Richard Sennett was born in Chicago in 1943. He grew up in the Cabrini Green Housing project, one of the first multi-ethnic social housing projects in the United States. As a six-year-old, he started studying the piano and the cello and worked with Frank Miller of the Chicago Symphony and Claus Adam of the Julliard Quartet. Sennett was one of the last students of the conductor Pierre Monteux. In 1963, a hand injury meant a sudden end of his musical career. He then turned to academics.