A Most Important Right

Who will be the President of the United States in 2032? Will future leaders be benevolent and uphold their solemn oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution,” or will they seek to undermine it, either for want of power or some misguided notion that their role is to rule rather than serve?  How will our liberties fare over the coming years; will they remain as they are, increase, or be diminished? How will conditions in America be in terms of crime and security? To what degree will the powers and influence of government change?

When the founders drafted our Constitution, and particularly the original amendments to it—the Bill of Rights—I imagine that these were precisely the types of questions they had in mind. They sought to ensure liberty, not just in their time, but for posterity. Guided by wisdom, the founders knew they could never answer such questions, and that no future generation of Americans could either.

To understand their motivation we need to appreciate what they had just experienced in the Revolution, and we must remember that that is just what it was—a revolution. They had just cast off, by force of arms, what they considered an oppressive, tyrannical government. Indeed, the crucible that bore the document that codifies the freedoms we cherish was one of violence. Our fore-fathers fought for their freedom, and ours.

It is in light of this that we are, once again, arguing about guns in America and the meaning and relevancy of the Second Amendment. Every time some terrorist or lunatic uses a gun to commit murder, debates about this most foundational right ensue. After the recent massacre in Orlando, Florida, the intent and applicability of the Second Amendment is again being called into question.

What is the Second Amendment? What does it say, mean, and do we still need it?

The words are not complicated:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Some claim that the right to bear arms applies only to members of an organized militia—what is referred to as the “collective rights” interpretation. Some claim that it is an outdated, unnecessary part of our Constitution that should be repealed. Others contend that while the right is guaranteed by the Constitution, it is acceptable only so far as allowing individuals the ability to protect themselves (within certain limitations of force), or to hunt wildlife. Even some of the most recent Supreme Court decisions celebrated by gun owners, seem to suggest that the primary purpose of the Second Amendment is to allow for personal protection.

right to keep and bear arms

But none of these are accurate. The Second Amendment was included in the Constitution as a logical extension of, and intended as the ultimate guarantor of, everything else contained within the Constitution. Again, the men who crafted it did so with their very recent experience of conflict—the American Revolution—a war that necessitated arms in order to prevail against what was then the strongest military in the world.

Today, a great misconception—one promoted by those seeking to weaken or outright dismantle the Second Amendment —is that the right to bear arms is primarily to allow citizens to own and use guns for hunting or sport, or in their most “generous” interpretation, for self defense. But again, these are not what the Second Amendment was or is about.

The Second Amendment was included in the Bill of Rights because the framers distrusted an all-powerful federal government and sought to ensure that American citizens would forever possess the means to resist, and even to overthrow if necessary, a tyrannical, corrupt or oppressive government. The inherent right of self defense was assumed and affirmed prior to the establishment of the Bill of Rights, first in the Declaration of Independence, as expressed in the first phrase of that document, which reads:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

While personal protection is contained within its meaning, the primary purpose of the Second Amendment is to ensure that American citizens shall always have the means to stand against any force, including their own government, that might someday threaten liberty. In fact, the framers thought it not only a right that American citizens bear arms, but a duty:

“The constitutions of most of our States assert that all power is inherent in the people; that… it is their right and duty to be at all times armed.” –Thomas Jefferson

 Only a Right for a “Well Regulated Militia?”

The only way that a “well regulated Militia” can form is when armed citizens are available to form it. It was clear to the framers that they were not granting the people the right to keep and bear arms, they were affirming that as free people, Americans already had that right, and the federal government must forever recognize and respect it.

As to the point often raised by those who oppose an individual right to bear arms—those who contend that the right only applies to members of a “well regulated militia”—one only need consider the precise wording of the amendment itself. It clearly states, “…the right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed.” It does not say, “… the right of the militia.” Furthermore, rights never apply to “groups” or institutions—they apply only to individuals (the people).

A Right Granted by Government? No.

