Monthly Blog


  • JANUARY 2010

    Hanukah is over, Christmas approaches. Since I am taking it easy for the next few weeks, it seemed like a good idea to write a bit earlier than usual. It also gives me the opportunity to give some unusual musical suggestions for last minute holiday giving, plus a short follow-up to that fake news release of a few months ago.

    It is very rare for me to have an entire month free of conducting, much less two. Clearly the first one, this past November, gave me no choice, what with having the heart attack and recovering. But the surprise was how willing I was to let go and take the second month off for purposes of recuperating.

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  • FEBRUARY 2010


    These are not usually words I have heard, or seen in print when journalists speak about me. But each of those terms appeared following my first appearances in Washington and Detroit. It made me wonder how I had really looked prior to the heart attack.

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  • MARCH 2010

    February may be the shortest month of the year, but perhaps because of the missing few days, it also feels like the busiest. I barely had time to think, much less take it easy.

    The Detroit Symphony had been nominated for a Grammy with the album we made featuring Bela Fleck, Edgar Meyer and Zakir Hussein. We lost to Yo-Yo Ma and Friends. This was not unexpected. But as usual, there were commentaries in the press regarding the lack of meaning for these awards. Yes, the process is laborious, and it is hard to justify some of the categories in which some recordings are placed. Personally, I mourn the elimination of the “Best Polka Album of the Year.” But ask anyone who has been up for one of these and you will find that they all feel honored to have been selected.

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  • APRIL 2010, Part 1

    Days and Nights at the Opera (Part I)

    Winter has not wrought its harsh attack on Michigan, at least not yet. The closest it came was during the first week in March, when I had nothing to do. Safely nestled in my apartment, fake fireplace ablaze, I continued to cook a healthy lifestyle for myself, trying to cheat as little as possible.

    In the meantime, there was one final subscription week at home. For two months I had to be replaced by substitutes. This time it was Jimmy Galway’s turn. Seems he had fallen down a set of stairs in Lucerne and broken both of his arms. Screws were put in to stabilize things and it looked like recovery would get him to Detroit in time for the March appearance. But a screw came loose (insert own joke here) and he simply could not be ready in time to support the instrument, subsequently resulting in his cancellation. We were all saddened, me for personal reasons as well as musical.

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  • APRIL 2010, Part 2

    Days and Nights at the Opera (Part II)

    March 22: It was a dark and dreary day in Manhattan. The beautiful spring weather of the last week is a thing of the past. Rain and wind took its place. This did not forbode well for the second week of La Traviata rehearsals.

    I arrived at the Met in plenty of time to figure out that the pit was just a few feet away from the dressing room. As opposed to concert halls, all the conductors share one space, but we each have individual lockers. It is as if we were preparing for a sports event. I suppose that in a way, we are, but we don’t compete against each other. Well, most of the time anyway.

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  • MAY 2010

    To say that April was an interesting month would be an understatement of immense proportions. Many of you probably wondered why I did not continue the reportage of my Met assignment. I know this because the very site you are visiting crashed a couple of times due to the number of hits I was taking, literally.

    At this moment, I have chosen to stay out of the fray. There is no point in commenting now, as it could lead to more misunderstanding and misinterpretation. Suffice it to say that there is more than what was reported. There will come a time when I will discuss what happened, at least from my point of view. However, I did continue to keep a diary of the events and they will most likely appear in a book I am currently working on about the conducting profession.

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  • JUNE 2010

    May was an uneventful month, if you count getting a new job, conducting seven different orchestras, and dealing with volcanoes as uneventful.

    Perhaps it is best to start at the top. For the past couple of years, I have been thinking about simplifying my professional life. It has been wonderful to be on the road but as I get older, this has become tiring. Don’t get me wrong, I have loved working with all the different orchestras, getting to know parts of the world I had never visited and experiencing a great deal of personal, cultural and social pleasure. But my sole position with a non-American Orchestra, in terms of a directorship, has been with the BBC Symphony. Now it seemed like a good time to complement my work in Detroit and Pittsburgh with either a European or Asian orchestra, which would then become my second base of operation.

