here. The kid from thirty third. You know, he's better than you hear the girl from forty eight feet. Wow. And you see the girl came in from Baltimore. Oh my gosh. You're amongst people not like a normal classroom, you know, in a normal classroom of kids going to school. They're the smart ones. There's a, you know, regular this couple not too doing too well. This is a mix of people. Here you're at an unbelievable amount of very talented people. Well, all of a sudden, you who were number one in your apartment just became number 19 in your class. You know, there's a lot of things going on. And for me, what I am thankful for was that I was able to take what I really needed from Juilliard. I was able to grasp because I knew at an early age, really, I mean, you know, I went to see Broadway shows. I went. That's it for me. I did my concerts when I used to. You know, every year we would put on a concert and I would see first of all, I would throw up like crazy.

Speaker I I once said that I knew every men's room and Julia because I've been to everyone and I've left my mark, you know, but I would actually see the veins in my hands as I started to play. And I went, I can't do this. I literally I'm going to you know, I mean, I had an ulcer at a very young age because it was just too much for me. It was just I couldn't do all that yet. I loved music and loved doing what I wanted to do, you know.

Speaker Did you feel. I mean, because we've talked about this with some other people, it's thoughts slightly later questions, but it's coming into my mind now. This whole idea of Juilliard sort of.

Speaker In a way, the sort of American musical, real print is Broadway is is, you know, if you show music that is this uniquely American thing and in your attempts to sort of free Juilliard. Think of it as this American Conservatory. It's sort of interesting that they aren't interested.

Speaker I mean, I'm wondering, did you ever have any thought to that or or essentially you've got that. You've got what you have in you. Can you take that as the core lesson and then move on and you don't need that kind of training? Well, you know, it's interesting why they are interested in some people, really.

Speaker There was a at Juilliard in the old building. I don't know about the new building, but in the old building. And I had to try secondary. There were double doors. There were practice rooms. They had double doors. And the first door, obviously, was the one you opened up. And then there was a second door you opened up so that everybody could play and practice without anybody, you know, disturbing the other people down the hall. Right. So by having double doors, it was really quiet. Right. OK, for me, I'd be inside supposedly practicing, but really playing the score from Gypsy or My Fair Lady. And I would hear the first door open up my door if I heard the first door open up, I would immediately go into Bach, knowing that by the second door, the teacher would walk and say, How's it going? You know, so it was a very clandestine thing that I was doing, which was to love Broadway. It has always bothered me that Juilliard for some reason, which I don't know, is I kept it very, let's say, very classical oriented when it comes to the piano students. I mean, we I don't think I don't think I ever heard their name, you know, Gershwin, other. I don't think I heard the name Rodgers and Hammerstein. It also bothered me, to be honest with you for a long time until really Joe Pelusi came to. And I think has made a huge difference in terms of reality, base and understanding that there is a whole world out there of shows and a great history of shows. And that's what American music is about. I think it bothered me very much that when I started to accomplish things in my life musically and I've always had in my bio, no matter what concert I've done or wherever, I've always been very proud of the fact that when I was a Juilliard graduate that I never heard from anyone at Juilliard. So I would win these awards and, you know, come home and I would be all the stuff. But there'll never be a congratulations from your school. Well, they may not have thought of me as a good student because I went to the world of, you know, Hollywood or I went to the world of Broadway.

Speaker But as far as I was concerned, I thought that I had taken a lot of things that I had learned Achuar and just took them to a different just to a different place, didn't take them into the concert hall, didn't take them necessarily, you know, into Carnegie Hall, but took them to other halls that, you know, you know, are rather important also.

Speaker Yeah, I agree. It's just it's always interested me, and I think one of their arguments sometimes even in the drama division, for instance, is that you can do this classical theater because if you have this classical three. You can apply this basis, will help you with the other basis, would help you too, if you like, flip it. It would be quite hard.

