Category Archives: gender learning differences

Mystery about a Sister


Be prepared to read about a woman’s story, one which may or may

not have been relevant and meaningful to the musical world. I feel

there is a true basis and possibility that she made a big difference in

how her famous brother became who he was. I have to admit, I was

on my  own personal “movie fest” over the weekend. Originally I was

thinking, I would just post some of my favorites and give short film



Somehow, this evolved into something ‘bigger’ than I expected. It

was time-consuming and yet, I felt like a private investigator with

her mind open and ready for understanding and analyzing the facts.

I looked up, using different sources, to find out more about this

fascinating woman.


Now that I may, or may not, have your attention, I will tell you the

riveting movie that led to my research.



“Mozart’s Sister,” a French film which needs you to read the sub-titles.


In the movie,  which came out in 2011, Rene Feret is the director

and a young actress who is his daughter, Marie Feret, plays the

sister to her character’s famous younger brother. Historical details

that were  discerned through research shall follow this summary of

this fine movie.


First, here are three splendid comments from famous reviewers,

starting with one who’s deceased.  Roger Ebert, “Chicago Sun-Times,”

was always one of my favorite reviewers. He is such a trustworthy

man to recommend movies.

(Of course, many of you will recognize his name and the television

show which I used to enjoy- “Siskel and Ebert at the Movies.”)


Here is what Roger Ebert said of, “Mozart’s Sister:”

“Marie Feret is luminous.” (in this role.)


David Noh, “Film Journey” says:

“A triumph!”


Ronnie Scheib, “Variety” Magazine:

“A treat for classical music lovers and cinephiles alike.”


What was a turning point in this movie which motivated me to

investigate and research?

What happened to make me seek the truth?


When Leopold Mozart, father of Maria Anna (also referred to as

Marianne and affectionately known as, “Nannerl”) tells his only

daughter when she is interested in writing musical compositions,

“Harmony and counterpoint are not understood by women.”


Of course, this caused me to say indignantly to my television screen

which was innocently displaying the film,

“That’s outrageous!”


Big sister, “Nannerl,” is helpful to toddler brother, “Wolfie,” and

helps him practice his keyboard lessons on a harpsichord. This

baroque instrument is lovely sounding. The scales and other early

beginning lessons are closely supervised by their father.


At age 5 or 6, “Wolfie” is paraded in front of wealthy families and

is also given an audience with royalty. He is a cute boy and shows

great potential and musical aptitude. The film shows Wolfgang

using creative interpretation of the music and dramatic arm

flourishes. He was supposedly beginning to write his own musical

compositions at age 4 or 5.


In the beginning of the movie,  their coach’s wheel breaks after

going over a rut in the country road. It is late and the Mozart family

stays in a nearby nunnery. It is interesting to note that there are

two sisters living there. Their story emphasizes the difference in

the way male and female genders were treated in this period of time.

The two girls have been shuffled and taken away from the palace,

being raised by nuns.


At one point, there is a name mentioned of the two girls’ brother,

who is being raised to be a ‘Royal.’ The part that Maria Anna plays,

and is asked to carry out a charade, is to transport a letter to their

brother, if the Mozart family should be ever happen to appear at

Court. Anna Maria treasures this new friendship and promises to

keep the letter safe and take it to their estranged brother.


This movie would engage someone who has been enjoying the inner

workings of the staff and upper class levels or tiers of British society

on the PBS show, “Downton Abbey.” Although this is a whole other

period of time, there are still the ideas of class structure and family

expectations being expressed. Definitely, it is an eye-opener in both

the film about the late 1700’s and the television series of the 1900’s.

Traditions and historical details about clothing, customs and roles

women and men played also are featured in both of these storylines.


At the end of the film, there is not much said about Nannerl’s  being

anything but helpful to her brother.  There are no illusions that she

may have helped Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart compose his greatest



In the movie’s middle,  there is a nice romantic interlude, where

Maria Anna disguises herself as a boy, in a white-haired wig, to give

the hand written letter to the young Monarch from his sister. They

use the young man’s title in the film as ‘Louis XV.’ This story becomes

a very sweet part of the movie. I will not tell you about how it unfolds,

hoping you will someday pursue viewing this one. I will say it depicts

Nannerl’s character as having spunk, showing independence and also,

her romantic side.


