Passing the Baton: A Music Moment With Stravinsky and Rimsky-Korsakov

Igor Stravinsky (left) and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (right) just before his death in 1908. CREDIT: Public domain / Wikicommons

Igor Stravinsky was destined to change the face of music. Despite disapproving parents, all he needed was a little push down the right path from the right educator to help him fulfill his destiny.  

Stravinsky spent his early years studying piano and writing music. As the son of an opera singer, he was exposed to many great performances and caught sight of musical heroes like Tchaikovsky. It may come as a surprise to know his parents did not want a life of music for their son, and by the time he entered university, he gave in to parental pressure and unenthusiastically studied law and philosophy in St. Petersburg.  

Even while his studies led him elsewhere, Stravinsky’s love of music never faded. As fate would have it, he was studying law with the son of composer and one of the greatest music teachers in history, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Stravinsky was able to show the composer some of his early compositions and Rimsky-Korsakov knew that he needed to take Stravinsky on as a student.  

While Stravinsky continued to earn his law degree at university, he spent his free time writing music and studying orchestration and composition privately with Rimsky-Korsakov. After earning his law degree in 1905, he befriended many famous composers and joined forces with Ballet Russes and its founder Sergei Diaghilev, creating one of the most influential collaborations of the early 20th century. From that, Stravinsky blossomed into one of the most iconic composers ever, shocking the world with The Rite of Spring and revolutionizing the music world 

Without Rimsky-Korsakov, we might never have gotten the Stravinsky we know and love today.  

Music wouldn’t exist without teachers. At NWPB, we celebrate teachers every day through music. 

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