Speaker I think I think there's something to add to the fact that, yes, I mean, if you learn Bach and Beethoven, then, yes, it's by learning the fundamentals, by learning how to play. You can take all that and put it on to other things, like put it on to, you know, whether you want to play jazz, what it is you want to do. And it's true. You probably don't need a course at all that if you have it in you. The problem is that you feel thwarted and you feel that what you're doing somehow is less important. It's less good. It's all of a sudden somehow it's not up on the totem pole.

Speaker Why not? I mean, as far as I'm concerned, I can't help it. I mean, I was on the West Side Story on a monthly basis. And I think that some of the greatest music I've ever heard in my life. I mean, I just do I just can't help. But I just listen to it go, oh, my gosh. Well, I actually must tell you that one year at Juilliard, I gave a course just it was just I was only there for like a half a year, but gave a course to people, which was a very reality based course about things like other music that like, for instance, if you were a great violinist and you tried to make the Philharmonic and you don't get the Philharmonic job well, what other jobs would you take and what other jobs would you would you be feeling okay with for a while while you're in New York? Like, would you play for the ballet? Would you play for a show? Would you know? Was that kind. Of course. And in this course, I was trying to tell these students about other music that they never heard, you know, that they never heard. So I know I remember bringing in Meredith Wilson's music man and starting off with playing that great song. Trouble right here in River City. Just the love on which I about people in college with a 20 year old people. The look of some of these people on there. I was as if I had just come in with, you know, some brilliant Stravinsky, you know, for the first time, as you ever heard. You know, some great piece by Stravinsky. So it was as if something brand new had been put on the plate. Now, as far as I'm concerned, I go with what Leonard Bernstein said many, many years ago when they gave him a special Grammy. And I remember him saying that as far as he was concerned, that music was either good or bad. He said it wasn't about whether the Beatles or more important, it was Bach. More important, it was Beethoven is it's only good or bad. So to me, that pretty much for me says what I think is important about music. Just make it good and you're OK.

Speaker Do you think that, you know, we're you're talking about like these other jobs concepts? Do you think that kids. Today, kids at Juilliard that are coming out, the numbers that are coming out, and it's not just Juilliard being, you know, 50 years ago, Juilliard is one of the only conservatories. Now you've got, you know, kids of talent coming out all over the place. Are they? Entering a different world. I mean, you know, Phil Smith, I mean, if you look at the New York Philharmonic from, you know, Bach, Yano took his seat and like the trumpet, like 1936, then his own student, Phil Smith, took it then. I mean, it's like you're talking about the whole century and there've been three people who are going to give up that seat. You know, one's you know. What what world do you think that they're going out?

Speaker That's different than it really hard to make anything up.

Speaker I'll give you a kind of a quick story of something that my mother said years ago. Here I was, this kid anxious to make it in show business. Right. Armed with a very good ear, playing my music. And my mother said to me she was just in case it doesn't work for you. Just in case you don't make it. I think you should be a teacher so that you'll be able to teach music. And I think she got a teaching degree and I actually did. I mean, I got my teaching degree in New York City and I could teach. I always feel that you got to have plan B.. I had a lot of Plan B's in my life.

Speaker The one thing that I think kids have to be very concerned about is it's wonderful to be on a path to have this desire, to have this wish, to have this dream, to have this thing out there that you're going for. And obviously, if you're going for it, you want the best school, which is certainly Juilliard. You want to be around people who are really, in a way very competitive because it just helps you. But there has to be plan B, which is for whatever reason, and you're the best of the class. You play better than anybody. You're the greatest. The instruments, unbelievable. But for some reason, you don't get the job, because I've always said getting the job is much harder than holding onto the job. You're asked to do much more to get the job than you ever do. Once you get once you get it. You has to be a plan B.. I give you some Plan B's in my life. I always thought that I would write the greatest shows in the world and just literally just be happy with that and just be very content. Well, I had. It took me years to get to Broadway as far as I was concerned. And so I started writing rock and roll tunes. Plan B then after I had my first success on Broadway, my second success, I had lots of failures. So the failures, I went, OK. This is not working out. I started writing movies, plan B. OK, well, after a while I decided, gee, I like movies, but I don't love writing movies, you know, because I'm not really part of the creative process with the show. I'm one of the creators with a movie. I am the person who comes in kind of later. No one asked me what I think about the movie and I kind of do this background, underline the word background music like this. Well. So where do I start to do? I start conducting music with many, many orchestras and have been all around the world doing that. And now I'm the principal pops conductor for Pittsburgh and the National Symphony. Plan B, because something else did work out. I mean, is my ultimate plants to be sitting at home and watching all my shows on Broadway? Yes. But until then, another plan B, you've got to have plan B because. There's only so many jobs and now with what's going on with the Internet, no one knows what's going to happen. The only thing I know is that classical music right now is going through a very interesting and strange phase, a lot of music that that many orchestras used to record. Now, all of a sudden, certain, you know, record companies are deciding we don't want to record that much classical music. We've got this huge amount of classical music on record and tape. And now on the Internet, things are going to change.

