Music with Minnesotans: Jack Falker

by Alison Young, Minnesota Public Radio
March 7, 2012

St. Paul, Minn. — Jack Falker is a financial guy. He and his son Peter dispense their wisdom on investment strategy, financial planning and do a variety of consulting.

So it delighted me that his e-mail signature includes wisdom from a Zen master:

"The Master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education, his love, and his religion. He simply pursues his vision of excellence in everything he does, leaving others to determine whether he is at work or at play."

Now this is definitely someone I'd like to get to know - especially since what I do all day at Classical-MPR is play!

Jack and I became friends over Mozart.

Mozart and classical music play throughout his house and office, and in summertime, in his garage and rose garden all day long. It inspires him, but what he has concluded in his listening is that just knowing the technical aspects of music-making is not what make music move us --- it's the spirit, something coming from deep inside that has a connection to the divine, something that can't entirely be explained. It's talent, it's a voice that has to be expressed, it's a gift that never fails to grab us.

Jack likes to compare what he hears from great musicians to his own attempts at writing poetry when an English Major in College. He is a good writer, but it's not a spiritual voice - oh, except maybe a couple of times like this marvelous little gem jack shared with me:

My Rose

I grew the most beautiful Rose,
Its color ethereal; its fragrance heavenly.
Never, in heaven, or on earth,
Have such beauty and perfection
Been seen in a flower.

I want all to have my Rose,
But there are some, close to me,
Who wish to shelter it;
To keep it pure, and only for themselves.

"It will change," they say;
"Its limbs distorted, its flowers less fragrant.
Its petals may fall to the ground,
And be trampled by those,
Who do not understand, or care, as we."

I say to them, "Do not fear,
My Rose is eternal;
Its source, infinite.
It has been trampled upon.
It has been hung upon a tree.
But it has risen; its essence unchanged."

"I want all to have my Rose;
To know its beauty;
To smell its heavenly air.
It will not change.
It will always be, as I Am."

Roses are important to Jack. He grows some of the most exquisite varieties at his Edina home. It gives him a lot of time to be quiet and listen to music like Beethoven's unusual and deeply moving Choral Fantasy with words: "When love and strength are united, God's grace is bestowed upon man."

None of us have had the privilege to ask Beethoven what he felt when he had to get the music out, but Jack has a neighbor who writes music and was moved by the sheer need to write. Stuart d'Rozario told Jack:

"Songs come in waves and you dive in hopelessly, in desperate pursuit of the music you hear and the ideas and emotions that surround it. When a song wants to make its presence felt, it doesn't wait politely in turn and ask for permission. Instead it kicks around in your head and drives you crazy till you pay attention to it and let it out."

Like Stuart, Alexander Borodin made his living as a very successful chemist, but couldn't wait to run out of his lab and back to his studio to write down music. And what lovely music he makes, one in particular taking us to the vast and mysterious Steppes of Central Asia, a region where Jack's father's family came from.

Jack's session ended with a spirited performance by a jazz legend - Benny Goodman playing Mozart. It's likely the swing we hear in the Rondo would have delighted Mozart!


Jack Falker's playlist:

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Sonata for Four Hands - Martha Argerich/Alexander Rabinovitch

Ludwig van Beethoven, Choral Fantasy - Ashkenazy/Cleveland

Alexander Borodin, In the Steppes of Central Asia - Jarvi/Gothenberg

Stuart D'Rozario - The Radio in My Head

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Clarinet Concerto - Goodman/Boston


What do a ronde de jambe, grand battement, or an arabesque have to do with music? For writer and creative strategist Susan Berkson it's how she discovered classical music and is forever moved by it.

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