Thomas Jefferson and Music
Music was the love of Thomas Jefferson’s youth, companion in his middle years, and comfort in his old age. He hailed music as the “favorite passion of my soul,” but lamented the uneducated ears of his fellow countrymen, whom he considered in 1778 to be in a musical state of “deplorable barbarism.”
Jefferson devoted his musical talents to the violin—the king of instruments in his time—and practiced for three hours a day from 1764 to 1776. Although he never played professionally, he did perform for a time with Francis Fauquier, the governor of Virginia in the 1760’s.
For Jefferson, music could both release tension and unite family. The sage of Monticello spent many happy hours in the parlor accompanying his daughters and granddaughters, who played harpsichord and piano, on works by Hayden, Vivaldi and other favorite composers. At the age of seventy-four, Jefferson wrote that “music furnishes a delightful recreation for the hours of respite from the cares of the day, and lasts through life.”