Born into music

by Elijah Onik, Staff Writer

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The first melancholy chords rang out, silencing the audience. A chorus of students’ soft voices come together: they sang Grandson Morrison Foster, which their music teacher wrote to celebrate the birth of his grandson. Grandson Morrison Foster was born into a family that loves music. 

Middle school music teacher Michael Ficocelli still composes often and credits his good health and happiness to music. 

“I feel like I’m one of those lucky guys that never worked a day in his life,” he said. 

Ficocelli described his musical education throughout his schooling as “virtually zero,” aside from having a great piano teacher. When he was 9-years-old, his parents bought a piano for their home.

Ficocelli eventually earned two master’s degrees in music education and composition, and graduated summa cum laude. 

Ficocelli was still able to become successful in the musical world. He performed live for decades with his wife, even working with the playwright who wrote Fiddler on the Roof.  

Emotion in music is especially important for Ficocelli. Some of Ficocelli’s greatest works are inspired by loss. Some were inspired by the tragedies of the Holocaust. 

From Death To Hope, an internationally recognized song cycle written by Ficocelli, entails the suffering of Jewish families during the Holocaust. Performed at a number of locations, including the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, My Mamalah, a song from From Death To Hope encapsulates a mother being led to the “cleansing showers” and her cries out to her baby, or mamalah. There was not a dry eye in the audience. 

Now twenty-two years since he composed that piece, Ficocelli has written about a different baby: his grandson Morrison Foster. Instead of writing about separation and fear, he writes about love and the point of view through the eyes of the newborn. 

This short piece that was sung by the 2018-2019 8th grade vocal music class brought Ficocelli’s professional music background into his classroom, and he was able to share the power of music to convey emotion to a new generation.