The Secret Wish of Nannerl Mozart

History Hunt: Maria Anna Walburga Ignatia Mozart

Today’s entry for the History Hunt miniseries featuring composers and musicians who were famous around the time of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is someone who was very close to him–namely, his older sister, Maria Anna Walburga Ignatia Mozart (called “Nannerl” for short).

I was first introduced to Nannerl through The Secret Wish of Nannerl Mozart, by Canadian author and poet Barbara Kathleen Nickel. I was even lucky enough to meet her and get my copy of the book signed.

Signed copy of The Secret Wish of Nannerl Mozart

My copy of The Secret Wish of Nannerl Mozart. It was also dedicated to my brother, but I’ve blurred out his name to respect his privacy.

Nannerl Mozart was every bit as much of a musical genius as her younger brother, and during her childhood and teenaged years, she would go on tours with her family. Sometimes, she would receive even more attention from audiences than her younger brother! But when her father thought she was old enough to get married, she was no longer allowed to go on tours with Wolfgang. In the 1700s, women weren’t supposed to make a living as composers and performers–they were supposed to stay at home and look after their husband (never their wife in those days). And while some women still managed to fight against the sexism of their day, it was very, very difficult.

While in The Secret Wish of Nannerl Mozart, Nannerl was able to be recognised as a brilliant composer in her own right, in spite of her father refusing to teach her how to compose alongside her brother, in real life, Nannerl was not so fortunate. Though she composed music that Wolfgang–one of the most famous composers in the entire history of Western European music–praised highly, her works were never published and they have since been lost. We can only imagine what they must have sounded like, and what it would be like if both Mozarts had been allowed to gift their incredible music to the world.

To Learn More (sources):
The Secret Wish of Nannerl Mozart by Barbara Kathleen Nickel
Maria Anna Mozart: The Family’s First Prodigy on

My attempt at a kazoo for National Kazoo Day

Happy (Inter)national Kazoo Day!

It’s National Kazoo Day in the United States (more or less), but I thought it would be fun to make it an international event. So I looked up how to make a kazoo and built one myself. I didn’t have wax paper, so I hoped tracing paper would make a good substitute, but…unfortunately not. All I managed to do was scare the cat with my attempts to make a proper kazoo sound.

Ah well. Maybe next year.

Those of you who do have all the necessary supplies, though, why not give it a shot? It’s a quick craft, fun, and at the end, you have a musical instrument. It’s hard to beat that!

Happy Birthday, Mozart!

To mark Mozart’s 259th birthday (goodness, but he’s getting up there!), I thought I’d feature one of his compositions that’s very special to me: the Concerto for Flute, Harp, and Orchestra in C Major, K. 299/297c.

My parents played a lot of classical music when I was growing up, and this was one of the main pieces that inspired me to take up the flute–a decision that literally changed the course of my life. (I also wanted to learn to play the harp, but while I could play flute in the school band, harp unsurprisingly wasn’t offered…. Maybe when I retire I’ll finally fulfill that dream!) Even now, listening to the piece makes me think of sunny Saturday afternoons, listening and dreaming about being able to make beautiful music.

The video I’ve linked is only the second movement, Andantino. If you’d like to listen to the whole concerto uninterrupted, it’s available on Youtube right here. This movement is also available on one of the CDs in my library, Vocalise, available for current students to check out at their lesson.

Have a terrific Tuesday, all!

Healing Wind by Ohwihsha

Library Focus: Healing Wind by Ohwihsha

Last summer, I had the chance to attend my very first pow wow. It was a terrific experience and I was really glad I was able to go, even if–and, at the same time, especially because–it made me acutely aware of how ignorant I am of First Nations cultures. As a very small step towards alleviating that ignorance, while I was at the pow wow, I purchased the CD Healing Wind, by Ohwihsha.

Ohwihsha is the duo of Jonathan Maracle and Kris Delorenzi of Broken Walls, a group that also includes Bill Pagaran. Jonathan Maracle is of the Mohawk nation and plays wind flutes, rattles, whistles, drums, and percussion on Healing Wind and also provides the vocals, while Kris Delorenzi, who’s Italian, plays bass guitar and provides background music and editing.

