Piotr (or Peter, as we would say in English) Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born in Votkinsk, a town in Russia's Ural Mountains. When he was 8 years old, his family moved to the capital city of St. Petersburg. Even though Tchaikovsky was a good musician as a kid, that wasn't considered an "acceptable" profession, so his parents made him study law instead.

But even in law school, Tchaikovsky continued to study music. Eventually, he gave up his legal job and went to the St. Petersburg Conservatory. After he graduated, he moved to Moscow to teach at the new conservatory there. It's now named for him.

For years, Tchaikovsky had a patroness named Nadezhda von Meck -- a wealthy widow who was a big fan of Tchaikovsky's music. She regularly sent him money so that he could concentrate on composing without having to worry about making a living. But Nadezhda von Meck didn't want to meet Tchaikovsky. For 14 years, they only communicated by writing letters to each other. Tchaikovsky dedicated his Fourth Symphony to his patroness.

Tchaikovsky traveled all over Europe for performances of his music. In 1891, he even came to America for the opening of Carnegie Hall, where he was invited to conduct his music.

The growing popularity of Tchaikovsky’s music both within and outside of Russia inevitably resulted in public interest in him and his personal life. Although homosexuality was officially illegal in Russia, the authorities tolerated it among the upper classes. But social and familial pressures, as well as his discomfort with the fact that his younger brother Modest was exhibiting the same sexual tendencies, led to Tchaikovsky’s hasty decision in the summer of 1877 to marry Antonina Milyukova, a young and naive music student who had declared her love for him. Tchaikovsky’s homosexuality, combined with an almost complete lack of compatibility between the couple, resulted in matrimonial disaster—within weeks he fled abroad, never again to live with his wife. This experience forced Tchaikovsky to recognize that he could not find respectability through social conventions and that his sexual orientation could not be changed. On February 13, 1878, he wrote his brother Anatoly from Florence: “Only now, especially after the tale of my marriage, have I finally begun to understand that there is nothing more fruitless than not wanting to be that which I am by nature.”

In the spring of 1891 he was invited to conduct in New York where the Carnegie Hall was being opened. He also conducted concerts in Baltimore and Philadelphia . When he returned to Russia he wrote his last ballet The Nutcracker and his Sixth Symphony , known as the “Pathétique” which was dedicated to his nephew with whom he was passionately in love. This work is often considered his best. It was performed in St Petersburg on 16 October 1893. Five days later he suddenly became ill with cholera, a disease many people were catching in the city. Tchaikovsky died four days later. Many people think that he committed suicide by deliberately drinking contaminated water. He may have wanted to (or even been forced to) commit suicide in order to avoid a scandal because he was having a relationship with a nephew of an important aristocratic man. Exactly what happened is still a mystery.

And here is a video of the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy from Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Nutcracker . You can’t see the orchestra, but it will be underneath and in front of the stage. This tinkly instrument you can hear is called a celesta .

To celebrate Tchaikovsky's birthday, the doodlers and I decided to collaborate with the San Francisco Ballet! This is the first time we used real people to pose for a doodle and, thanks to a group of well organized and talented dancers/staff, everything went swimmingly! A single day of photography was all we needed before I took a compilation of individual/pair photos and pieced them together to make our final logo. You can take a peek at some behind the scenes work on YouTube .

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Tchaikovsky - Roberto Minczuk - Piano Concerto No.2 Op.44; Capriccio Italien Op.45Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Tchaikovsky - Roberto Minczuk - Piano Concerto No.2 Op.44; Capriccio Italien Op.45Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Tchaikovsky - Roberto Minczuk - Piano Concerto No.2 Op.44; Capriccio Italien Op.45Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Tchaikovsky - Roberto Minczuk - Piano Concerto No.2 Op.44; Capriccio Italien Op.45