In essence, the Second Amendment is simply an affirmation—a statement of a pre-existing state of human existence that cannot legitimately be taken away by any person, power, authority or government, due to the simple fact that it was not bestowed upon mankind by any of these in the first place, but instead by God .

Furthermore, the Second Amendment not only asserts absolute liberty to be an irrevocable, absolute condition, it also states that no authority or government may legitimately even interfere with or impede the complete, unfettered ownership and use of firearms, as it clearly states that the right “shall not be infringed.”

The word “infringed” is especially relevant in relation to claims that the Second Amendment is subject to so-called “reasonable” restrictions.  I contend that the words “shall not be infringed” were included precisely to address the concern the framers had that future leaders may attempt to diminish, limit or impair this basic right. “Infringe” was used intentionally, as opposed to words like “negate,” “cancel,” or “remove.” To the chagrin of many, this means even so called “military style assault weapons” (a wholly inaccurate term for semi-automatic rifles, intended to frighten and manipulate those who are ignorant when it comes to firearms) are within the domain of weapons referred to as “arms.”

What did the framers Intend?

Knowing something of how the Second Amendment came to be helps explain the reasoning behind it and why it is still relevant today.

Lengthy discussions concerning the Right to Bear Arms are nothing new, as prior to the ratification of our Constitution they were often included as the framers debated the apportionment of power and responsibilities between citizens, states and what was to become the federal government. An analysis of these debates provides clarity as to what the framers were thinking as they weighed various expressions of governmental powers and their relationships to states’ and individual’s rights. Eventually, these debates concluded and our Constitution was drafted, along with a robust, declarative list of amendments—the rights and specified restrictions on federal powers we call “The Bill of Rights.”

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

What is obvious from the text of their debates is that the right of individual citizens to bear arms was an obligatory, pre-assumption. If need be, the power of the people, as expressed through spontaneously formed state militias, would provide an inherit counter-balance to any federal force (standing army) gone awry. And these militia, while “well regulated,” could only form if individual citizens were already armed.

The discussions of Federalist 28, 29 and 46, in particular, unambiguously extol the framers’ mistrust of an “all-powerful” federal government; indeed, the entire volume known as the Federalist Papers is all about this distrust. The debates that comprise these documents—the Federalist Papers—are the discussions of John Jay, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. In these, much discussion involves how armed citizens would stand as the final guarantors of freedom and the last line of defense against a federal government run amok.

While I suppose most Americans would doubt the possibility of our federal government today ever becoming repressive to the point of being like England before the Revolution, I would ask them to reflect upon the reality of federal power today, compared to what the framers intended.

In Federalist 46, James Madison stated that, “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.” Once the Constitution was drafted, the framers sought to clarify the bounds of federal government powers as they relate to the powers of the states and the people, by including in the Bill of Rights, the tenth amendment which states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Is this the reality today? Are the powers of the federal government “few and defined” as the founders intended? I think not. Indeed, we live in a time when these descriptions have been turned upside down.

There is a stark contrast between the framers and many of today’s leaders in so far as how they perceive the Right to Bear Arms. The framers affirmed it as a basic right and fully trusted the people, while many leaders today not only distrust the people, they are openly hostile toward the Second Amendment and any person or organization that supports it.

To my way of thinking, one of the danger signs that our leaders are beginning to stray off course is when they begin picking and choosing parts of the Constitution to ignore or when they fail to uphold their oath of office.

Considering that the Second Amendment is, in fact, part of our Constitution—indeed it is one of the first basic “rights” specified—should not our leaders do all in their power to support it? After all, the President as well as every senator and member of congress solemnly swear to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” By their actions and words, do these leaders appear to be doing all they can to preserve, protect and defend your right to bear arms, or are they ignoring their solemn oath in this case, even going so far as working to infringe upon that right?

Unless one is able to answer with certainty the questions posed in my first paragraph, it is in our best interest, and more importantly, in the interest of posterity, that all Americans support and defend the Second Amendment. Our security and liberty, and more importantly, that of our children, may someday rest on that single, important right.

