In the presence of people making music, I am wonderstruck.

When I was in the fifth grade, the music teacher led our class into a room where we sat at individual desks and put on earphones connected to a record player. We were instructed to mark on a prepared sheet whether the series of notes we heard got louder or softer, went up scale or down scale, or had certain other characteristics. The next week, after the papers had been graded, the teacher asked me not to sing in music class because, the test showed, I would throw everyone else off-key. And, in fact, when I sang, I did. And still do.

In the Fifties, when I was in college, I went summers to the Newport Jazz Festival, which was still small enough to be held in Peabody Park, a Little League baseball field. That people could get on stage and so casually make such emotionally charged music was amazing. And they improvised, venturing in public into the unknown. All the greats played, and since they were performing not just for the paying audience, but for their peers, they shone. The courage, sophistication, ebullience, and nonchalant seriousness of jazz musicians is my model for all artistic performance.

At the end of his sets, when the supremely elegant Duke Ellington turned to the audience and called out, “I love you madly,” I believed him.