*Author’s Note:  The point of contention addressed by this piece turned out to be a semantic misunderstanding. However, the greater issue is believed by the author to be important enough to render the piece a valid contribution to the overriding dialogue. Thank you all for reading.


I just spent the evening with a table full of qualified professionals. A remarkable collective, really. One award winning, internationally celebrated soloist (who really was the life of the party); two versatile percussionists, one of them on the brink of completing a doctorate in music theory, the other executive director of a symphony orchestra; at least one opera composer, with a history as a Metropolitan tenor; an accomplished flutist with an arts management degree, currently in charge of a chamber orchestra; a harpsichordist, with a doctorate in musical arts and an international resume as performer and juror; a tubist, with a full time college instructorship and a degree in music administration; a published historian and ethnomusicologist; a science education specialist; and, two arts marketing associates.

Oh; and: me.

Having chosen to save my earnings for many years, at this juncture I hold few of what most would call printed credentials. Beyond the undergraduate degree in music education, I carry nothing on paper except the music currently on the docket in my satchel, and a recorded resume of nearly a lifetime of works performed.

Perhaps somewhat blindly, I operated for over two decades under the erroneous assumption that doing was of greater value than submitting time and money to training. I truly believed that demonstrating a capacity to execute at a high level carried its own legitimacy.

But, subtly, time made its indelible mark on all that. Now, I find myself surrounded by individuals who easily welcome each other into their “ranks” – be they academia, or administration, or the world stage – in an unspoken acknowledgement of collegiality. They arrive, resumes in tow, and receive automatic power of place.

Last fall, I purchased a coveted musical instrument: a brand new Steinway Model M grand piano. This investment was made possible by a lifetime of daily effort – working in public education as a music teacher, performing in two local orchestras, and saving most of my income for the future. Contrary to what may be assumed, I took not a penny from either my father or my mother, or anybody else, to finance this acquisition.

My father, a self-employed barber, counted his money on the kitchen table every Friday night, stacking the coin and single bills. A self-employed seamstress and part time semi-automatic machine operator, my mother had saved  – at the time of her death – some $70,000 which was placed into an annuity and eventually divided equally between her three offspring. My portion remains in an interest bearing account. No; I did not use that small inheritance to purchase this piano.

But, there are those who raise at least a corner of an eyebrow when they find out that the girl who never made it onto the roster of the academically accomplished found enough cash for a Steinway. Such valued instruments are customarily seen only amongst the performance elite. And, in order to be considered among them, one must present, you guessed it: the pedigree.

Well, allow me.

The term “pedigree” is used most commonly to define the breeding history of domestic animals. When I hear anybody utter the word, I experience a momentary reaction. My body adjusts its position, and the image of a stiffly postured, condescending British male in a topcoat and dress hat, with neck scarf and walking stick, takes shape in my consciousness.

Apart from that bestowed by both my parents, and their parents before them, I have none such. What I bring to the table are the fingers and thumbs on my two hands, the arms that bear them, and the mind and heart that drives them to action. There may not be a credentialed appointment with my name attached, but there will be music made, just the same.

After enjoying a sumptuous dinner of steak and potatoes, and sharing a chocolate dessert with my dinner companions I managed to offend at least one of them by inquiring into her position and misappropriating a term by identifying a colleague, whose position had been eliminated, as her mentor. She insisted that her pedigree didn’t include the referenced colleague at all. Apparently, when one has reached high rank, one doesn’t take kindly to being diminished by assumptions regarding how such status was achieved. There is a protocol to this business of acknowledgement, after all – and, arriving uninformed is the first insult.

To combat loneliness in advancing age, acquiring a pet is strongly advised. I’m told that lap dogs, for those allergic to cat dander, are portable and can even be house trained. After tonight, I’ve decided to seriously consider various breeds. Mine would have to be small, sweet, bright, and alert, but quiet and affectionate. Perhaps I should spend concentrated effort in this search; after all,  if people really see this here girl only as a barber’s daughter who happens to love the hell out of playing the piano and cello, a dog with a real pedigree might be just the ticket to save her from total oblivion.





© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  2/14/16    All rights those of the author, even if she doesn’t have her own office. Thank you.










14 thoughts on “Pedigree.

  1. This is all rather strange!

    I remember when I was doing the teacher training course, (what we call PGCE-FE) (further education e.g. anything post school) the tutors there were earning quite high salaries, the don explained they employ only “High Calibre people” and its really all just a trick! I do believe we all have something amazingly equal in this life to contribute, the highest fliers are those who understand and recognise that – or should be, but in reality, its often not the case! Oh well, sometimes things just zoom past over my head! 😀 XXX

    Happy ❤ You day! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes. Strange indeed. I cannot for the life of me understand why this woman took offense at my using the term mentor to describe a fellow colleague whom, as it turned out, she had actually hired at one point in the past. It suggested that what mattered MOST to her, after all her international opportunities, was that I – MERE PLEBE THAT I, APPARENTLY AM – RECOGNIZED her rank. Which, according to my standards, is antithetical to the reasons we make art at all. Art is no respecter of persons , so why should WE be?