Speaker I don't know how they're going to change. But. You just you just get the sense that that sometimes you have you. It's always I always say that you have to hold on to your dream. You cannot let go of your dream. But at the same time, you know, you have to have just certain variations. You know, we're a theme and variation theme is to make it and be glorious and to make music and it all to be wonderful. The variant is that that doesn't work. Then what? And there has to be a then one. And there's a lot of choices in music, I think. And in the arts to let you still have a wonderful life in it, you know. So I think it's very important. And I think the only thing I can tell you that I think is important is that I think teachers and professors have to stress sometimes that we must adjust some goals. If after a while, it's just things are not working out, you know?

Speaker I mean, you know, it one could say, was it better for me to have my biggest success with a chorus line early in my life and then to have my failures? Would it have been better to have all these failures early? And then slowly but surely rise to a chorus? I mean, you know, these things work out in a strange, wild way and you can't you can't pattern it. You just have to kind of go with the flow. You know?

Speaker Haven't done, you know, a show like Chorus Line, it shows. It tells me that you've thought a lot also about, you know, these sort of.

Speaker You know, mythology's of of, you know, of the performing arts and making it work or, you know, even even going back to early films like The Red Shoe. I mean, what do you think?

Speaker What do you think has created or been part of creating this this sort of music that the horrible conductors, the cruel teacher that you know?

Speaker You know, the sort of mythology of the popular culture image of of the kind of life that it takes to be in art. I mean, they're crazy. There are, you know. What do you do you think there's a reality? I mean, do you have you sort of hark back in your mind to some of these sort of films and shows and things that sort of create this mythology?

Speaker How do you perceive the mythology? Maybe you didn't find it the same way I did. And where do you think it come from and how based it is reality with it?

Speaker Well, you know. Even if you use the word mythology to say that there are these wild stories out there about things that have happened in the arts, you know, the truth is it's got to be based on some truth. I mean, all myths come from some basis of truth. It just doesn't you know, it's not like, you know, conjuring up some crazy story. There have been the lousy teachers, hate to tell you. But there have been some teachers that have been just awful. These teachers are working out their own problems and therapeutically and they're working it out on their students.

