How To Pick Your Next Music Director

82304-050-242D7462 19th Century “eye-candy”

From a recent online review of a candidate’s orchestra concert/audition-

“From his physical presence to his conducting style to the little flourish he makes with his bows, (he) personifies elegance. (My friend) advised me to mention the “eye-candy” factor. Yes, he’s got film-star good looks and stage presence.”

Don’t be surprised to see in the near future: To apply for this vacancy, you must have the following: A photo of your beautiful self that says “eye-candy!”- foreign sounding name helpful.

That’s about it: CV, press reviews, recommendations, references, CDs, years of experience all are optional.

Are we coming to that? A beauty contest for conductors? And you wonder why Orchestras in this country are struggling. Maybe conductors should start tossing little hankies like Liszt did.


Get Rid Of Those Old Musicians!

Recently, a colleague was asking advice of the proper way of “firing” the older musicians of his regional orchestra. His complaint was that these seniors were just not up to the high standards he was trying to achieve with his orchestra. Nothing wrong with raising the bar, but at what cost?

When I first arrived 25 years ago, my Orchestra was an amateur group with members of various degrees of achievement. Now, my Orchestra consists of excellent area professionals as well a select group of fabulous music students. So how did I get rid of those old guys who were dead weights and contributed absolutely nothing to the Orchestra? A horrible statement to make and one that is so wrong.

If it wasn’t for those older musicians, there wouldn’t be an Orchestra in the first place. My Orchestra was for the community to enjoy and if anyone felt they wanted to be a member, far be it from me to say you can’t come in.

What happened over the span of two decades was a complete transformation of the Orchestra through a natural process. I’ve had so many beautiful, sweet people in my orchestra through the years. Some of them have passed on and some have switched roles and became audience members. I have never fired a community player. On the contrary, community players have religiously, before each season, come to me and quite apologetically ask me if “you still want me to play?” I respond always by saying, “See that chair? That’s yours forever. You play when you want.”

Seniors are not stupid people. They are to be revered and respected. They truly understand when it is time to leave the orchestra. No fanfare. They enjoyed the time with the group and it’s time to move to the audience. As the standards rise and the size of our audience increases along with an expectation that the concert they are about to hear will be of a certain high quality, members know when it is time for their final bow.

Recently, I learned of a former cellist who passed away. He was a friend and a great supporter of the Orchestra. Awhile ago, a violist died and last year a bass clarinetist had a fatal accident. These people were my friends. Get rid of them? How cruel! A violinist, who has been on the Orchestra longer than I and plays when she can, always gives me a hug and thanks me for bringing such quality music to the community. I am humbled by that simple act.

These seniors are gold; they will be your biggest supporters. They are all a buzz at Sunday Church about Saturday’s concert. You can’t buy PR like that.

There is so much emphasis on youth these days; we forget that those sitting in the back have so much to offer. Do not ignore them. You can’t buy such experience and dedication. You might learn a few things from them; treat them with respect and be honored that they wish to become part of something they hold so dear. They have enriched your life.


The Ever Slow Death of Another Great Orchestra

SPCO lockout: Labor Board complaint filed February 19, 2013:

According to Minnesota Public Radio, the American Federation of Musicians has filed an unfair labor practices complaint with the National Labor Relations Board against the management of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.

The national union negotiates agreements over online use for orchestras it represents. AFM President Ray Hair said the union-made the complaint because it alleges the SPCO management has not supplied information about performances it intends to make available online.

More Bad News:

kyKim1511_lib_fit200x333Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Second Principal Violin Kyu-Young Kim revealed today he is leaving to join the New York Philharmonic.

Locked out musicians at both the SPCO and the Minnesota Orchestra have been predicting for months that players would leave. Clarinetist Tim Paradise quit the SPCO in September. However this appears to be the first departure from the SPCO as a result of the lock out.


Shenandoah Symphony Orchestra to present the Music of Western Europe


The Shenandoah Symphony Orchestra’s “Around the Symphonic World” presents Music of Western Europe on Saturday, Feb. 2 at 8 p.m. in Wilson Concert Hall in Lexington Virginia.

Under my direction, the SSO will perform Bizet’s Symphony in C, Bach’s Keyboard Concerto No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1054 featuring Shuko Watanabe on piano, and Mozart’s  Clarinet Concerto in A Major, K. 622 with Alicia Bishop as soloist.

Tickets can be purchased online at:  or by calling the Lenfest Box Office at 540-458-8000.

Shenandoah Symphony Orchestra’s “Around the Symphonic World” season to open November 10

The Shenandoah Symphony Orchestra’s “Around the Symphonic World” season is set to open with Music of Eastern Europe and Russia on Saturday, Nov. 10 at 8 p.m. in Wilson Concert Hall. 

Under the baton of Maestro Barry A. Kolman, the SSO will perform Shostakovich’s Ballet Suite No. 1, op. 84; Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme, op. 33, featuring Julia Goudimova, cellist; and Goldmark’s Rustic Wedding Symphony. Tickets are required and can be purchased online at (click on the “buy tickets” button) or by calling the Lenfest Box Office at 540-458-8000.

Bye Bye Birdie–a great success!

Bye Bye Birdie closed last Sunday in Lexington, VA.. I not only conducted the show, but also played clarinet/saxophone in the pit. The performances took place in a 250 seat “black box” making the shows very intimate. We had six sellout crowds for each show. The leads, especially Albert, Mr Macafee, and Rose, stole the show. Because of budget constraints, the pit band contained 12 very talented musicians instead of a full orchestra that the score calls for. I enjoyed the challenge of conducting and playing at the same time; my first time! Though the show itself is somewhat dated, this did not bother the most appreciative audience watching our very enthusiastic and professional cast.