For Maureen

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

            I still cannot believe we will never have our two-hour phone conversations, or laugh and enjoy ourselves with her parents, my aunt and uncle, over delicious entrees at Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano. It had become our custom to get together days after Christmas, to continue our holiday cheer with our families.

            Maureen and I were first cousins. Her father was the youngest in a family of nine; my mother was the third eldest in that same family. My mother loved all of her brothers and sisters; we visited back and forth with eight of her siblings often, even when Maureen’s family moved to Germany with the Army for some years. Her father was a radiologist, and the military had funded his medical schooling at Indiana University. After his military medical service was up, he moved his family to Fort Wayne, about 75 miles from his hometown. The close proximity meant our families interacted frequently, especially when my grandparents were still alive.

            Some of my fondest recollections are of Maureen and me riding her horse up and down the hills of her family’s subdivision. To say the lovely horse left hoof prints up and down the grassy knolls of neighbors’ well-manicured lawns would be an understatement. While there was hell to pay later, Maureen and I whooped it up riding all over the forest-like area as we encouraged the horse to go faster. We screamed and laughed and felt as carefree as could be. Free from the yolk of adults, we were masters of our hours of freedom with the horse! The horse had too good a nature to throw us off, but I am sure he neighed sighs of relief when we returned him to the barn, brushed him down, fed him, and gave him cool water to drink, and left the stable.

            Aside from our questionable equestrian fun, Maureen and I shared a love of classical music. Her mother sang beautifully, so Maureen’s musical gifts were easy to track. In fact, her brothers and sisters were equally gifted in music, languages, humor, and all round good times. I loved the energy in their family home, the laughter, and the food; especially that Italian torte a patient of my uncle’s gifted them each year!

            I shall miss my conversations with Maureen about films, books, food, and art. She urged me to get back in saddle, so to speak, and finish writing my novels, to pursue my online business plan, and to get back to the Catholic Church. She was aware of my on again, off again relationship with Catholicism. Knowing how much she treasured her own renewed relationship with God and with Catholicism, I’m working my way back to it again. I swear she is still nudging me along, like the cheerleader she always has been for me. I take heart in knowing she loved my cheering her on with her eclectic paintings and writing gifts. 

            Perhaps Maureen isn’t that far away after all. Every time I think of her, I smile and feel better about life in general. We both despaired of the tragedy of the Syrian people, and of those detained at the Mexican border. We cried out for humanity to step up and overcome xenophobia and racism. Maureen and I both prayed hard for justice for the oppressed. We wanted to believe our prayers didn’t fall upon deaf ears.

            I will keep on praying and continue to offer up prayers for Maureen’s peace and that of my aunt, uncle, and cousins’. It’s the least I can do to carry on Maureen’s legacy of goodness and kindness and joy. My love for Maureen and those she left behind is boundless.

            Ciao for now.

            Mary Anna

Classical Music’s Glass Ceiling

Women composers of classical music shine in a new book.
Women composers of classical music shine in a new book.

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

Years ago as a voice major at IU Bloomington, I remember in music literature and in music history classes hearing about compositions by Fanny Mendelssohn, ­­Felix’s sister. The professor lauded her talent, but said that Fanny was not as famous as her brother Felix because not much of her work had been published. The reasons behind this are explained in Anna Beer’s new book Sounds and Sweet Airs: The Forgotten Women of Classical Music. NPR’s Rachel Martin had a fascinating interview with Anna Beer about her book at:

In Music Literature, I recall listening to a composition by Nadia Boulanger, the famous French composer, conductor, and champion of musicians. I do not, however, recollect any mention of her sister Lili Boulanger, a composer in her own right. Riveting in Beer’s book is the story of Barbara Strozzi, a Baroque Venetian singer and composer who took the surname of her Venetian patron/pimp because she was uncertain who her biological father was. Part of this courtesan’s performance for wealthy patrons was to sing erotic songs. At least Barbara was a prolific composer whose work was published.

Not unlike contentious elections today, there is a backlash directed towards women. Maybe men fear someone with a vagina [it’s dark “in there”] being elected to high political office [a man’s penis is more visible]. It is fine to have women on the Supreme Court, in the Senate, and in the House, but not in the White House. Yet Margaret Thatcher ran England for years; Angela Merkel has been at the helm of Germany for a lot of years, too. In classical music, Beer points out that even Clara Schumann, wife of Robert, the famous composer who went mad and ultimately committed suicide, was an accomplished pianist and composer in her own right. Brahms admired her greatly. He was rumored to have been in love with her. Neither Brahms’ supposed unrequited love, nor her husband Robert Schumann’s encouragement of her work got her well published.

It seems to be the age-old issue: Even with famous husbands and friends, women fail to receive their due. Perhaps because men and conservative women wish females to remain “angels in the kitchen” under male protection that creative women in classical music are still marginalized. They are promoted and supported, but how many females, with the exception of the late, great Beverly Sills run opera houses? Sills’ beloved New York City Opera vacated its Lincoln Center home of 50 years due to financial woes [opera is not cheap to run], and has been suffering ever since. The late Sarah Caldwell founded the Opera Company of Boston and she was both its director and its conductor for over thirty years. She was able to attract renowned singers Joan Sutherland, Beverly Sills, John Vickers, and Placido Domingo to perform with her Opera Company of Boston.The late Carol Fox was one of the founders of Chicago’s Lyric Opera; Ardis Krainik took over until 1997 and ran it until her death. Her successor was a man. Soprano Renée Fleming became Chicago Lyric Opera’s  first musical consultant in 2010, but she is not the manager who actually runs the show.

Classical music abounds with female performers of brilliance as conductors, composers, and performers. One of the few modern-day female conductors in the U.S. is Sebrina Maria Alfonso, Music Director of the South Florida Symphony,

Thanks to author Anna Beer, Sounds and Sweet Airs: The Forgotten Women in Classical Music sheds light on intellectually brave and creative women who continued composing and performing in spite of restrictive societal roles thrust upon them. They are “forgotten women” no more.

Ciao for now.



My Published Books!

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My books, Spirited Constellations, Books One, Two, and Three, are about the magic, the paranormal that can change one’s life. –

Friends, Romans, Country People, Family, and All, lend me your ear:  My trilogy books, Spirited Constellations, Book One: The Magic, Book Two: The Charmer, and Book Three: The Magic, are now live on Amazon! Here is a link to them:

As of today, my books are on Kindle, and IBooks.  This weekend, the hardcover version of them, in a lovely boxed set, will be available on Amazon.

Feel free to write a review of my books!

I will be blogging again this weekend.  Until then, have fine, safe times!

Ciao for now.