Speaker They're asked teachers who wanted to be great performers and got arthritis or couldn't cut it or couldn't whatever and are stuck in a classroom. And the one thing they don't want to be a stuck in a classroom, then there are brilliant teachers. Then there are teachers that just didn't light their teachers. They just love giving it and love hearing it back. You know, there are the people who who just fall apart. There's not mythology. I know these people. You know, I think one of the reasons that I kind of have had a successful career is that I just kept going. You know, I just kept going. I you know, it was like some people take it very personally when something bombs and it loses and, you know, you go, whatever. And I went to be playing I went to something else as opposed to I mean, if all you can do is this one thing, which is just play the piano and that's it. And then all a sudden they to you, you can't play the piano anymore. You're you're going to go mad. So, yes, this is all this pathology, this business about, you know, like when we did a course I one the things that I found so intriguing for me was that as a pianist, hopefully if your hands can keep going and, you know, whatever you can play till you drop. Dancers don't really have that. Dancers have a certain lifeline and a certain amount of time. You know, it's like an athlete. So to me, it's that, you know, there's such pathos in knowing and see what a dancer has to go through and think about it. These dancers, these dancers wanted to be Maria Tallchief. And it turns out some of them are in a course of a show. I mean, talk about overqualified. Think about those. Great. You know, I go in front of so many orchestras. You see so many people. All those people wanted to be the great, you know, violinist who stands out there in front of, you know, the Isaac Stern. Right. And most of them now are sitting in an orchestra somewhere. No, I'm not saying they're not happy. But it's a you only have so many people. You only have so many opportunities. And you only have those people that have that whatever that thing is that make them soloists as opposed to not. I've known people in orchestras who love it, who don't want to be out front, who love the protection of the orchestra. I know other people that would think I'd want to play with the orchestra. I want to be out there in front. I mean, it's all different. But yes, if you said to me mythology, it's there's real mythology out there. And as there is, there has to be, as you know, as it has to be, you know, I mean, the idea I can tell you about my musical career and Juilliard, all is I guess the difference for me was that it would have not even a truckload of 500 pound wrestlers could stop me from doing what I wanted to do. If it's in you that much. It's it's. It's like a pilot light that refuses to go out. You know, sometimes the flame that you see, you know, the flame that's above the stove sometimes gets very dim.

Speaker Sometimes it burns bright. Sometimes people even throw water on it. But if the pilot lights on, then that's what you're going to do. That's what you have to do. That's what you're gonna die doing.

Speaker And in this day and age, if you don't have that, you're in trouble because you're around, you know. Maybe.

Speaker Yeah, I mean, let me tell you this, a lot of competition. And there's also a lot of, you know, things call box office. And who's bankable? Who's not bankable, you know, who's a star. Who's not a star. You know, yourself, you can hear a singer. That's absolutely wonderful. And, you know, there's it's in a club somewhere. And it may never happen because they didn't have the hats, but they didn't have the drive. You know, you give me a very talented person. That's great. Give me a town. Talented person, but with a lot of drive, watch that person because talent is is is wondrous. But it's it. It has to be fostered and it has to be. Someone has to know what to do with it, you know. Otherwise, it's a Porsche in a garage. A Porsche in the garage is just four tires. In a garage, sitting there at zero miles per hour, zero. And the Juggy, New York cab that's been banged up is making more progress because the guy's got a husband, keeps going that extra something. That's something that comes with it. You know, that you need. It's so important. You know, it's just I wish it could be taught, but I do think it can be inspired. And I think sometimes teachers can, in fact, be helpful, too, to impress on a student. That's the talents. Not enough talent is just not enough. You know, it it you would think it would be you know, sometimes I write a song, I swear to you and think, oh, that's it. This is a great song. You know, this should be enough. It's not enough. It's just the beginning. Not even close to enough. You know, there's so many things that go into that song before you can say, huh? There it is. There's so much a part of it's luck and part of it is getting the right singer, you know, in parliament, you know. I mean, there's so many parts of this puzzle that. That sometimes it takes away the beauty of what all this should be, you know? And I think sometimes you have to. The one thing that's helped me a lot. Funny enough, in my life has been I have this one itty bitty little statue of Mary. You know, I've gotten a lot of prizes, but one prize was given to my high school just recently. My high school was a nice, very sweet thing. I went back after I was twenty 25 years. Whatever the game is that maybe 30 years I put on my piano because I want to always be reminded of the vim and vigor and the ego I had when I was 15 years old in high school thinking I could do anything. We're going to just do it. Hey, here we go. Let's go. You know, you lose that. You lose that. Particularly if you're successful. You lose that same thing. That dreamer, that feeling of, wow, this is going to happen. I can do this, you know. So I keep that on my really like all my other prizes. I don't even see their way away from me. But that give me that high school feeling. Get that feeling back. Get keep that power. Like going. Things have a way of happening a little bit about.

Speaker About you really? Yeah. About Tom.

Speaker About playing the piano, but generally, you know, before you always saw this, do you think that in and of itself, you know, it's isolating it exceedingly, meaning playing an instrument like that? It's a real source of pride.

