Play it again, John

The story of how my maternal grandparents met is legendary.

Once upon a time, there was a handsome, reserved Cuban-Italian doctor and an Italian-American nurse with jet-black hair and alabaster-white skin. John and Agnes met under the operating room lights during surgery at the Mayo Clinic in the 1940s. He was an anesthesiologist (speculated by the family to have been his choice because he didn’t like to talk to patients).

At the surgery’s conclusion, the doctor asked the nurse on a date. “Only if you play me the Appassionata by Beethoven,” she replied, confident the task was beyond even this talented doctor’s scope.

Agnes lived in a dorm on the hospital’s campus. A grand piano sat in the dorm’s lobby. That evening, John sat at the piano’s bench and began to play the Appassionata. The young nurses began to file out of their rooms to see who was playing.

I can only image my grandmother’s surprise and then realization that her weekend plans involved a date with the anesthesiologist who disliked patients. It turns out that my grandfather was “appassionato” about Beethoven, too, and a classically trained pianist: He performed this sonata at his graduation from the conservatorio de música in Havana.

Their story is sweet, if perhaps exaggerated (although my mother assures me my account is accurate), and it seems apropos to share how music brought two people together since this month’s issue features the Missoula Symphony, which, for 60 years, has been bringing our community together by defying and re-defining traditional conventions and notions of a symphony. It would seem that, like my grandfather, there’s a bit more to the story.