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Its quite bizarre to me, that she took offence, I wonder if it was a misunderstanding of some sort?

        Oh well, you must know how precious some people are about defending their creative source? People sometimes try to help me out and I just feel like they are treading on my toes, I’m really defensive about it.

        People who are close, like family and friends, but who don’t know anything about what I’m trying to do in my creative life can sometimes be most difficult, as if throwing me back 10yrs to answer some aspect of my life’s work,which I thought I’d already made quite clear, but in fact I clearly hadn’t! (Not that I intended to, I may have deliberately negated such things in order to do something else!) Its all very abstract, I expect that applies to music too.

        Anyway, to talk about “pedigree” that way does sound vulgar and most extremely unpleasant. Perhaps you should get a mongrel dog, and train it to poop on her lap next time she’s around! 🙂 XX

        Liked by 1 person

        1. You are the cat’s pajamas. I relate 150% to everything you just said. Family, nobody getting it, others trying to “teach” you how to do what you already do, thank you very much. It’s all there. I guess the world for people like you and me is the virtual blogosphere, where the serpents and parasites troll daily. Ah, life. I’m putting my money on the next dimension.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. I guess the secret is to become nonchalant, and dish out replies such as “One does what one wants”

            My boss at my day job, he dragged me though a ton of his crap, while I tried to educate him, and thought I’d succeeded, then a yr or 2 later, he comes out with the same crap all over again! Well, it didn’t hurt so much that time, cos one comes to expect it from these ingrates! XX

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Feigning disinterest gets the job done, and also unnerves the person. I’d do it more often, were it not for feeling guilty for, you guessed it, unnerving the person. Passive Aggression has never been my style – in fact, the PAs usually get it full on in the face whenever they attempt their weasily little tactics!

              Liked by 1 person

            2. Emailed the colleague, attempting to clarify myself. Turned out it was a misunderstanding rooted in semantics. An emotional relief, for me at least. The term “mentor”, in my mind, has many applications, as was my intent – and, is not limited to performance skill. Mine was a reference to administrative/management skill, she thought otherwise, and was offended. But, in the final analysis, I think my piece was a justified address concerning the weight placed upon credentials awarded by institutions vs. those produced by actual live effort; in short, my “resume” is nothing more (or, less!) than a box full of audiotapes!

              Liked by 2 people

  2. I guess the reason I don’t get all this (I get YOU, not THEM) is because for the most part I take people who they are and where they in life. If you have a degree or 10 of them, that’s awesome. If you didn’t graduate from high school and got your GED or didn’t, that’s fine. If you got married or didn’t, that’s your business. If you had no kids or 20 kids and if you were married or not when you did it, that’s fine. Not my business. If you rent or own, if you have a car or 5 cars, if you have a boat or a vacation home or just enjoy staying at home, that’s all YOUR business. Whatever makes YOU happy. If you worked your a$$ off all your life to get to where you did I will have more appreciation for where you are in life than if your Mom or Dad set you up with an education, house, and anything else you wanted but I am okay with you no matter what way it happened. What I’m NOT okay with is you throw ANY of it in my face, both what you have and how you got it as well as what you don’t have and why you don’t. It’s your life and it’s my life and we need to take everyone where they are what they are and………..well you get it. You got it without me writing it. But maybe I needed to say it for someone who needs to read it. Or maybe I need to start my own blog (as my son says!). Sorry to jump on yours and vent! Love you RA ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes. I think the REACTION to my misspeak (calling the colleague a mentor) revealed more about how the person to whom I was speaking felt about how she believed she should be regarded. It was an inadvertent “expose”, of sorts. (yes; add a blog to your banners/grandmamade blog. Several of my bloggie friends do just that; they offer recipes, or their handiwork (paintings, woodworking, etc) but also post poems and essays.)


  3. Updates: My online counselor, after having heard me read this piece to him, called me “snotty”; a “mean bitch”; and, said “no wonder you don’t have friends!” Plenty of room for self-reflection tonight. Thank God, the Bachelor Women Tell All will air in a couple hours; I need some really stupefying downtime to diffuse these swirling thoughts and calm my pounding heart. !!


    1. Whoa WHAT????? I thought you were being exactly the opposite of what he thinks. You thought the other party was being what he said and you felt that the other party was making you feel small. I realize this was a matter of semantics and she didn’t feel that way BUT in no way did I think you were being those things. JMHO LOVE YOU BUNCHES!

      Liked by 1 person

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