Music appreciation is almost as big a part of the curriculum in Verona schools as music performance. The kids listen to different styles well before they pick up their first instrument and often get to attend special concerts. But Laning Avenue School‘s music aficionados got a special treat recently when Mozart came to play. And yes, we do mean in person.
Piano teacher and actor Dennis Kobray has been performing as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart for the past 25 years. By his own estimate, he’s visited some 6,000 schools, retirement homes and music teacher conferences with a presentation that is equal parts music appreciation and world history, and, in the schools, a message about the importance of hard work in learning music and other subjects. Under the banner of a company called Meet the Musicians , Kobray has been invited by Verona’s school SCAs before to perform as Beethoven and George Gershwin as well.
The kids at Laning were easily taken in by his Mozart. It was hard not to, since Kobray walked in wearing an elaborate 18th-century waistcoat and powdered wig. And he was clever enough to draw his audience in by playing a few snippets of music that they had heard in places the real Mozart could scarcely have imagined: cell phones and TV shows. The kids seemed stunned to learn that Mozart was performing for kings and queens across Europe when he was younger than most of them.
If the history resonated, so did Kobray’s performance. Watch the video below to see how he turned the kids’ singing of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” into a deft lesson on the changes Mozart brought to music composition. “I have a lot of fun and the kids have fun too,” Kobray says simply.
Kobray ended his performance with the story of Mozart’s untimely death at 35. Researchers have posited dozens of theories about what claimed the composer’s life, but Kobray sticks with a simple tale of a Mozart so consumed by work that he fails to get enough sleep, which made him ill. “Didn’t Mozart know that not going to bed on time would make him sick?” asked one third grader afterward.
We’ll need to remember that message at bedtime.