For more about guns and gun control in America, see my comprehensive article published in the February 2013 of ALIVE, by going to http://aliveeastbay.com/?s=guns  or simply go to www.aliveeastbay.com and enter “guns” in the search box.

It’s My Birthday

July 29th is my birthday. Please don’t buy me anything… expensive. Truth be told, I don’t expect a big fuss for my birthday anymore. However, I do truly enjoy the “Likes” and “Comments” made on Facebook throughout the day, thank you Mark Zuckerberg. Since my birthday falls on a Friday this year, I’ll likely go to work. It is always appreciated if someone takes me to lunch (hint, hint). We’ll probably celebrate with a family dinner at Hana Japan in Dublin, since that awesome restaurant always comps the birthday boy or girl’s meal. My wife will likely bake me a carrot cake because that’s my favorite. My daughters make cards for me because I refuse to have anyone in my house pay for overpriced Hallmark greeting cards. The night usually concludes with me actually getting to choose what we watch on TV. A birthday is a good day.Alive media magazine july 2016 its my birthday michael copeland

July seems to be a very popular birthday month given the number of friends and family who will be celebrating their birthdays along with me this month. My daughter, Claire was born on July 6th. Our neighbor, Katie, was born on the same day at the same hospital several hours later. My wife’s Uncle Leo was also born on the 6th. My sister, Christine, was born on the 12th. My brother-in-law, Ben, celebrates his birthday on the 14th  along with my great-niece, Nadia, my former college roommate Jerry, and my former college football coach, Jim Fairchild. Our close friend, Rhonda, is 12 days older than me (July 17), but I look much older. Somehow, I remember that three former girlfriends (Gloria, Stacy and Carolyn) celebrate birthdays in July (24th, 27th and the 28th), but don’t tell my wife that I brought that up. I’m also expecting another great niece sometime this month.

There are several notable celebrities (past and present) who claim July as their month of birth beginning with Princess Diana (7/1). She is followed by gifted child actress  Lindsey Lohan (7/2), Scientologist , Tom Cruise (7/3), First Daughter, Malia Obama (7/4), Jersey Shore DJ, Pauly Del Vecchio (7/5), former President of  the United States, George W. Bush (7/6), Beatles drummer, Ringo Star (7/7), Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon subject, Kevin Bacon (7/8), Academy Award winning actor/producer, Tom Hanks (7/9), the object of my desire, Sofia Vergara (7/10), rapper, Lil Kim(7/11), WWE wrestler, Brock Lesner (7/12), Millennium Falcon pilot, Han Solo, aka Harrison Ford (7/13), MMA Fighter, Conor McGregor (7/14), comedian, Gabriel “Fluffy” Inglesias (7/15), SNL funnyman, WillFerrell (7/16), country singer, LukeBryan (7/17), Fast and Furious mastermind,VinDiesel (7/18), BayArea cutie, RileyCurry (7/19), Supermodel, GiseleBundchen (7/20), Mrs. Doubtfire, Robin Williams (7/21), singer/actress Selena Gomez (7/22), Harry Potter, DanielRatcliffe (7/23), entertainer extraordinaire, Jennifer”J.Lo”Lopez (7/24), football All-Pro, Walter Payton (7/25), my favorite actress, Sandra Bullock, and Rolling Stone, Mick Jagger (7/26), Baseball player/steroid abuser, A. Rod (7/27), Former First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (7/28), Rush bassist, GeddyLee (7/29), bodybuilder-Arnold Schwarzenegger (7/30) and Shark Tank entrepreneur, Mark Cuban (7/31). I don’t want to brag, but that’s a pretty impressive line-up of like-minded individuals blowing out candles the same month as me.

If you were born in the month of July, your astrological sign is either Cancer (up to July 22nd) or Leo (7/23 forward). Thanks to Zodiac.com, the characteristics of a Cancer and Leo are described as follows.

