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The True Story of the Tchaikovsky-Singing Cockatiel

That's my cockatiel, Treerose, who sadly passed away in 2011. I got him in 1997, and if you're wondering why a he was named Treerose, well, he was hardly past being a vulture-esque baby (seriously, check out a picture of baby parrots...they're freaky!), so I didn't know if he would turn out to be a male or female. But I took a wild guess... named him Treerose (Treerose is a bratty squirrel from the Redwall books by Brian Jacques)...waited for the adult feathers to grow in... and he was a male. D'oh! By that time, though, the name had stuck, and Treerose he stayed.

Treerose grew up hearing me practice the flute and sometimes piccolo. Despite frequent attempts to train him to talk, he refused. (Except for a brief interlude when he learned and would deliver fantastically-timed, funereal utterings of "Uh-oh...") His schtick was music. He loved it. I'd say his favorite composer was Stravinsky (who once said that his music is best understood by children and animals), although he liked anything that has high instruments because they suited his own vocal range, such as Vivaldi piccolo concerti. And while he had lots of original songs he'd always sing, fortunately or unfortunately (depending on your POV), when it came to imitating music, he was a one-trick pony. His piece de resistance was the famous piccolo excerpt from Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony.

I played this piccolo part in high school and practiced it like a fiend. Apparently, I practiced it so much that it got through Treerose's thick little skull. He learned it, and sang it for years. Fortunately for my sanity, he improvised frequently, and in latter days, the finished product drifted away from Tchaikovsky's intentions - the composer must be spinning in his grave. But, no matter how many florid embellishments there were in the middle, he never departed from beginning and ending on perfectly in tune A flats. (Somebody ought to do a study on cockatiels and perfect pitch.)

Back when he was around the top of his game, my dad recorded him during one of his spontaneous singing sessions and put the video on his website, flutesonline.com

Years passed. While an undergrad at Carnegie Mellon, I started getting some forwarded emails from my teacher and other flutists, who were passing along the video of Treerose, just as they had received it from other flutists. Apparently, somebody along the line saw the video, liked it, sent it to others, and thus began a chain email which, according to the email addresses of the previous senders in the forwarded text, was winding throughout the flutist community all over the world. So you can imagine how surprised I was to see my own feathered darling the star of such attention.

That was 2004, but the video still made rounds, and a few years later when I was subbing at the New World Symphony, I was chatting with another flutist about our pets and when she learned that my cockatiel sings the Tchaik excerpt, she exclaimed, "That's your bird?!" Boy, I thought. My cockatiel is more famous in the flute community than I am.

Anyway, that's when it became apparent that it was time for Treerose to get more credit. Up he went onto youtube, where his video has been watched over 1,500 times so far.

And since he well deserves a little corner of my site, here's the video (terrible quality for these days, I'm afraid, although it was good back when we shot it).

Treerose sings Tchaikovsky

So if you're a flutist who has heard of the Tchaikovsky-singing cockatiel, now you know who he is and how the video got out there... it wasn't through me, although I'm highly tickled at what's happened. :)

And that, as Paul Harvey says, is the rest of the story.


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