Speaker My one of my friends at Juilliard who has stayed a friend. I think about this. Find out from all your other people how many people have stayed friends with Julia Appeal. But I had a friend of mine. His name is Lauren Hollander, a brilliant pianist. In fact, Lauren, how it was so brilliant. This is Apsley. True story. If you ask me, how did I know at the age of seven that I was not going to continue to play our Horowitz. But I was gonna go another route.

Speaker I've known Lauren forever. And so he came over to the apartment one day where I was living with my family, and he sat down at my summer upright piano. So summer upright piano, good, nice piano, but not a great piano.

Speaker And he tore into some spectacular piece of music that he was going to play and boom with the boom. I mean, he was, um. He was the ultimate prodigy. Right. He banged up the piano. One of the notes, I mean, just hearing the strangest just popped your bomb. That was the end of that string. My mother couldn't believe it because it was gonna cost this money now to fix the string. I don't have the power to break a string.

Speaker And at a very young age. After hearing him play, I went, no knock. I'm not gonna be able to do that. No, no, no, no, no. So I knew it was it didn't take long. What I loved to do, really what I love to do was I loved learning music. I loved playing the piano. Love it. Love it. That's home for me. You play the piano anywhere. I mean, I'm the first person to play piano anywhere. Love it. And also love the idea of putting something on the earth that wasn't there yesterday. That whole idea, the whole concept of writing music I thought was great. And I still love it if you ask me what's my favorite thing in what I do, it's writing the music, actually sitting there and writing it. I love that it's something wonderful. I mean, yes, of course, once you play it, then you love to play it for somebody. You know, once you write it, you love you have shown it to somebody. But the whole experience of writing and trying to come up with something new and different and unique and something that you just oh, I didn't do that yesterday. Oh, I like that, you know. So that's the part I love. Okay. I mean, music can be a lot of fun. I'm finding myself having a lot of fun with conducting. Love playing. Love doing. Working on the show now that I'm very, very proud of.

Speaker So those kind of things can be a lot of fun. The problem with playing music, particularly the young age, was told to me by Lauren, I'll never forget. He said to me, he said, you know, he says, what's terrible? He said, Now here's here's a kid that practiced for seven hours a day. I practiced most an hour and a half. That was like that was it? He was seven hours a day. And he would say to me, he says, you know, it's terrible. He says, when I'm playing the piano. I know that if I make a mistake, someone in the apartment or the house where he can hear me like, he was very cognizant of the fact that, you know, anyone can hear your mistake and no one can hear you. You know, you screw up. And I said to him, it must be like I said, if you were in the apartment, you'd be playing. And I said, and the cab driver would say to you, hey, you know, it's a B flat. The third. But you're you're very aware of that. What you're doing. Other people are listening to that somehow or other. You can't do this privately. You know, you're you know you know, you don't have that kind of luxury. Now, for me, I love writing at home. I like the fact that other people were hearing this, because to me, it's very nurturing for me to be just at home. I don't like to go to quote a studio. I like it, you know, at home, because one of the things I think is really why I think so is because what I write is for the masses. So I don't mind that early on somebody of the masses is listening. I mean, I kind of like that when you're sitting at the piano and you're having a good time. It's about as good as it gets. I mean, it really is about. I don't I don't think there's anything much better. Well, you know, that. And the Diet Coke combined would be the ultimate. But let's not go crazy, you know. But that's pretty much a spectacular feeling. It's a spectacular feeling. It's fun. See, I think. The one element. That I think has to be stressed. Is the music. Should be I mean, yes, we've had all these wonderful words, you're inspiring, it should be this. It should be uplifting. It should be emotional as well. Right. Right. Got it. We've heard there's a fun element to this thing. There's a very kind of an element of being around a lot of people and enjoying yourself instead of having to talk in one line when you're talking another language. I'll give you one of my most joyous moments of my entire life happened to me four or five weeks ago. I was in China. Believe that and. There was this classroom of little children. They were like six, seven years old in a special school for music and dance. And I visited there and these kids literally were going to put on a little thing for them and the Americans. So they sang, you know, Jingle Bells and a fantastic three part arrangement. I don't mean just jingle bells. I mean jingle bells. They did all the stuff. All of a sudden I got up to play because I told you put put a piano near me, I'm going to play. And I played some music from a sting. And these kids, Chinese kids started to go. Did it, did it, did it, did it. But they had no lyric. Right. But they were playing it and they were singing it. Since then I've got and sent them the lyric and all that stuff. But the notion that music could do all this. The notion that, you know, you could be sitting in Shanghai in a school for seven year olds who are it's their Juilliard. Right. And they're having fun. But they were having fun. They were enjoying not everyone's going to be Horowitz. Not everyone is going to be the biggest star there. But for God sakes, if nothing else, if nothing else, it has to have some fun element. When music started getting for me, not fun and that's came early in my life, I'm tired. I saw these people and they were I mean, seven and a half hours, they were practicing. There was blood coming out their hands and it wasn't meant for me, you know, I mean, for other people, that could be fun. But for me, it wasn't, you know, the part of music that I loved was the chance to use it to create and to use it in a social situation to really speak. You know, you're speaking when you play the piano. You are.