Cancer is a mysterious sign, filled with contradictions. The crab is Cancer’s ruling animal and it suits Cancers well, they can come out of their shell and fight but they can also hide in their shell skittering away back into the depths of the ocean .They are very unpredictable. With cancer, there is always something more than meets the eye, for they are always partially hidden behind the shell. A Cancer wants security and comfort, yet seeks new adventure. They are very helpful to others yet sometimes can be cranky and indifferent. Cancer has a driving, forceful personality that can be easily hidden beneath a calm, cool exterior. They have a deep psyche and intuitive mind that is hidden from the world. Cancers are deeply sensitive and easily hurt, this might be why they have their defense shell in place, to avoid being hurt by others. They are nurturers so they surround themselves with people, whom after a while can offend or hurt a cancer without even knowing they did so, therefore Cancer’s protective shell keeps them safe from hurt. They are complex, fragile, unpredictable and temperamental and need constant support and encouragement, more than any other astrology sign, Cancer needs to be needed. When cancer gets the support it needs, it has a tremendous amount to offer in return. When cancer gets offended, they tend to sulk instead of confronting the persons face to face. This needlessly prolongs the pain and suffering. Cancer is very possessive, not just with material possessions but with people as well. Cancer will always want to stay in touch with old friends and anyone who has ever been close to them, because it is easier to maintain a friendship then attempt to learn to trust a new person. It is easier this way for them emotionally. If you befriend a Cancer, you will stay friends for a long time. Cancer makes the perfect mother, and in fact this is the sign that represents motherhood. They have unconditional love and caring more so then any other astrology sign. Cancers are very intuitive. Most of the psychics of the world are Cancer astrology signs. They have an excellent memory and are very observant and can read people very well. With their strong intuition, sensitivity, powers of observation and intelligence, Cancers will have great success in anything they undertake.

Leo is the lion, this well suited symbol represents Leo very well. They possess a kingdom which they protect and cherish. The kingdom could be anything from work to home to a partner. Leos are high esteemed, honorable and very devoted to the ones they care about. Leo is always center stage and full of flair, they enjoy basking in the spotlight. A Leo always makes their presence known. Leos are full of energy that acts like a magnet for other people. Others are attracted to Leo’s wit, charm, and what they have to say for they speak of things grand and very interesting. Leo will never settle for second best and will work hard to achieve the best results. Public image is very important to Leo, with luxurious possessions and ways of life; this keeps the public image in high standing. They will do whatever it takes to protect their own reputation. People are attracted to Leo’s zest for life and their warm spirit. They have the ability to lift up one’s spirits and provide encouragement when times are rough. Their enthusiasm attracts people, Leos are social butterflies, not because they want to be but because people always naturally gravitate and surround the Leo. Leos are very difficult people to not like. Leos are very generous, kind and open-hearted people .If a Leo is crossed, they will strike back with force but they are not one to hold a grudge, they easily forgive, forget and move on. Leos are always trying to make things right in the world, they have larger than life emotions and they need to feel like they have accomplished something at the end of the day. They react to situations with action instead of sitting back and thinking about it, they are not impulsive however because they look at the future and consider consequences of their actions. Leos are extremely sensitive but they hide that very well. Leos love praise and flattery; their egos demand respect and adoration. Leo is all about pride. That is so me.

There was a time, when I was younger, that I wanted to get a tattoo of a mighty lion across my back or chest to signify strength and courage. But, by the time I turned 12, it seemed a bit extreme. I eventually settled for a tattoo of Simba, from Disney’s The Lion King, on my left butt cheek. It’s an adorable likeness of the animated lion cub. Maybe one day I’ll add Timon and Pumbaa to the other cheek.

July 4th is commonly referred to as the birthday of our nation, the good ole United States of America. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? Our annual birthday party for the country is a thing of beauty complete with celebrations, parades, concerts, 5K and 10K fun-runs, hot dog eating contests, BBQs, pool activities, egg tosses and fireworks.That’s the kind of birthday a man can only dream of, but dream I do.

Happy birthday to me!

