Lessons My Dad’s Violin Taught Me

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#1: You Never Know Who’s Important

My dad was still a young violinist. Talk about a prodigy, he had started playing concerts at age 8 and now was leading an orchestra one summer in a small coastal town in Massachusetts. The five-piece orchestra was playing in the only theater. The audiences were mostly campers.

One night he was approached by a rather elderly man who introduced himself as a violinist, but said he had not played for some time. He asked my dad to play three numbers, each requiring quite a display of violin mastery.

The stranger began coming back regularly and eventually invited my dad over to his cottage. Thinking possibly he was a prospective pupil, my dad took him up on his offer and took his violin with him to the man’s cottage where he was warmly received.

After a few minutes my dad took his violin out and played several of his best solos in very fine style. Feeling well satisfied with himself, he suggested his host get out his violin and play something,

Then my dad got the surprise of his life. The prospective pupil proved to be a very fine violinist. Pleasantly surprised, my dad wanted to play some duets. When the two parted for the night they had agreed to play together often.

And this they did until the stranger finally introduced himself as Nicolai Sokoloff, conductor of the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra. He invited my dad to join his orchestra.

When dad arrived in Cleveland for the first rehearsal and walked out on the stage he saw 90 musicians collected there. Having pictured an orchestra of 20 or 25 pieces, he was so surprised he almost fainted.

Then he struck a chord of gold. He was elected to fill the first chair in the second violin section of one of the world’s finest orchestras. What was most remarkable, my dad was still in his teens.

You never know.

#2: You never know whom you’re going to meet.

One night my dad was playing at the new Champagne Room at Ciro’s in Mexico City where we were all living at the Reforma Hotel.

Dad was billing himself as “Bela Madden,” a Romanian Gypsy Violinist.

So who walks in one night into Ciro’s–King Carol of Romania.

After intently listening to my dad play for an hour, the king declared Bela Madden, the (Irish) gypsy, his favorite and official violinist.

According to the story in The Atlantic City Press, “The most startling fact about this incident was that Bill (Bela) Madden was the genial maestro who was the musical director of the Traymore Hotel and director of the Atlantic City Festival Orchestra since its inception.”

Yes, Bela sure got around as would his son later on.

P.S.

Years later I stood on the boardwalk wistfully watching explosives implode that majestic edifice into pile of rubble. How sad to see suddenly evaporate before your eyes such a palace of memories, such a classic hotel as the Traymore where once presidents and first ladies stayed and my vivacious violinist father and his tuxedoed ensemble played so stylishly in its chic dining room and later gave concert in the luxurious lobby. Gone with the wind went the elegant Traymore.


About the Author: Thomas Madden is CEO of TransMedia Group, one of the largest independent PR firms in Florida, where it currently operates. The firm’s clients have included AT&T, American Red Cross, City of New York, GL Homes, Jordache Enterprises, McCormick and Schmick’s, Rexall Sundown, Stanley Steemer.

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