Humiliated, Danny returned to his previous life. The keyboard became an outlet for all his frustrations. He practiced day and night, to the exclusion of everything else. He had been studying since he was six with a local teacher. But now this honorable gray-haired matron told his mother candidly that she had nothing more to give the boy. And suggested to Gisela Rossi that her son audition for Gustave Landau-a former soloist in Vienna, now spending his autumnal years as music director of nearby San.
Angelo Junior College. The old man was impressed by what he heard and accepted Danny as a pupil. Rossi responded with a monosyllabic, "Oh. Landau was a gentle if demanding mentor. And Danny was the ideal pupil. He was not only talented but actually eager to be driven. You should go out some evenings and have fun. And every waking moment when he was not in school, he spent at the piano.
And it upset him. A kid his age should be going out with girls.
God knows Frank was a real Casanova by this time. And so at the end of dinner the next evening, she left them on their own. So they could chat. Her husband was perceptibly annoyed, since he always found talking to Danny a disquieting experience. Like a nervous infantryman, Dr.
Rossi feared he might be crossing -into a minefield. But a lot of musicians are like me. Rossi began to sweat. I want to make music my life. Rossi searched for an appropriate response. A passion for music was better than several others he could have imagined. Just after his sixteenth birthday, Danny made his debut as a soloist with the Junior College Symphony. As Danny stepped on stage, pale with fright, his glasses caught the glare of the primitive spotlight, nearly blinding him.
When at last he reached the piano, he felt paralyzed. The applause seemed to go on -forever.
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But that evening Daniel Rossi had been intoxicated by a new emotion: the adoration of a crowd. From the time he entered high school, Danny had his heart set on going to Harvard, where he could study composition with Randall Thompson, choral master, and Walter Piston, virtuoso symphonist.
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This alone gave him the inspiration to slog through science, math, and civics. For sentimental reasons, Dr. Rossi would have liked to see his son at Princeton, the university celebrated by F. Scott Fitzgerald. And which would have been Frank's alma mater. But Danny was impervious to all persuasion. And finally Art Rossi stopped his campaign. Let the kid go where he wants. Worse, the President of Harvard, the stubborn Dr. Pusey, then refused to fire them as Joe McCarthy had demanded. Rossi asked with growing frequency, "how can anyone whose brother died protecting us from communism even dream of going to that kind of school?
What was the point of answering that music isn't political? As Dr. Rossi persevered with his objections, Danny's mother tried desperately not to take sides. And so Dr.
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Landau was the only person with whom Danny could discuss his great dilemma. The old man was as circumspect as possible. And - yet-he confessed to Danny, "This McCarthy frightens me. You know, they started out in Germany like this. Then he continued softly, "Daniel, there is fear throughout the country.
Senator McCarthy thinks he can dictate to Harvard, tell them whom to fire and so forth. I think their president has shown enormous bravery. In fact, 1 wish I could express to him my admiration. Princeton, Harvard, Yale, and Stanford all wanted Danny.
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Even Dr. Rossi was impressed-although he feared his son might make a fatal choice I - Armageddon came that weekend when he summoned Danny to his cordovanupholstered study. And asked the crucial question. Up till now, Danny had cherished the unconscious hope that when his father saw the strength of his conviction, he would finally relent. But Arthur Rossi was as adamant as stone. And so I choose not to pay a penny of your bills. Yet strangely he felt free. A tall and blond Apollo with the kind of magnetism women loved and men admired.
He excelled at every sport he played. His teachers adored him, for despite his universal popularity, he was soft-spoken and respectful. In short, he was that rare young man whom every parent dreams of as a son. And every woman dreams of as a lover. It would be tempting to say that Jason Gilbert, Jr. Certainly a lot of people thought so.
But beneath his dazzling exterior there was a single inner blemish. A tragic flaw he had inherited - from generations of his ancestors. Jason Gilbert had been born Jewish. His father had worked hard to camouflage the fact. For Jason Gilbert, Sr. Life would be far better if everyone could simply be American. He had long considered disposing of the liability of his last name. And finally, one autumn afternoon in , a circuit court judge gave Jacob Gruenwald a new life as Jason Gilbert.
They had a great deal in common. Love of theater, dancing, outdoor sports. Not least of all, they shared a passionate indifference to the practices of their ancestral faith. To avoid the- pressures from their more religious relatives to have a "proper" ceremony, they decided to elope. Their marriage was a happy one whose joy was magnified in when Betsy gave birth to a boy, whom they named Jason, Jr. The very moment that he heard the splendid news, in the smoke-filled waiting room, the elder Gilbert made a silent vow.
He would protect his newborn son from suffering the slightest hardship because he was of nominally Jewish parents. No, this boy would grow up and be a first-class member of American society. By this point Gilbert, Sr. He and Betsy were- living on a lush three-acre homestead in growing-and unghettoed-Syosset, Long Island. Three years later, baby sister Julie came along.
Both seemed to thrive on the regimen of selfimprovement that their father had devised for them.