I’m looking forward in the coming months to increasing my knowledge of First Nations musics through both listening and research, and I invite my students to join me and do the same! If you’re a current student and would like to check out the CD from my lending library, by all means let me know! Everyone else, if you’d like to know more about Healing Winds and Ohwihsha, please visit their website.

Happy Monday!

Before There Was Mozart by Lesa Cline-Ransome and James E. Ransome

History Hunt: Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-George

Given that Mozart’s birthday is coming up on January 27, I thought it would be fun to do a History Hunt miniseries on composers and performers who were just as famous or as talented as Mozart during his time, but who aren’t nearly so famous today.

I first heard of Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-George when I was introduced to Before There Was Mozart, by Lesa Cline-Ransome and James K. Ransome. It’s a book I’m planning on buying for my studio later this year.

Joseph Boulogne was born on Christmas Day in 1745 on the island of Guadeloupe.



When he was three years old, his father, the Chevalier de Saint-George (a minor French noble) and Nanon, his mother, who was the Chevalier’s mistress (and slave), moved to France with Joseph. It was there he learned to play the violin and harpsichord and grew up to be “tall, handsome, and gracious.” (Encyclopedia of World Biography)

Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges

Joseph Boulogne: “Tall, handsome, and gracious.”

Joseph became famous not only for his compositions and his violin performances, but also as a top-class fencer! He once defended himself and a friend against up to six opponents at a time!

He was first (lead) violinist and later concertmaster (leader) of Le Concert des Amateurs, an orchestra that, thanks to him, became one of the best in Europe. When he appeared in concerts with Mozart, he was often given equal billing!

Unfortunately, while Joseph Boulogne was very popular and became the Chevalier de Saint-George after the death of his father, he still encountered racism. In France at the time, there were laws against mixed-race marriages (and so he never married), and there were some who refused to work with him due to his heritage. He spent a great deal of time later in life fighting for the end of slavery and for equality.

His music is easily available on Youtube; you can listen to a short example below.

To Learn More (sources):
Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-George at the Encyclopedia of World Biography
Chevalier de Saint-Georges on Wikipedia

Music Videos In Space

It seems producing music videos in space has become a bit of a fad! In addition to Canada’s Commander Chris Hadfield, who made a music video of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” in 2013, Captain Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency has also made music in the International Space Station. As a part of UNICEF’s Imagine campaign, she’s created her own music video, singing “Imagine,” by John Lennon.

Now this is definitely a trend I can get behind!

Tibors de Sarenom

History Hunt: Tibors de Sarenom

Something I’ve discovered over my years of being first a music student and later a teacher is that some stories are easier to find than others. If I wanted to learn more about Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and the other composers that generally spring to mind when classical music fans are asked to list the greats of Western classical music, that was easy: there were endless books, videos, articles, and even movies at my disposal. If I wanted to learn more about anyone else–especially women and minorities–well, that was a little harder.

One of the features I intend to have on this blog is a “history hunt” of sorts, where overshadowed composers and musicians of history can be given a moment in the sun. It may be a brief moment by necessity–being neglected for decades (or even centuries), or being from a period in history with few surviving records, means the amount of detail available can be scarce. But at the same time, I believe it’s important to know that these music lovers of the past existed, and that they were people just like us.

The first person on this history hunt is one of those composers that we don’t know very much about. Her name was Tibors de Sarenom, also known as Tiburge de Sarenom. She was born around 1130, nearly 900 years ago, and was a noblewoman from France who lived in a castle called Sarenom (which is where her name comes from). She wrote music and poetry and there’s even a record of her acting as a judge for a poetry game!

Almost none of her music survives, but there’s still a little bit on Youtube if you’d like to know what she wrote.

On a side note, a lot of the women that we know wrote music in history were rich noble ladies and even princesses! In general, the richer you were, the more time you had to devote to things that weren’t working to survive, and that’s only started to change very recently. So if it seems as though I’m ignoring more ordinary women, it’s only because it’s even harder to find their stories.

To Learn More (sources):
Tibors de Sarenom on Wikipedia
Cool Chicks from History on Tumblr (Note for parents/guardians: Tumblr asks its members to be 13+. This entry is safe for all ages.)
Header image courtesy of Michelle Dee on DeviantART (Another 13+ site. This artwork is safe for all ages.)