January 27, 1756 was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s birthday. Happy 262th birthday Herr Mozart! Likely you have a favorite piece or work composed by Mozart. Maybe it’s The Magic Flute or The Marriage of Figaro. Or perhaps Mozart a piano sonata or symphony resonates with you? I can’t count the number of times I have heard, accompanied, or helped with violins playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and variations. With over 600 compositions to his credit, Mozart has become a significant part of the landscape of Western Art Music.
But would Mozart’s musical genius have been recognized, celebrated and remembered so profoundly if he hadn’t had help along the way? I think about, throughout Mozart’s life, who helped him along the way? We know that his father Leopold was his teacher and planned his extensive tours of Europe as a child prodigy. We know that Johann Sebastian Bach was an influential mentor in Mozart’s early adulthood. We know that Mozart benefited from a position in the Salzburg court. And we know some, although arguably far too little, about his sister Maria Anna also called Nannerl.
Sister Nan helped to write the first biographies of Wolfgang and she was a brilliant performer in her own right. It’s thought that through watching her music lessons with their father, Wolfgang was inspired to take up music himself. They toured together as children performers. History records that Wolfgang wrote pieces for Nannerl to perform, but I suspect the compositional relationship went both ways. We just don’t learn about women composers as equals to their male counterparts in our history textbooks. The point is Mozart did not exist in isolation. Mozart wouldn’t have been Mozart if he hadn’t had helpful relationships with people around him.
So as we remember the musical legacy of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart this week, perhaps we can also remember the helpers. I can think of many people in my life who have helped me along the way: teachers, friends, mentors, ministers, my own children, my spouse, colleagues, students, and more. I’m sure you can think of many helpers in your life’s journey too. I am grateful for the time spent, the encouragement and the lessons learned from all of the helpers in my life. I know I wouldn’t be me without them.
And we also have the ability to be a helper in someone else’s life. Another way to say this might be that we are all cathedral builders, quietly working behind the scenes to create something wonderful in a person we love and value. I love this version of the poem, The Invisible Mom. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YU0aNAHXP0
Certainly moms are often undervalued and should be mentioned in the title, but I think you could also substitute the words ‘dad’, ‘teacher’, ‘coach’ or ‘helper’. For many, Mozart’s works represent a glorious musical cathedral … who were the cathedral builders for Mozart? Who are the cathedral builders in your life? For whom do you have the privilege of building cathedrals?