Joanne Lipman and Melanie Kupchynsky Pick Books for Music Lovers

Joanne Lipman and Melanie Kupchynsky Pick Books for Music Lovers

After being apart for decades, Joanne Lipman and Melanie Kupchynsyk reconnected at the memorial service for Jerry “Mr. K” Kupchysky. Mr. K was a music teacher to them both and was also Melanie’s father.

Formerly members of a string quartet, the two began a new collaboration—a memoir as duet—and the result is the acclaimed book Strings Attached, praised by Jeannette Walls as the “wonderful, inspiring story of a teacher who pushed his students to do more than they thought they could—and changed their lives.”

Now, Joanne is an award-winning journalist and Melanie a prized member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, but they remain committed to the idea that music is the key to success—and one of the few bridges between all people. Here they share their list of the top 10 books they’ve read where music plays an important role.

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    1.Longing by J.D. Landis

    A work of historical fiction about the life, love, and music of Robert and Clara Schumann, meticulously researched and extremely evocative. The novel offers fascinating details of the Romantic era and its greatest geniuses, including Mendelssohn, Brahms, Chopin, Goethe, Kierkegaard, and Hans Christian Andersen. This book forever transformed the way Melanie listens to and performs Schumann’s music.


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    2. The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason

    Melanie read this on a tour and it haunted her for a long time afterward. The novel tells the story of a piano tuner who travels to the jungle in Burma in 1886 to tune and repair a piano for a British army surgeon. A spellbinding juxtaposition of European musical culture against a most unexpected backdrop, it makes a convincing argument that music can foster peace.



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    3. The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

    This novel is set in war-torn Sarajevo in 1992 and based on a true story. After 22 people are killed in a mortar attack while waiting in line for bread, a cellist vows to play in that very spot for 22 days in their memory.




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    4. All Equal Music by Vikram Seth

    Set in Vienna and London, this is a poignant love story about two musicians—a pianist and a violinist—who reconnect after 10 years of separation. The violinist is now a member of a successful string quartet, and the pianist carries a terrible secret that she must ultimately reveal.




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    5. Testimony by Solomon Volkov

    Published only after Shostakovich’s death due to the extreme nature of the revelations, this memoir offers gripping details about life in Stalinist Russia—if you can get past the numerous footnotes and long Russian names.




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    6. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

    In this acclaimed novel, a famous opera singer is among an international group of people taken hostage by South American terrorists at a party. Music becomes their common language over the ensuing weeks of captivity. As bonds form between the individuals, a beautiful depiction emerges of the transformative power of music.



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    7. Nurtured by Love by Shinichi Suzuki

    This nonfiction book was written by the internationally renowned music educator Shinichi Suzuki, whose revolutionary “Suzuki” method forever changed the landscape of instrumental instruction. Suzuki’s philosophy combines his love of children and art to “grow beautiful people with high integrity regardless of their so-called innate abilities.” Great insight and inspiration, not just for music teachers, but for parents and anyone who works with children.


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    8. Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres

    A lyrical novel about a Greek village swept up in World War II, and a local woman who falls in love with a reluctant Italian soldier—the romantic, mandolin-playing Captain Corelli. Music animates the novel, serving as a contrast to the brutality of war and as proof that beauty that can ultimately triumph over evil.



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    9. Timothy Tuneful by Bette Distler

    A delightful illustrated children’s book written in 1967 (now out of print), about a musical family that lives in a house shaped like a grand piano, up a hill from a town with no music, and how Timothy finds a way to bring music to the townspeople. The author, a poet, dedicated the book to her four young sons—including Joanne’s future husband, “Tommy.”


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    10. The Musicians of Terezin 1941-1945 by Joža Karas  

    First published in 1985, this groundbreaking work of nonfiction documented the concentration camp where musician inmates smuggled in instruments, ultimately creating four orchestras and an opera company. The Nazis infamously duped Red Cross inspectors by inviting them to a concert where they used strategically placed planters to hide the fact that the musicians (most of whom were later killed) had no shoes.

    Joanne Lipman is one of the nation’s most prominent journalists and commentators. She founded and was Editor-in-Chief of the National Magazine Award-winning Condé Nast Portfolio, and was deputy managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, where she supervised coverage that earned three Pulitzer Prizes. She advises news and media organizations such as CNN, Yahoo!, and New York Public Radio, and she has appeared as a commentator on CNN, CBS, and NBC among others. Her work has also appeared in publications including The New York Times and Newsweek. She and her family live in New York City.

    Melanie Kupchynsky has been a violinist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for more than twenty years, during which time the symphony has won twenty-one Grammys. She began studying violin at the age of four with her father, Jerry “Mr. K” Kupchynsky. Melanie began her career with the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra under the direction of John Williams. With the Chicago Symphony Orchestra she has performed around the globe under the world’s greatest conductors and with the world’s most prominent soloists. She is also an active chamber musician, and she is a participant in the CSO’s Citizen Musician community outreach program. She and her family live near Chicago.


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