I Love a Parade—And Fireworks

Is there anyone out there in reader land who does not love a parade, especially one with fireworks?  Can you resist the music of marching bands, brightly costumed marchers, and skyrockets of every color and design?  If so, you have our deepest sympathy (and loosen up).

Some parades honor national groups in the U.S., such as Chinese New Year or St. Patrick’s Day. In countries where there is a national or totally predominate religion, parades are held to honor holy days, such as El Dia de los Muertos.  In San Francisco, however, three people getting together for lunch can form a “Three People Getting Together for Lunch” parade.Alive media magazine july 2016 and then i wrote ed cohen drummers parade red drum street

The month of July contains three big days for parades:  in the U.S. we have our Fourth of July, Independence Day, festivities in virtually every city, town, and hamlet; our neighbors to the north have Canada Day on July 1 (Eh?); and France’s Bastille Day, celebrating the start of the French Revolution, occurs on July 14.

While no marching bands or exploding fireballs will accompany this article, here are some experiences I personally have had with unusual, off-beat, and exciting July parades and fireworks:

In 1965 while teaching at Downey High School in Southern California, I had somehow discovered an organization that sponsored programs for high school students, taking them to a variety of countries in Europe where they would study the local language during the week and sightsee on weekends.  (The programs, including airfare, room and board, and classes for six weeks, cost about $600.00.) Never having been to Europe, I was anxious to give it a try, despite the necessity to recruit eight students to get my trip free. With Spain as my first target, I came up empty.  The people who sponsored the program knew of my camping, teaching, and youth experience and told me that if I could recruit four more students for France, they had four kids without chaperones from our area.  Success!

The eight wonderful youngsters and I flew from Long Beach, California to New York, then to Paris, France, where we spent about five days, including July 14—Bastille Day.  We were given “tickets” to the parade. Tickets?  The tickets gave us the right to find a place to stand on the sidewalk along the parade route.  We ended up being about eight or ten rows from street, standing there for about four hours.

Was it worth it?  You’re darn tootin’.  The parade lasted about two or two-and-a-half hours with marching bands, military groups, firemen, police, school bands, and just about any group you can think of plus fireworks that evening.  It was a delight, but the most wonderful part for this Los Angelino (via Sunbury, PA) was the location:  PARIS, FRANCE.

(Author’s Side Note):  The following year I had paid off my 1963 Buick convertible, had a few bucks in savings, and decided to take the summer off. My plan was to drive up to San Francisco to see some friends (one in particular), then go camping in Yellowstone, the US and Canadian Glacier Parks, followed by Jasper and Banff Parks. After the parks I planned to drive to Vancouver, BC, and take a freighter home to L. A.  I got as far as Yellowstone when I decided to return to San Francisco. Just before leaving the park on July 14, I noticed that in the Southeastern corner of Idaho lies a small town named “Paris.” The irony was too great to resist. I drove to Paris, explained to the lady at the motel that one year before, to the day, I had been in Paris, France.  She was totally unimpressed. Indeed, I am not sure she had even heard of that other Paris. I stayed overnight on July 14, then drove to San Francisco where I proposed to that particular friend. (This August we will celebrate 50 years of delightfully happy marriage—98% of the time.)

About five years ago my wife Shirley and I flew to Calgary, Canada, rented a car, drove to the almost unbelievably beautiful town of Banff, and checked into a hotel for few days in late June, not realizing that July 1 was Canada Day. Our room was on the third floor with a balcony overlooking the street where the parade would pass.  On a delightful day we sat on the balcony and saw all the bands, the horses and riders in full regalia, and cheered and applauded as if it were our first parade experience. That night we saw a modest but fun fireworks exhibition.

Back in Calgary for a few days prior to returning home, we discovered that the Calgary Stampede was being celebrated.  We walked down a street, saw a large group of people, asked what was happening, joined the folks on the sidewalk, and saw a parade several times larger than the one we enjoyed in Banff. Two surprises neither of us will forget.