Speaker You know, that to me has been more exciting than anything. I've traveled a lot and I've played the piano and a lot of places. And I don't mean professionally. I mean, you're sitting in some place in Italy and there's a little piano and you just go into the hall and you play.

Speaker I mean, it's wonderful. It's wonderful. And and I think that even if one tends never I mean, I, I the saddest thing to me is I've met former classmates of mine from Julia and I can only name names those people. I can remember that one particular it turned out to be a lawyer. Nothing wrong with being a lawyer except when I said so do you keep playing the piano stuff? Now we don't even have one at home. That's the mistake. That's to throw away the fun. You know, that's the throw away to give away that part of you, which. Somehow or other got thwarted somewhere in that education, it got thwarted. I was lucky because. My mother particularly brought a kind of a. Reality and a kind of a concept of, Marvin, you're doing the best you can. Don't worry. If you lose the scholarship, you'll live. It'll be OK. There was this thing, this calming down process at our apartment that allowed me to get the best of it. You know me to take the best of it. Now to my teachers, probably some of them, I would think would probably think at this moment that I wasted part of my musical talent, you know, because I'd say. But you started off with all that talent and. Come on, Marvin. I mean, you know, I would say given my temperament, given. What I can do. I've taken it to you with Julia I was ready to give me, which was a lot, you know, and I'm always thankful and taken that taken some of my musical abilities, taken my ability to write, you know, put it together and basically not just made a career for myself, but I've had some fun. And I think that's important.

Speaker You know, it's. You were talking about. You know, the other kids in your class and things and things that have happened to them, I mean, one thing just sitting here talking to you is that you're not you're not really suffering from the ability to tell.

Speaker But, you know, because I find that a lot of the kids that I meet. I mean, now, of course, there's so many foreign students. Well, so but there's there's a lot of people who can't express themselves very well outside of their instrument.

Speaker It's actually lovely sometimes because you see them play and then suddenly this this language comes from them. But it's I mean, for a lot of people there, I mean, it's like these, you know, other graduates like Robin Williams jokes like outcomes that, you know, the piano sound isn't real. But you did you kind of find that there were a lot of people there who. You know, you saw this kind of deep expression, really? I mean, was it inspired me that way? Do you see great performances?

Speaker What kind of memory or your own of play?

Speaker Well, I mean, I remember just the kids around me who, as I got older, I just they got better and better. And in a way, the better they got and the more inspired I was and heard these wonderful performances, or particularly if you bought a record. I mean, in the old days, there was, you know, the LP record and you bought a record and you heard a great concert, you know, and you just. Well, the more that surrounded me, the more I realized I can't do this, not I don't want to do this.

