Barbara Martyska


Someone asked me recently, “When you think of music, what is the first thing that comes to your mind?” My answer was about the universality of music and how much we all need it. We human beings have expressed how much we need music for as long as there have been human beings. There has never been a culture, no matter how primitive or how advanced, at any period of time, in any part of the world, that did not make music somehow.

I found out how much I needed music when I began taking piano lessons at the age of five. My first assignments were from the book Teaching Little Fingers To Play by John Thompson. The book contained very simple melodies, and my little fingers loved to play these melodies. Each piece was illustrated and had printed lyrics. I loved the illustrations, and I loved to sing the words. I couldn’t wait for my next lesson so that I could go on to the next page. The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn. I don’t remember exactly when I realized that I really needed this music in my life, but at some point I knew I couldn’t imagine my life without it. I’m retired now, but I spent my working life as a music teacher, performer, and composer.

The years I spent composing were the time when my experiences with music came full circle for me. Now other children play pieces that I wrote. Some of my piano books and pieces are for young beginners and have illustrations and printed lyrics, and I like to imagine that the children playing them love playing them and singing the lyrics as much I as did long ago and that they are as excited about learning music as I was. I remember the mother of a young piano student telling me that when her daughter played my composition, “Lullabye for a Grizzly Bear,” she put her teddy bear and all her stuffed animals on the piano and told them to listen while she played for them. This is a memory I will always treasure.