Perhaps the best and least expected July thrill of all, however, happened right here in the good old U.S. of A. when we attended an Elder hostel in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  We also visited Taos, Madrid, Albuquerque, and then went south to Carlsbad to explore the caverns and to watch the jillions of bats fly out at dusk to get some supper—not a good time to be an insect.  While in the town of Carlsbad, someone told us of a July 4th celebration near the Pecos River just a few miles away.

Sitting in bleachers with about 150 to 200 other people, we city slickers wore casual clothes, (casual for Walnut Creek or Lafayette).  Most everyone else wore bib overalls with usual “accessories.”  Nothing much happened until dusk, which in July and that far south arrives fairly late.  We chatted with the large man sitting behind us.  He dressed in the “uniform” of overalls, boots, and beat up Western hat and seemed like a “good ole boy” probably named “Bubba.”  We discovered that he was in the oil discovery business and probably worth 114 times what retired professors and counselors had in the bank.  He was absolutely a gentleman and well educated, crushing our stereotypes, and his little daughter stole our hearts.

The parade consisted of no marching bands, but a series of small boats decorated tastefully in red, white, and blue flowers, bunting, and pictures, while patriotic music played over a loud speaker.  Afterward a fireworks display over the river dazzled us.  It certainly paled in size compared to Bastille Day or the Calgary Stampede, but it filled both of us with patriotism that bordered on fervor.

We have seen fireworks and parades in Venice, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, and a several other places, but the Independence Day along the Pecos River near Carlsbad, New Mexico, is the one we remember most fondly because it represented our country and an America which still exists, at least to some extent, the way it has for decades.

So, happy 1st to our Canadian friends; happy 14th to the French; but most of all, happy July 4th to all of us proud nieces and nephews of our Uncle Sam.


Mozart the Master

“Before God and as an honest man, I tell you that your son is the greatest composer known to me either in person or by name.”                        — Joseph Haydn to Leopold Mozart

Of all the great, talented and famous composers, perhaps the most naturally gifted of them all was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Even today, after 225 years, the influence his music has on mankind is a phenomenon that no other music has ever achieved.

Don Campbell, recognized as the world’s foremost educator and lecturer on the connection between music and healing, is the author of The Mozart Effect: Tapping the Power of Music to Heal the Body, Strengthen the Mind and Unlock the Creative Spirit. He cites numerous examples of increased awareness in patients, both mentally and physically, through listening to music—especially Mozart’s.

Cyprus 2011 stamp printed in Cyprus shows Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), circa 2011Music in general has enhancing qualities but Mozart’s music appears to be significantly more potent. Studies have found that hearing music enhances physical, mental and spiritual well-being in the unborn fetus as well as in children and adults.

Research shows, “The music of Mozart invariably calmed listeners, improved spatial perception and allowed them to express themselves more clearly, communicating with both heart and mind,” said French Physician, Alfred Tomatis.

Boy Prodigy

Mozart was born in Salzburg, Austria in January 1756, the son of Leopold Mozart, also an accomplished musician and composer.  Leopold held the post of Kapellmeister and Court Composer to the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg. He recognized the innate talent of his young son, Wolfgang, teaching him both instruments and composition.

He studied piano, clavier (a keyboard instrument) violin, harpsichord and organ and soon mastered them under his father’s tutelage. The young Mozart could play the piano by age three and was composing music, unbelievably, by age five. He was a true “wunderkind.”

His older sister, Maria Anna, was also a gifted keyboard player. Their father, being aware of the natural talent of his children, recognized the marketable commodity and began taking the children on concert tours of European cities. He exploited the children in hopes of making money and eventually finding a position for Wolfgang when he became an adult. The first tour of principle cities in 1762-63 included stays in Paris and London.

Wolfgang excelled at musical skills including transposing from one key to another and also at improvisation. Needless to say, the young boy astonished audiences with musical skills unheard of in someone so young. In 1764, at the age of eight, he wrote his first three symphonies under the influence of Johann Christian Bach, the youngest son of the famous Johann Sebastian Bach.

