Writings about Music

First Music Teacher

Letter from Michael Robinson to his first music teacher, Ben DiDia

Michael Robinson wearing a Little League uniform outside his yellow house on Michael William Road in North Merrick on the South Shore of Nassau County in New York


This letter was written when I was eleven prior to my family moving from North Merrick to Wantagh, a few miles away, both on the South Shore of Long Island in Nassau County, New York. Mr. DiDia was the band director at Camp Avenue Elementary School. I had passed a musical aptitude test that DiDia gave to regular classes, and after commenting upon the large size of my hands, decided that I would play trumpet. Subsequent teachers included the most famous musicians and composers in the world, but teachers like Ben DiDia, Richard Baffa and Rollan Masciarelli remain close to my heart and mind, their being my formal introduction to the world of music. A subsequent piano teacher, Barney Bragin, had a monumnental influence on myself, and I intend to write an essay about him.


June 29, 1967

Dear Mr. DiDia,

I have been one of your many musical students for 2 years. During those 2 years I have worked with the most talented, understanding and funny music teacher I ever had or will have. You taught me all I know about my instrument and made it easy to learn.

I regret moving mainly because I will miss you as a great teacher and friend.

Your friend forever,

Michael Robinson


I still remember clearly the day Ben DiDia came into my third grade class to give us a music aptitude test that would determine if we were qualifiied to be in the band. Fortunately, I was one of the students selected. Soon after that first meeting, I recall sitting with Mr. DiDia in the band room where he examined my hands, and based upon their large size, he decided I would do well with trumpet.

DiDia, who I later learned was a fine clarinetest, gave me an excellent introduction to the art of music because he was highly enthusiastic, disciplined, and had a good sense of humor, too, though I cannot recall any specific jokes he told.

Fortunately, the band teachers I had after moving to Wantagh, NY were also excellent. They were Richard Baffa, a clarinetist, in Junier High and Rollan Masciarelli, a trumpeter, in High School. I remained oblivous to the fact that they were all Italian American until well into my college years.

Details about my early musical life are discussed in Autobiography originally published by electronicmusic.com in 1997.

Fortunately, my parents made a photocopy of my letter to Mr. DiDia reminding me of his outstanding nature to this day.

- Michael Robinson, November 2018 (revised January 2020, Los Angeles)


© 2018-2020 Michael Robinson All rights reserved

Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer and writer (musicologist).