Beethoven: Composer Cliffnotes

Widely regarded as one of the most influential musicians the world has ever seen, Ludwig van Beethoven is the stuff of legend. Even those largely unfamiliar with musical history have heard of the brilliant composer whose genius could not be quelled, even when he lost his hearing. Few artists have had such an impact on the evolution of their art form.

BeethovenBeethoven was born in Bonn in 1770, into a musical family. He began rigorous musical training at a very young age, performing his first concert when he was just seven years old. At ten he withdrew from grade school to study music full-time, and by twelve he’d published his first composition.

Beethoven joined the court of Bonn in 1784 as the assistant organist, and made a name for himself as one of the city’s most talented musicians. In 1787 he traveled to Vienna, hoping to study with Mozart. Alas, after only a few weeks Beethoven returned home, his mother having fallen ill. Whether Beethoven ever actually met Mozart has long been a subject for musical history lore.

In 1792 Beethoven left Bonn for good, returning to Vienna to study under Haydn. He distinguished himself first as a virtuoso pianist, then as a composer.  His genius landed him at the center of the musical world, and won him many wealthy patrons. Beethoven’s compositions matured as he did, pushing boundaries and challenging the conventions of the classical era.

Around the turn of the century, even as he was turning out some of his greatest works, Beethoven lost his hearing. It was a great blow, but miraculously did not end his musical career. Indeed, he continued composing at a furious pace, his pieces becoming increasingly complex and emotional.

This change in Beethoven’s music mirrored both his tumultuous personal life and a change that was going on in the larger artistic and literary world—Classicism was giving way to Romanticism. Centuries later, Beethoven is acknowledged as an important figure in that transition. Furthermore, his body of work gave future composers permission to break the rules, and create art unshackled by convention.

Beethoven died in 1827, one of the most celebrated composers of all time.

-Katie Dai

For an auditory trip through Beethoven’s work, enjoy this almost-2-hours-long compilation of some of his most famous compositions.

For tickets to see Hershey Felder portray the Maestro, visit

A New Act for TheatreWorks and Robert Kelley


Dear Friends,

We are writing to announce the retirement of Founding Artistic Director Robert Kelley at the completion of TheatreWorks Silicon Valley’s 50th Season in June of 2020. One of the longest-tenured artistic directors in the American Theatre, Kelley founded TheatreWorks in 1970, and has been at its helm ever since, directing over 170 of the company’s productions. He has overseen our growth from an experimental youth troupe to national status as a fully professional regional theatre, the third largest in the Bay Area and part of America’s 72-member League of Resident Theatres. During Kelley’s tenure the company has produced 66 world and 164 regional premieres to date, established a nationally-recognized New Works Festival, and launched education programs that engage 25,000 students each year.

From our first production, TheatreWorks has been committed to diversity, innovation, and the confluence of drama and music onstage. Kelley has frequently described the company’s work as “a celebration of the human spirit.”

Under the powerful direction of ten-year Managing Director Phil Santora, the company is in solid financial shape, with a committed subscriber and donor base and a substantial endowment. We continue to enjoy the support of the Cities of Mountain View, where we produce five productions each year, and Palo Alto, where we produce three productions and our nationally acclaimed New Works Festival.

According to Board of Trustees Chair Barbara Shapiro, “The Board fully appreciates all Kelley has done for theatre in the Bay Area and across the country. TheatreWorks has always reflected the diversity, entrepreneurship, and humanity of our community, but also Kelley’s personal warmth and artistry. With our national reputation for artistic quality, our strong financial position, and the outstanding organizational leadership of our Board and staff, we are in an excellent position to attract new artistic leadership. Our announcement today will allow ample time for a successful transition.” The Board will begin a national search for a successor this year, with plans to have next generation leadership in place as Kelley’s final season begins.

As he launches a dynamic, premiere-laden 48th season in July, Artistic Director Kelley remains vigorously committed to the company, which he says has offered “an artistic home to thousands of exceptional theatre artists over the years. There is a joy here, a warmth to the creative process that many have found inspiring. For me, that joy has been worth a lifetime.” Kelley’s final three years will culminate in 2020 with TheatreWorks’ 50th Anniversary Season. Following his retirement, he hopes to remain active in the company and looks forward to supporting its future growth under a new artistic leader.

Thank you for being part of the TheatreWorks Silicon Valley family, for sharing in our art, and for your unwavering support of our artistic leadership in the past, the present, and the future.