Charles Ives is known in our day as the “Father of American Music,” but in his day, he was known just like everyone else- an ordinary man living his life. He was born in Danbury, Connecticut on October 20, 1894 (Stanley 1) to his mother, Sarah Hotchkiss Wilcox Ives and father, George White Ives (A Life With Music, Swafford 4). His father was renowned for being the Union’s youngest bandmaster and having the best band in the Army (The Man His Life, Swafford 1). Little Charles was influenced early in his life by his father who had libertarian ideas about music (Stanley 1). Although Danbury prided itself as “the most musical town in Connecticut”, the people did not give the musical profession respect or understanding (The Man His Life, Swafford 1). One day, his father commented on a stonemason’s off-key singing by saying, “Look into his face and hear the music of the ages. Do not pay too much attention to the sounds—for if you do you may miss the music. You won’t get a wild, heroic ride to heaven on pretty little sounds” (The Man His Life, Swafford 2). Thus was young Charles’ introduction to music.
He began his musical career by banging on the piano with his dad’s drum parts using his fists. George interrupted him by saying “it’s all right if you do that Charles, if you know what you’re doing”, and sent him for drum lessons down the street (The Man His Life, Swafford 1). George Ives also taught his son to respect the strength of vernacular music. As a Civil War band leader he understood how sentimental tunes such as "Tenting Tonight on the Old Camp Ground," "Aura Lee," Stephen Foster songs, and marches and bugle calls were all apart of the experience of war and the memories of soldiers. Many of Ives's innovations developed directly from ideas of his father's even though George was no composer but rather something like a Yankee amateur in music. It came to be the son’s destiny to make artistic use of the father's musical experiments. When Charles began composing at around the age of thirteen, he was writing the type of pieces that he heard around Danbury all of his life such as marches, church songs, and fiddle tunes (The Man His Life, Swafford 2). By the age of fourteen, Charlie had become the youngest salaried church organist in Connecticut. With this musically opportune job, Ives wrote a lot of choral and organ music George was hopeful that someday he might even make a living as a concert pianist, but Charles had other plans. Although he enjoyed his music, he resented its consumption of his life, so he started rebelling like all other teens do and started playing sports as an escape (The Man His Life, Swafford 1).
However, by his late teens he returned to his first love and was broadening his schedule to: composing for church, composing for his father’s bands, and writing studies in polychords and polytonality (Stanley 1). By the time Charles was leaving to prepare for college, he was a professional composer...