From the Winter 2002-2003 issue

These Are My Children

by AL BENNER

My two sons are now 8 and 6. I might be overly protective, but I worry about them all the time. Not only that they are safe, but about other everyday issues such as not having other children make fun of them, or whether they are behaving in school, or being liked by other children and adults, having proper clothes to wear so that they are not too cold or too hot, or any number of other issues. The point is that these boys are everything to me and I want to protect them as much as I can. I know that unrealistic at times for I know that they are going to suffer bullies and scraped knees, and get colds, and be teased, and a host of other misfortunes. I am not going to wrap them in bubble-wrap and never let them out of my sight, I just want to make sure that anything I could have prevented, I did prevent.

In many ways, I feel the same about my music. When I have a new piece, I am always nervous at the premiere. It is now on its own. How will it be received? Will the performers treat it properly? Will the audience see the ?charming, delightful, educated? piece that I see; how it struggled to find a voice; the rewrites and rethinking about direction and form? Or will they just dismiss it without giving it a chance to ?entertain? them; without seeing the little idea that grew with patience to become the full grown piece that they now hear?

And this is true even after the premiere. Will it get further performances? Will performers like it enough to play again? And when it is played again, I still get butterflies. The same thoughts go through my head. I have now sat through over 250 performances of my music, and this feeling has not dissipated. Just like I see different things in both Albert and Nicholas, I see different things in each of my pieces. They are similar, yet different. I have no favorites, but certain pieces connect with me more at different points in my life. Each has its personalities and each defines a significant person or moment in my life.

Maybe I am overprotective, but, like my sons who are a part of me, my music is also a part of me. I want my sons to be good examples and popular; I want my pieces to be the same. I want my sons to be taken seriously when they are speaking; I want my pieces to be taken seriously when they are played. I want my sons to learn and grow; I want to continue to learn about composing and my music to grow. And maybe I am vain, but the best things I have ever produced are my sons. So when I die, I will still live through my boys. And hopefully, my music.