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  • JULY 2010

    After last month’s blog version of War and Peace, I thought it would be a nice respite for all of us to have a shorter and less scattered web posting. And since I will be on the road, literally, it will be a bit tougher to write towards the end of the June.

    As it turns out, getting home was just what I needed. Europe was wonderful, but after almost six weeks on the road, I was very tired and it felt good to be amongst my own pots and pans for 21 days. It was not so good getting on the scale. Although I did not overeat, I ingested more fat than necessary, so now it’s time to get back to the program. Thus, no more sauces, desserts, or red meat.

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  • AUGUST 2010

    This is the summer way-out west tour. For the next couple of months I will be flightless and mostly humidity-less. Colorado, New Mexico and California will the performing destinations. A mix of student and professional ensembles will make up the musical landscape. The major project is the world premiere of Lewis Spratlan’s 1978 opera, Life Is a Dream. Unlike my last operatic venture, I decided not to keep an actual daily diary, but it is still helpful to let you know how a work like this comes to life on the stage.

    Prior to arriving in Santa Fe, there was a nice, leisurely drive to Breckenridge, Colorado. With no airports or baggage claims to worry about, all I had to do was program everything into Gladys, my navigation system partner. From Detroit, it looked like an eighteen-hour journey. Of course, it was not possible to anticipate side trips.

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  • SEPTEMBER 2010

    One big plus of doing an opera is that there is a lot of free time once you start performances. In fact, with the new/old Spratlan opus, we had one stretch of eight days off. This gave me a chance to do things I normally do not have time for during the concert season.

    In the process of writing my book, I have needed to do a great deal of research. Very gradually I am figuring how to manipulate around the net, looking for small details, quotes or information I might need. At one point, I do not remember how or why, this little item popped up, but it prompted a somewhat amusing chuckle from me.

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  • OCTOBER 2010

    Fall is upon us, and another concert season awaits. Here in Detroit, the orchestra is in negotiations regarding a new contract. It is not the place of a music director to get involved with either side, so I will not comment on the situation other than to say that I hope by the time you are reading this, a resolution has occurred. There is nothing better for us than to be making music.

    In the meantime, summer has passed and I must say that it was most enjoyable. After the Hollywood Bowl, Cindy and I got in the car and drove up the West Coast. For most of my life, I believed that the United States northwest border ended in San Francisco. But amazingly, there seems to be lots more to visit. I still love the California vistas that extend out to sea. Usually at this time of year, the view is limited by fog. This was not the case on our drive.

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  • NOVEMBER 2010

    Last month I wrote that I did not feel it was the place of a music director to comment on any labor dispute taking place with his or her orchestra. The musicians of the Detroit Symphony went on strike at the beginning of the month, causing the cancellation of the season opening as well as the concerts for the remainder of the month. There remains uncertainty as to when we will get back to work. Until that time, I will maintain silence on the matter.

    In the meantime, there were other musical assignments on my calendar for the second half of October.

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  • DECEMBER 2010

    Weather forecast. Stormy with little chance of sun. Temperatures remain chilly throughout the month. Expect a break in the clouds if the pressure lets up.

    The strike dragged into its second month and I continued to keep quiet. But this did not mean that I did nothing. Very few days went by while I was in Detroit, when I did not speak with board members, urging them to help find a way out of this. Most said they missed the orchestra but needed to hold firm. The indication was that when a settlement was reached, purse strings might open once again.

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  • Deborah Fleitz

    The majority of you reading this will not know the name, but you have been a part of her world. Deb was my assistant in Detroit. She was responsible for almost every aspect of my professional life.

    She kept track of where I was supposed to be and worked with managers, artists and musicians from around the world. Every time I wrote something for this site, it was her hand that dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s.

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