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Sally Mosher Interview
(Piano Forte News Quarterly, 2017)
Mary Hannon: Do you come from a musical family and when did you discover the piano?
Sally Mosher: Basically no, I don’t come from a musical family but my father was one of the founders of the first symphony orchestra on Long Island, New York, where I grew up in Lawrence. When I was in first grade my parents were impressed when the music teacher told them that she thought I looked very interested in music and should start piano lessons. She had accompanied the school production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Gondoliers and noticed that I was hanging around the piano and appeared very interested.
MH: Did you start lessons?
SM: Yes, I practiced on an old upright piano in our family room at home. When she needed to move away, my teacher recommended that I attend the Edith Mackintosh School of Music - really a first rate place. There, I got an in-depth introduction to music - also taking theory, harmony and dictation, as well as performing in two recitals each year.
MH: Did you continue with your music in high school?
SM: Yes, I took weekly piano lessons, accompanied various projects, played solos for school assemblies, and was in the school orchestra. I also took a three credit music course to prepare me to take the New York State Regents Exam in music.
MH: What happened after high school?
SM: I was awarded a full honor scholarship to Manhattanville College. After graduation I worked in advertising before taking a position as a junior high music teacher in the public school system, where I would have the summer off and could travel. Then, I got married and moved to Pasadena, where my husband owned an engineering business.
MH: Did you continue with your music?
SM: I did some accompanying and ensemble work, was active in a couple of music clubs, and was a newspaper music critic for five years, before entering the music graduate program at USC, later deciding to get my law degree. Law is useful: I was already investing in real estate, my Father (Presiding Judge of a large court system) and other family members were lawyers, so I knew about the profession. While I was at USC Law School, music was mostly on hold.
MH: When did music reappear as a major part of your life?
SM: A friend invited me to a concert at the Harpsichord Center. The owners, noted harpsichordist Neil Roberts and flutist Tony Brazier, built harpsichords, presented concerts and taught classes. In college I wasn’t exposed to a harpsichord - there weren’t many around then - but when I went to USC I had taken harpsichordist Malcolm Hamilton’s Baroque Interpretation class twice. I really liked the sound. Later, I wrote a book on the 16th Century and was invited to present a paper about Renaissance topics at the Huntington Library’s Renaissance Conference. I planned to play 16th century composer William Byrd’s “Battle” on the piano as part of the presentation. However, they didn’t work on the piano, so I rented a small Italian harpsichord from The Harpsichord Center and played the pieces on that. Because of my interest in 16th and 17th century music, I began to study harpsichord with Neil Roberts, and was invited by several organizations to perform music of that period. That was the beginning of my focus on the harpsichord.
MH: Was this a new discovery in your musical life?
SM: Yes. I learned that harpsichord pieces are short and often grouped into little suites. Many of them are dances and character pieces, and that really appealed to me. So: I found that I definitely liked the instrument, liked playing it, and I liked the music composed for it.
MH: How did you learn more about the instrument?
SM: Neil and Tony presented a series of harpsichord recitals, featuring noted harpsichordists from the US and Europe, so I heard many noted professionals. While studying with Neil, I also participated in his monthly workshops where we played for each other and got feedback - from Neil and from each other. We could try anything out, so I started composing for the workshops and when we had a yearly recital I included pieces I had written.
MH: You continue to compose for the harpsichord. Tell us about your music.
SM: I write short dances and character pieces, as well as “unmeasured preludes” that have no key or time signatures. Thoroughly enjoying this, and relishing the appropriateness to the instrument, I have composed tangos, ragtime and boogie-woogie, et al. I have made a number of CD’s, all featured on my website NewMixMusic.
MH: You are also an artist. How do your art and music influence each other?
SM: You can tell that I like color from my music and the harpsichord lends itself to colorful music. Both my art and music have a pictorial quality, lots of color, patterns, and vividness.
MH: Your interest in music has led you down many divergent paths. Tell us what music has meant to you in your life.
SM: Music gives you an opportunity to be creative, work with interesting people and have different playing and performing experiences. When you make music with people you get to know them in a different way. You could know somebody socially for a long time and not know them as well as you would if you were rehearsing together. You get to know people without using verbal language and it becomes a very special relationship.
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