Mozart’s musical memory and fantastic ear were phenomenal, proving he was an extraordinary, rare person and a true prodigy.   An example of his fantastic musical memory occurred in 1770, when he was only 14 years old. After only one hearing, at the Sistine Chapel in Rome, he was able to transcribe Gregorio Allegris’ Miserere, a formidable piece with multiple vocal parts. This was deemed a nearly impossible task to accomplish.

During the tours of the great cities of Europe he assimilated the various forms and styles of music he heard.  This influenced him in forming his own style.

Adult Life

In 1782 Mozart moved to Vienna where he met and married Constanze Weber during that year. They eventually had six children but only two survived infancy. Vienna was their home for the rest of his shortened life.

Here he befriended Franz Joseph Haydn who was Mozart’s senior by 24 years.  Haydn influenced him greatly. To cement their friendship Mozart wrote six string quartets and dedicated them to Haydn. Haydn was so taken by Mozart’s inspired compositions that he said to Mozart’s father, Leopold, “Before God and as an honest man, I tell you that your son is the greatest composer known to me either in person or by name.” Wow! What a great affirmation of Mozart’s talents and skills coming from someone as great as Haydn.

During the last five years of Mozart’s life, opera took center stage.  However, in 1780 he wrote the opera Idomeneo.  His most famous operas were: The Abduction from the Seraglio; Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro); Don Giovanni; Cosi Fan Tutte and Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute).

“Mozart’s outstanding virtue as a composer of operas was his ability to create convincing personalities by means of musical characterization,” said Martin Bernstein in his book, An Introduction to Music.

In addition to Mozart’s dramatic musical output, he still had time to write a tremendous number instrumental pieces including: piano sonatas; violin sonatas; string quartets; concertos for various instruments – horn, clarinet, violin, harp, flute and bassoon.  He also wrote many sacred works and his last four symphonies were his greatest. He was so gifted, compositions flowed out of him and he wrote over 41 symphonies during his lifetime.

Near the end of his life, Mozart received an anonymous commission to write a Requiem Mass.  The stipulation was that the person commissioning the work was to claim the mass as his own. Unfortunately Mozart was very ill during the writing of the mass and died before it was completed.

Mozart’s wife, Constanze, wanted no part of the agreement with a stranger and asked Mozart’s student, Franz Xaver Sussmeyer, to complete the mass.  He filled in missing sections, added three movements and completed the instrumentation in Mozart’s style. Sussmeyer’s handwriting was so similar to Mozart’s even experts were fooled into believing it was Mozart’s own hand.

Mozart was so ill that he thought he was composing his own Requiem. (I must point out if you saw the movie, Amadeus, the final scene where the dying Mozart was dictating the music to composer, Antonio Salieri, was completely false. The producers and director of the film took great dramatic license having Salieri finish the mass rather than Sussmeyer.)

It was revealed after Mozart’s death that the mysterious stranger commissioning the work was Count Franz Von Walsegg.  He was an amateur who made a habit of palming other composer’s works off as his own.

Very near the end of his life, Mozart’s situation was desperate.  He was in financial difficulties and relying on commissions to keep food on the table. He was overworked and extremely ill when he was composing the Requiem. He died destitute in December 1791 one month before his 35th birthday and was buried in a pauper’s grave.

Mozart was one of the world’s first freelance composers.  He wrote over 600 works – an unbelievable output for so short a life.  His legacy is inestimable.  Mozart was a master of every form in which he wrote.  “He set standards of excellence that has inspired generations of composers,” wrote John Stanley in Classical Music.

One can only imagine what his compositions would have been had he lived a normal life span. Mozart’s body of work has been a glorious gift to generations past and will, thankfully, continue for generations to come. Mozart was a true music master for the ages.

Please submit your questions and comments to banddirector01@comcast.net Visit our website at www.danvilleband.org for up-to-date information about the Danville Community Band.