Before the credits roll, there are a few sparse details given. The written

lettering after the movie ends mentions Maria Anna helped to write

some of her own sonatas as a young woman. It mentions she helped

Wolfgang transcribe his first writings, since he scribbled them. There

is a subtle undertone of the possibility that she was his ‘muse.’  As his

sister, she may have written (created) some of his early works.


The movie has places that explain traditional upbringing of “fine young

ladies.” The women are encouraged to wait on men, not to further their

education. Maria Anna tries to ‘rock the establishment.’ Her mother has

disappointment and her father shows anger for her independent streak.

She doesn’t wish to follow the social order of the period. I was rooting

for her, all the way!



If you enjoy history and reading about a famous person’s family,

you may enjoy this part of the post. . .


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart lived from January 1756 until December,

1791. There is confusion about why he died at such an early age of 35.


He was the son of a musician and teacher of music, Leopold Mozart.

His mother was named Anna. He was born in Salzburg, which later

became part of, or known as,  Austria. Wolgang’s father and mother

had seven children, only two that lived beyond infancy. The oldest

living child was a daughter named Maria Anna, nicknamed, “Nannerl.”

There were four years between the two children, sister and brother.


When Wolfgang was 3 years old, his sister was learning her lessons,

which included language, music and reading. She was practicing

with her brother close by her side. Later, she would be by his side,

while he was the one leading the lessons. This relationship lasted

probably all of their childhood. “Wolfie” was her little shadow,

trying to do everything she did.


There is a notebook that Leopold made for Maria Anna, which is

known as “Nannerl’s Notenbuch” or also written as, “Notenbuch

fur Nannerl.” In English, this was “Nannerl’s Music Book.” This

amazing composition book demonstrated the first lessons that

Leopold gave to her, along with her brother. It consists of only

(originally) 48 pages, now only 36 pages remain.  This book has

her father’s exercises for her practicing beginner harpsichord

pieces. This also included anonymous minuets and some of her

father’s  original  works.  Two composers,  Carl P. E. Bach and

George C. Wagenseil, had their pieces transcribed as passages

in this musical exercise book.


In 1982, a man (just a coincidence) named Wolfgang Plath

studied the handwriting within the Notebook and attributed

the variety to consist of five different handwriting samples

or sources. There are evidences of the collaboration between

Leopold, the father, and his son, “Wolfie.”


Leopold took his family touring around countries and the cities

of Vienna, Austria and Paris, France. Maria Anna Mozart was

born in 1751 and lived 78 years, until 1829. When she became a

young lady, it was considered inappropriate for her to continue

to publicly play the harpsichord, piano or sing. Up until she was

18, Maria was part of her musical touring family. A biographer

considered her to be a great singer and an,

“Excellent harpsichord player and fortepiano player.”


Sadly, there is no mention about Nannerl being a conduit, or

letter transporter, between the sisters raised in a nunnery and a

member of Louis XV’s “Court” or “Royalty.”  This was the main

part of the plot I enjoyed in the movie I reviewed earlier.


At age 18, Maria Anna went home to Salzburg with her mother,

to teach musical lessons and stay at home. The following reason

was mentioned in one source,

“This was due to her being of marriageable age.”


Wolfgang and his father both wrote letters to Maria Anna which

some have been saved. Wolfgang during the 1770’s, was touring

in Italy and mentioned Nannerl’s writing musical compositions

and Wolfgang goes so far as to ‘praise her musical works.’


There are no references in her multiple letters from her father

to any of her own musical compositions in his correspondence.


An interesting note (and slightly salacious fact) is mentioned

in some of the biographers’ notes about Maria Anna’s and

Wolfgang’s close, intimate relationship. When they were young,

they developed a “secret language” and they had an “imaginary

kingdom.” They pretended they were married and carried out

their positions while playing together, as “Queen” and “King.”


There are a few indications and there is evidence of Wolfgang’s

using sexual wordplay which he used in other letters to his

lovers or girlfriends. This can be found also in the words he

chose and were included in his writing to his sister. One

historian considers this to be a ‘strange relationship’ for a

sister and a brother.


