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Miles Salerni, a 25-year-old percussionist, is one of this year's elite instrumental Fellows at Tanglewood, the Boston Symphony Orchestra's summer home in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts. But it took him a while to get there — five tries, to be exact.

Many audition for this prestigious training program, but few are selected. When Salerni got rejected for the third time, he knew he had to find another way to get to Tanglewood.

"They killed my mother in the doorway." How's that for an opening line?

We're talking opera — specifically, the aria "La mamma morta" from Umberto Giordano's 1896 French Revolution thriller Andrea Chénier. The soprano is Anna Netrebko.

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

When it comes to musical dynasties, it's tough to top the Bach family. From town fiddlers to court composers, the Bachs dominated German music for seven generations. Today, Johann Sebastian towers above all his relatives, but there's another important Bach we shouldn't forget — especially today, on the 300th anniversary of his birth.

Gustav Mahler, in his younger days, was a vegetarian. There's a story, recounted by one of his biographers, about how the composer was teased by fellow musicians in a restaurant when he refused meat, instead asking for spinach and apples.

Mahler might have caught on to this way of eating from reading an essay by none other than classical music's most nortorious veggie-head, Richard Wagner.

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