Marissa Silverman is Professor of Music Education and Coordinator of Music Education at the John J. Cali School of Music, Montclair State University, NJ.
My background I was born in Brooklyn, New York. My family moved to Long Island when I was 4. We lived on Shelter Island, NY from 1988-1993. My k-12 school housed 250 students. I graduated from high school with 18 classmates. Upon graduation, I moved to NYC. I was educated at New York University (BA and PhD), SUNY Purchase (MFA), and Pace University (MST). My previous teaching experience includes: New York University, NY; Brooklyn College, NY; Rutgers University, NJ; and Long Island City High School, Queens, NY. Areas of teaching: music, music education, and English literature. Prior to teaching, I was a freelance flutist in NYC.
My earliest musical memory as a child Listening to Switched-On-Bach from CBS Records.
I was about 6 years old and my mother had this LP in her record collection. I looked at the cover and asked: “Why does this guy have this funny wig on?” She put the LP on for me. I was struck by Bach’s style and the sound of the Moog synthesizer. I immediately wanted to learn how to play that music, so I begged my mother for a piano. She eventually bought one at a garage sale for $50. From the moment it entered our house, I “realized” Bach’s melodies. When I knew that I was able to hear the music and figure it out myself, and play it, I fell in love with it.
When did I know that I wanted to be in music? My mother always had some kind of music playing throughout our house. From John Lennon and The Beatles to David Bowie to Antonio Vivaldi to Ella Fitzgerald singing George Gershwin songs to The Who. And no matter who was singing or playing, she consistently sang along. When I was still in elementary school, she called into a radio competition and sang “Hey Jude” on the radio. She crouched down on the floor, put her hand close to the phone receiver, and sang this classic song. She won tickets to a Jones Beach concert for her radio rendition. Whenever my sister and I said something that reminded my mother of a song, she’d start singing that, too. We always said she had a song for everything.
My grandfather constantly listened to opera – especially Italian opera. He knew everything that Pavarotti sang. He made it a point to share his appreciation for the great tenor with me.
So, long before I could think about being “in music,” I was in music.
Who were my most important musical influences? My elementary school music teacher, Carol Lounsberry, sensed my musical abilities and pushed me further. My PhD chamber music teacher pianist Gregory Haimovsky was and remains an inspiration to me. His musicianship is formidable. I’ve never since met his equal.
What is my most memorable teaching moment? Introducing Classical repertoire to one specific Columbian student of mine. He swore to me that he hated Classical music and he would never, ever like it. One day, I walked into class and he said: “Miss. I want to show you something.” He took out his i-Pod and said: “Look.” The high school I taught at had a very strict “no electronic device” policy, so I became a little nervous. The student insisted. “Fine,” I said. “What do you want to show me?” After a semester with me, he had downloaded Mozart’s “Jupiter” Symphony and Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata onto his i-Pod. I said: “I thought you hated Classical music.” He said: “Nah, I like it, now.”
What music inspires me most? I have many, many favorites, including:
Also, I can’t live without The Indigo Girls, The Beatles, and Cole Porter. And, of course, as a “Long Islander,” Billy Joel.
Are there other musicians in my family? My mother sings all the time, no matter who is on the radio accompanying her. My sister also sings, though she prefers to sing alone in the car.
What do I like to do outside of teaching and music? I’m a film fanatic. And I love combing new places for good restaurants. To go to a film and then out to dinner is total bliss.
What are my hobbies? Reading, writing, walking, taking pictures. And, lately, cooking.