As an aside, my two brothers and I would play ‘house’ but

we would not have myself be the “mother” and one of my

brothers be the “father.” We would instead play that one of

the brothers was the “father” and other brother and I were

his “children.” Like the old television show, “Family Affair,”

where the uncle has “Buffy” and twins “Cissy” and “Jody.”

(I used to love this show, with Sebastian Cabot playing the

butler/nanny and Brian Keith playing the bachelor uncle.

did you know it ran from 1966 until 1971?) Or I would play

the ‘mother’ role and the brothers were my ‘kids.’ We usually

had company or neighbors over.  Once in awhile, they would

‘marry’ one of my girlfriends, or once in awhile, I would ‘marry’

one of their guy friends. I mention this to confirm that I would

also think it strange that the siblings played ‘Queen and King’

together over a Kingdom.


A sad note about Maria Anna’s independence shown in the

movie, “Mozart’s Sister.” This is not to be found anywhere in

any biographies or any letters. She is shown to be subservient

to her father, allowing him to forbid her to marry a man named,

“Franz d’Ippold.”  They were both young, he was a Captain and

a private tutor. When he proposed, there is an implication she

would have liked to say, “Yes.”  There is a letter in the family’s

collection where her brother, Wolfgang, tried to persuade her to

stand up to her father. Ultimately, Maria Anna was ‘forced’ to

turn down Captain Franz d’Ippold’s proposal.


Years went by, Maria Anna was allowed to marry at age 32, when

asked by a man named Johann Baptist Franzvan Berchtold  “un

Sonnenburg.” They were  married in 1783.  Listen to the “fun” life

Maria Anna participated in:  She became the wife of a widower

with five children she helped to raise. She had three more of her

own children with Johann. When she had her first born son,

she named him Leopold. Her father insisted on taking the her

only son to raise him in Salzburg at his home. The biography

doesn’t mention her mother’s role in this drama. From 1785

until he died in 1787, Leopold Sr. wrote letters and in a journal

telling about his toilet training Jr. and teaching him how to talk.


There was no mention of the boy’s illness nor a reason why he

should not have been raised as a baby until age 2 by his own

mother.  There is some speculation for her father’s thinking he

would raise another musical prodigy. Since he felt he was the

reason Wolfgang A. Mozart turned out the way he did.


After all, Leopold Mozart, Sr. did write and publish a violin

music textbook.



Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was known for his classical

musical compositions, which included over 600 works.

They include symphonies, concertos, operas and choral



Beethoven, while young, lived in the shadow of Mozart.

During his early years composing his own original music,

he was constantly compared to Mozart’s body of work.


Composer, Joseph Hayden said of Mozart’s legacy:

“Posterity will not see such a talent in another 100 years.”


Wolfgang A. Mozart married Constanze and had two sons.

He died at the early age of 35 years old.

His magnificent “Requiem” was never completed.

His music is still revered and considered the best in classical



Maria Anna was never given any credit (that I could find out

about) for her influence on her brother’s music nor were any

of her musical compositions published. The book, “Nannerl’s

Notenbuch” is not considered to be anything but her lesson

book to practice and play music using the hand written



I need to see the movie, “Amadeus,”  (again) to see if there

are any musical or notable references to his sister. If you

have a good memory or recently seen this, let me know in

the comments whether there is mention of Anna Maria

Mozart please.


I strongly recommend, “Mozart’s Sister” as a film to savor

and enjoy, while wishing the story line really happened.


Truthfully, being an older sister myself, how could “Nannerl”

NOT have had an influence upon her little brother, “Wolfie?”


Either way you look at this famous musician’s life,

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart made a huge impact

on the musical world.








There’s Pain in Our Differences


A friend of mine often says, “Thank God for our Pains!” It reminds her

of “being alive!” She says that we should be grateful for the pain in our

knees, hands or other areas of our body. “We are lucky to have those

body parts…” Well, I really had to think about that while up in the

aerosol room on Friday, grumbling because I had just hit my shin on

a metal rack!