Speaker I was very quick to know I can't do this. You know, I would like to be the center fielder for the New York Yankees. I can't do it. You know, it's a wish of mine. But I can't do it. It was the combination of knowing that this is what I. I cannot do this. I will never be that good, you know. But there's other things that I knew that I could be good, you know. And as you know, the first time I heard West Side Story, as I said, it's still one of the most important moments of my day of my life to this day in my car. I always have a C.D. of the original West Side Story. It's just one of those things that just grabs me, that gets to me, that it overpowers me.

Speaker There are things that that that I knew that I loved and there were things that I wanted to convey, you know, and I thought I had a voice in it. My father said another great line. I remember years ago, I said to him, I had been the rehearsal pianist on Bell Telephone Hour, which was a television show, live television. And in walked Andre Previn. And Andre Previn just sat down and just played and you just went, oh, my God. I mean, just forget it. You know, so I said, I find it like Leonard Bernstein and very private. What is the point? What is the point? What am I even doing getting up in the morning? And he used to say to me, there's always room.

Speaker Period. So that's what you do.

Speaker Just because you're so provocative about things. Talk to me a little bit about the Claremont building or what? Well, I mean, what was it like? I mean, we've had this guy from the hatchet to the you know, like, I don't get my my best story.

Speaker I'll tell you my Claremont story. My best story about that building is the following. You came in and downstairs we had, of course, the Shermans. You know, where you bought these fabulous pencils. I don't know if they have them anywhere. But there was a Juliar pencil. It just looked so cool. It would be like having a Harvard jacket. It was like you pulled out a pencil, Julia. I did. I don't care if you were nine years old. It was impressive, you know. And then, of course, we had the place where you had did all the little hamburgers and stuff. But my jewelry story, the one that captured all, is that every summer. You know, my birthday's in June. And we the examination that decided whether or not you would continue and decided if you could continue with a scholarship usually came at the end of May or the beginning of June. Always killing my birthday just because you were just a maniac until you did this. And every year, I swear, every year I would take as a child, I would take mailbox. I mean, it was I was just drinking Maalox like here like this like this coming through to me in order to calmly be able to do this. And I never could. And I threw up was horrible. So one day my father, before one of these big examinations said to me, we will go to Juilliard early because we were there early. We can calmly sit you down. You can calmly get into it. It'll be OK. You know, you're wearing a little suit. There you go. We get like an hour ahead of time. We buy a couple of pencils. We go here. We're doing everything right. My father says, well, let's go to the third floor. We go to third floor. Let's go to the fourth floor. We got four floors. Look it finally up on the roof. Now, it's a beautiful day, gorgeous day on the roof, you know, and we're up on the roof and we're looking at, you know, you can overlook Grant's Tomb, which I always thought was a Juilliard student who somehow had failed. And they just put him there, you know, and we're doing and everything's fine. And now it's like ten minutes. And I'm actually very calm, very relaxed. You know, and we go to the door to go down stairs, to go down, to take the examination. And it turns out that the door is locked. The door from the outside of the roof is locked. And there I am in my Lord Fauntleroy suit, hysterical. Now I'm getting more nervous than I ever was and was shouting down. I was shouting. And I come to my examination forty five minutes late. And, you know, suddenly, I mean, I was just. That's the building. That's what I could do. It was a great building. It was a, it was a place where you you met a lot of people who were really good at what they did. And that's something you didn't get at. You know, I went to a regular regular school. I mean, this was I went to P.S. nine, you know, I went to my what you call a junior high school. So. So I went to normal school with normal kids. This was a very abnormal situation. So there were a lot of talented people. And it made you realize that. That talent is a is a wonderful gift, if you know what to do with it. It can be it can be anything but a gift. It is a gift in its infant state. And then what you do with it, you know, it really makes the difference, you know?

Speaker Thank you. Unfortunately, unfortunately, she's died. But I want you to know that the number in New York is doing well.

Speaker And I thought, God, she's really continuing to go up in the minute. Obviously, I'm noticing that.

Speaker Well, the minute I said I mean, I said Coca-Cola. The thing I think you just have to say that this desire I try so hard because I just didn't.

Speaker I think that people just really think I'm crazy because you. So you're like a complete.

Speaker Now, easy for me to somebody else saying whatever they said about it, is it right? Exactly. Well, could be years also.

