When Casa de Mañana resident Dr. Jack Clausen was five years old, his parents introduced him to the piano. "I wasn't forced to play but encouraged," Jack said. "My father was a music professor and department chair at Los Angeles City College, so in that sense I was motivated. He and my mother were the primary forces responsible for instilling the self-discipline of daily practicing needed to attain sufficient skills to play for a lifetime of fun."
Jack soon switched to the violin and then at age 12 to the viola, which he has faithfully played for nearly 70 years. This includes in orchestras during his college and medical school years at Stanford and Duke universities, and for the past five years as part of a chamber music quartet.
Because of chamber music's intimate nature, originally composed for the home (as opposed to that written for the theatre or church), the genre has been described as "the music of friends," a definition that Jack takes to heart.
"Playing chamber music requires special skills, both musical and social, that differ from the skills required for playing solo or symphonic works," Jack said. "You really have to listen to, know and understand the other players. When everyone is in sync, the results are amazing."
Jack plays with three other highly skilled musicians: Martin Nass, violin; Willis Frisch, cello, a friend Jack has known for 50 years; fellow Casa de Mañana resident Cathy Comstock, violin. They play together as often as once a week, usually in Martin's condo, a three-block walk from Casa in nearby La Jolla Village. The group selects a piece of music and the musicians learn their individual parts and then come together to unite them.
"It's fun figuring out how everything goes together," Jack said emphasizing that the group does not perform in public. "We like to perform for ourselves, just like a jam session. Our favorite string quartet pieces are usually those written by Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven but we often explore composers such as Brahms, Ravel, and Debussy. One of the attractions to playing string quartets is that there is such a rich literature written for this ensemble."
To keep his skills sharp, Jack has attended music workshops throughout the U.S., England and Europe. He also said the unique mental challenges of playing chamber music keeps his mind sharp and fluid. During the 2020 pandemic restrictions, the quartet was unable to play together for more than a year, so when most of the restrictions were lifted, the group was excited to get back together.
Despite his deep passion for music, Jack decided not to pursue a professional music career at the advice of his father. "Although I very much enjoyed my career in medicine, if I had to choose between medicine and recreational playing of chamber music, there is no question that I would choose music," Jack said. "However, being a music professor, my father was a shrewd judge of talent and he told me it would be very difficult to be successful as a professional musician and he was right. I have no regrets about my career path."
Instead, Jack enjoyed a distinguished career as a pulmonologist in the San Diego area.
"I cherish the long-lasting friendships playing chamber music has given me," Jack said. "And there is no better location to enjoy music that at Casa, a community right by the ocean with tons of charm and character."
About Casa de Mañana
Casa de Mañana is a multi-level retirement community located in La Jolla, California that offers independent and assisted living care. Located on a breathtaking site overlooking the Pacific Ocean and a block away from a vibrant village, Casa de Mañana is La Jolla senior living at its best.