Understanding differences in how men and women are, often comes

up in my writings. I have spent hours on end, trying to figure out why

I have had my history with men! When I was reflecting back, I thought

of how in education they say boys learn differently from girls. They

have research to back up this, that girls have better communication

skills due to the area of the brain that is used is more highly developed.

While boys are great in math and science, girls are better in reading

and writing, especially while collecting facts and putting them into words

into a paper. For over thirty years, at least! there have been studies to

help emphasize the differences betweent the sexes in their learning

and genders’ weaknesses, so that we can improve our teaching

approaches. Bridging these “gaps” can make us not only better learners,

but also better partners in our relationships!

Of course, this was very helpful in my approaches in teaching my own

three children (girl-boy-girl, birth order) and also, in my classroom. I was

a Language Arts teacher, first in middle school. I liked projects, I knew

that the boys liked to put their “hands on” approach to these, those

props held while presenting papers, really helped them relax. If I had

a month of mysteries, with the different kinds of spelling, writing,

English composition and current events, say for October lessons,

I encouraged making paper mache masks, posters and any other

three dimensional projects that suited the book they had read.

Two of my favorite presentations were boys that had put together

a “radio show” to demonstrate their reading of “War of the Worlds.”

It was quite different from the famous one that you have heard of!

Also, the young man who made a paper mache heart to talk about

the short story by Edgar Allen Poe, “The Telltale Heart” and his little

tape of an actual heart beating heard behind the words he told in

his report: Awesome!

Anyway, understanding how we learn, how we feel (pain, included)

and what we both need are very important to help our relationships.

Relationships, I often say, are the reason I wrote this blog,  because

they truly “reveal our hearts.” Most research of the sexes, determine

vast differences in the way we do those three important areas, learn,

feel and need.

I have to put this musical “shout out” to Billy Joel! I have used the

song, “Tell Her About It” many times in arguments or let’s put it nicely,

“discussions” with men. Love through words can really make a huge

difference in bringing people who love each other back together.

Equally important, through that hands on approach, men feel that

showing affection through actions is important. Men would like to

have more sex and women would like to have more romance in

their lives!

As far as pain studies and research go, new strides are being made

at understanding the differences between the way men react to

pain and women do.

Here are the different versions of the definition of pain:

1.)  Physical suffering associated with disease, injury or other bodily


2.)  Harmful stimulus that a basic bodily sensation results in the

characteristics of physical discomfort.

3.)  Acute mental or emotional distress. (otherwords, grief.)

4.)  The care and effort in accomplishing something like taking

great “pains” to make someone feel better or get something done.

5.)  Someone or something that annoys or is troublesome. (Men

are a ‘pain in the neck!’ or she’s a real pain!)

Very new studies in how we are able to cope and react to pain have

been uncovering startling differences between men’s and women’s

thresholds. Sure, for years, we thought women were able to handle

pain better due to the gender specific fact that women carry and

give birth to babies. Also, side note: I often wondered why my exes

seemed like “babies” when it came to any sickness or pain. Probably

not done a study on that yet!

Humans need pain! I found this out by reading on the subject of pain

recently. My daughter, some of you who have followed me for the

past year, may remember deals with rheumatoid arthritis. She has

had it since a child, hence its JRA (juvenile rheumatoid arthritis).

She has been in case studies at Ohio State and also, Children’s

Hospital since she was 11. She has more white blood cells than

red blood cells, usually, she also has the joints of a person over

65 years old. She still ran on the soccer field and when benched

due to her not always being the “best,” chose her senior year to

go onto the Cross Country team and made it into the top ten in

the district meet. (OCC) She is not a “whiner” nor does she mention

this to new dates. I called her a “hero” in an essay contest and we

had our picture taken and put in the Columbus Dispatch contest

in her high school years. When other teens didn’t want to get off

their butts from their computer, gaming and other areas of their

lives, she worked at Kroger’s as a cashier at 15, ran and also, did

not use it as an “excuse” to get out of anything!

Pain alerts us to danger and injury. If you touch something sharp,

hot or painful, this will trigger an electrical signal and releases

chemicals from cells in your fingers, racing up nerves of your arm,

to the area of the brain. To be technical, the thalamus and midbrain.