Speaker Well, what I'm also really trying to do is evoke in the present day, because in some way things are changing.

Speaker Oh, that's good. That's good.

Speaker So the present day footage by the police has been wonderful.

Speaker Please be awful because I have to tell police he was the first guy ever to to send me a recall.

Speaker A. A letter to just to congratulate me on what I was doing, I thought was so sweet. It was the first time I'd gotten anything from from Juilliard, you know, ever, really. I was so thrilled. I mean, it was just a few years ago. And I was just so thrilled. I thought, oh, this is nice. So so I said, we've become friends. And, you know, I try to help when I can.

Speaker How how different do you think it is when you go from, like, the Clermont's situation to Lincoln Center? I have no idea. I mean, in terms of just visiting scene being, you seem like a whole different world now.

Speaker It doesn't look like a whole different world to me because I visited the school there. I think about it is as I said, I was only in the preparatory division. So I that these are all, you know, young, you know, adults that I'm. But so I'm not you know, I've not seen the program. That is the same problem that I was in. You know, the perpetrator probably. I've not seen that part. I've just seen. Well, I know down there, you know, occasionally I'll see the you know, the 18 to 25 year olds and they're working hard.

Speaker And how many kids that you were in the security division that you know, you think.

Speaker I don't know. Very few. I will say very few that that I remember, you know, also because it wasn't that many kids. I'll tell you why you start out with a certain amount of kids. Right. And you basically all went the same way for the first five or six years. So you weren't adding that many people to your initial bunch. You know, I mean, you start out with a certain amount and you all went first grade, second grade, third grade, whatever. So it was like that. But. But. I will tell you that what's really nice for me is that usually I'll talk about Giuliani at my concerts and usually there'll be somebody in the orchestra or whatever orchestra in. You know, that day they will say, well, you know, I attended Juilliard. So I. So it's nice to know, you know, it's a lesson. You can't you can't have a reputation the way Julia had the way. As I said, my father walked around saying what would be best for my child. And they all went. Julia, Julia, Julia. It's a great school. And I think the most important thing is not that they just choose you, the student, but that student be smart enough to decide if they really want to choose it because it's a marriage and marriages can be tough and sometimes have to work out real hard things. It's a real commitment. You know, it's not just choosing a school. It's choosing. Almost a way of life, you know, it's choosing more than a school. And sometimes I always look at somebody who's thinking that sometimes someone will come to me and say, well, I know that you went to Julia. Tell me, do you think I should try out for it? And I have to really talk to that person a while to know whether or not it's a lark. You know, is playing the flute a lark? Are you having an enjoyable time? Are you really thinking about making this your life's work? You know, big difference. You know, so. So sometimes it can be the wrong school for for someone, you know. So that's a very important that it's a marriage. And the student has to be very careful. You know, don't push too hard for what you want. You know, make sure you're picking the picking for the right reasons.

Speaker Excellent. We'll be back with more. Piers Morgan, how was Julia? Next week, Curtis. Let's find out what the competition is doing. Oh, sorry. Sorry. I was just a little younger. I just want to insert a little. You were just going on one second.

Speaker You do us a favor. Yes. PBS American Masters having its fifth anniversary.

Speaker You tell us. Happy anniversary. Happy 15th anniversary. American Masters for you.

Speaker Well, I have to be a devotee of American masters, and I just want to say congratulations on 15 years. Fabulous. Keep it up. Just keep doing what you're doing.

Marvin Hamlisch
Found in: Juilliard
Interview Date:
2000-04-26
Runtime:
0:50:45
Keywords:
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
cpb-aacip-504-4x54f1n256, cpb-aacip-504-b56d21s45q
MLA CITATIONS:
"Marvin Hamlisch, Juilliard." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 26 Apr. 2000, https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/778
APA CITATIONS:
(2000, April 26). Marvin Hamlisch, Juilliard. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/778
CHICAGO CITATIONS:
"Marvin Hamlisch, Juilliard." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). April 26, 2000. Accessed July 07, 2022 https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/778

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