These are involved in sensory perception. The sensation goes to the

neocortex and the limbis system which gives us the type and intensity

of the pain. Memory and emotion assign us a “level of pain” on

how it registers and we react. If our memory is more painful we may

react differently to somethingwe have already experienced.

Someone, for example, who has had a hammer land on their foot

previously, may react with excruciating pain. The past memory

exacerbates it, making it seem even worse than the person who

for the first time, has a hammer land on their foot.

I get very upset when I bump or bash my legs. I am much more

likely to bruise, that knowledge makes me try so hard not to do

the bumping, but this morning, I rammed my leg on an open

cabinet! I almost screamed in frustration! I could see the bruising

and also, see redness and the future of broken capillaries. That

is my fate, I can look back at my Dad’s bruised, black and blue

veins on his legs and I can look at my Mom’s when I am in the

bathroom with her. We never recouperate from those bumps

and bruises. I tried to sit down and put ice on my leg, sat and

did “mindful chewing” and ate my breakfast. I know that it

will not be bad, in comparison to other’s daily pain nor should

I dwell on it too much. That is life in my body. But this led me

to write about the subject today!

Here is a reference on this subject, Allan Basbaum, PhD. who is

the chair of the anatomy department at University of California,

“Pain signals that are repeated over and over can eventually

cause physiological chemical changes that make nerve pathways

ultrasensitive. Once that happens, your brain interprets pain impulses

traveling on them as more intense and harder to regulate and


This is sad, because pain messages may become embedded in your

central nervous system so that your brain may keep sending them

** Even when they no longer exist! This is distressful to those with

fibromyalgia. Those pathways in your neurosystem, have developed

into extremely sensitive places where the slightest ache is intensified.

This explains also why women are the ones more likely to have this

and also, fill up the pain clinics. There is a different brain structure

that is like a wall where the pain is processed. Studies have found

the brain structures that help control consciousness, emotions, and

pain processing differ between the sexes. The women’s wall is thicker,

in the brain area studied, female patient who suffer frequent migraines

specifically. Along with the fact that only male rats are used for drug

studies, we have still a long way to go to discover sex appropriate drugs

to “cure” or “treat” different ailments. Only after the 1990’s have we

begun to start tracking the differences in the way sexes react to drugs.

This is directly shown through the difference in the way women have

heart attacks and strokes and men do. We are beginning to understand

that heart attacks and cardiovascular disease strikes the sexes differently.

As we get older, we all will need to adjust to the differences in the way

the sexes age, get diseases and how to handle them. While it may not

seem important to the younger readers, it is important to us all in society

who have parents, elderly relatives and friends, too. The ways we differ,

in our communication, effect us in the workplace and at home. We need

to understand that men feel useful if they are the ones who are fixing,

earning and doing. That is the way their gender, from childhood on, is

developing. It is out of their control! If you read about counseling or have

been through marital counseling, one of the most often heard phrases is,

“But I show her I love her by working hard, I come home, mow the yard,

and doing other chores. I am showing her I love her through my actions.”

Women, also often breadwinners, will emphasize the other side of love,

through emotions, by saying they express their love through telling their

partner that they appreciate this or that, they “remembered” their spouse’s

favorite meal to make or scent to wear. Communication is learning how

the other person thinks and feels.

Sympathy towards the other person’s aches and pains of growing older,

will go a long way towards staying connected, showing you care and

warming up your relationship. I am going to give you a few suggestions

of how to do this while we are all going through one pain or another

in this life. Take a bath or shower together, give back, foot or other

bodily parts massages, and try something new together that is enjoyable

to get your minds off the pain. It will help you to bridge back to your

younger selves to learn how to dance, go to the Y and swim, take cooking

lessons (remember to find a healthy cook since we do need to be careful

with our bodies as we age!) and take leisurely bike or walks through parks,

enjoying the scenery. Hold hands, watch t.v. on the same sofa, not your

separate areas or Lazy Boys!

Lastly, we knew our brains were different between the sexes, but who

knew how different?! I am sure that this contributes to that thought we

came from different planets!