Monthly Blog


  • JANUARY 2023

    2022 was a particularly difficult year for me. The music-making (when it occurred) was fine, Cindy and I took some wonderful trips, and I started some projects that you will learn about over the next several months.

    But I lost some good folks along the way, first and foremost my brother, Fred. After he passed away, I posted a chapter of a book that I was working on. It was a portrait of my baby brother. When I found it in a folder, I also discovered that he had completed an essay about our mom. I had written one about our dad, but Fred knew more about our maternal side and was the keeper of the family archives.

    Read more
  • FEBRUARY 2023

    “Don’t step on the iguana!”

    And with those words, Cindy and I arrived at the Galapagos Islands for 10 days of truly incredible vistas and encounters with wildlife. It turns out that Ecuador is pretty much a straight shot down from St. Louis, but you wouldn’t know it from the route that the three airplanes took to get to San Cristóbal Island and back. As is the case so often, the travel part was the least fun.

    Read more
  • MARCH 2023

    Each year, in addition to my activities at the Manhattan School of Music, I try to do some educational work at other music institutions in the States. These are almost always schools I have never visited, and it gives me a chance to see how we are doing in terms of training young musicians who are about to begin their professional careers.

    In late January, it was Yale’s turn, the university where Cindy earned her master’s degree and one with an excellent tradition of outstanding scholarship. At first, I only was asked to lead a concert with the orchestra, but after a little bit of prodding on my part, I was also able to participate in a session involving the composition students.

    Read more
  • APRIL 1, 2023

    Quad counties to merge orchestral institutions

    Mesquala, NE

    In a highly unexpected move, the collective boards of the orchestras in Abilonia, Quintanova, Mesquala, and Sustanati counties have voted to merge their four groups and call the resulting organization the QUAS Symphonic Ensemble. Although each county has maintained an independent orchestra for the past thirty-five years, sources say that the financial pressures have been too great to surmount.

    Read more
  • APRIL 2023

    Do you remember when airplane travel was fun? There was a time when the flights were just as exciting as the trip itself, for all the right reasons. Today, travel is an adventure before you even get to the airport.

    Organization is the key to relieving much of the stress that accompanies journeys both domestic and international. This means you have to know the rules and, at the same time, understand that forces outside of your control can change even the best-laid plans.

    Read more
  • MAY 2023

    Orchestras are heading into the home stretch as the season winds down. Fortunately, I have had enough downtime to continue my work on some projects that do not involve standing on the podium, and this will be the case for most of the summer. At the end of September, I hope to be able to inform you of what I think are a couple exciting pieces of news.

    In the meantime, I wrapped up this season’s concert appearances in Europe with a performance of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis in Warsaw. This was my third outing with the work, and it has not lost any of its power or difficulty. When I was around twenty years old, I played viola for a performance at UCLA conducted by Roger Wagner. Some of you will remember the recordings made by his Chorale.

    Read more
  • JUNE 2023

    There was a time when I would look at my calendar and say to myself, “Self, you are not too busy. Have a nice summer.” That was how it appeared it was going to be for a while this year. But priorities have a way of piling up, and now I find myself with just a little too much to do and not much time to accomplish it.

    It all started out with a promise I made to my brother at his gravesite. He passed away on my birthday, September 1st, and we gathered in New Jersey two days later to lay him to rest.

    Read more
  • JULY 2023

    How life changes.

    Normally, June is when orchestral seasons wind down, with subscription concerts ending sometime near the middle or end of the month. At least, that seems to be true when you are a music director. Now that I am a freelancer, the time for guest conducting has passed, and I get to focus on projects that do not require me to be on the podium.

    Read more
  • AUGUST 2023

    Most of this summer consists of downtime. With so many ongoing and looming projects, I knew I would need to dedicate many of these weeks to my books, music compositions, and outdoor grilling pursuits.

    Although I had one conducting date at the Hollywood Bowl, I will wait until next month to write about it, along with what I anticipate will be a most interesting couple weeks of conducting in Taiwan.

    Read more
  • SEPTEMBER 2023

    Nothing quite compares to a Taiwanese massage, especially if you happen to be in Taiwan. More on that later.

    After several weeks away from conducting, the podium beckoned for some rehearsals and performances at the end of July and the first half of August. It started in my birthplace, Los Angeles, where I used to have the somewhat ungainly title of Principal Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Holllywood Bowl. My return featured two of the most-often- performed works there, as well as a piece by Cindy.

    Read more
  • OCTOBER 2023

    A mostly calm and quiet September followed my 79th birthday, but I experienced one moment that made my month.

    Not wanting to make a big deal out of turning another year older, I decided to go to a ballgame that evening. Instead of getting the tickets online, I headed to the ballpark’s box office. When I arrived downtown, other than noticing that the once-teeming metropolis that is St. Louis felt more like a ghost town, I went directly to the ticket window.

    Read more
  • NOVEMBER 2023

    The road beckoned, and I travelled west and east for what I hoped would be lovely sets of concerts. That wish has so far come true, but the intrusions on beauty by events taking place at home and abroad prevented total immersion in the music.

    Over and over, I kept wondering what those of us who practice our art in public could do as war broke out in Gaza. And as usual, there was no answer. Organizations and individual artists can make statements, but ultimately we are powerless to do much more than offer some sort of diversion for a little while to those who attend our performances. The audience comes to the concert hall or opera house to escape the outside world. And, to an even greater degree, so do my fellow musicians, who work tirelessly to get to the heart and soul of the music we play.

    Read more
  • DECEMBER 2023

    To say that November was a jam-packed month would be an understatement. With the middle portion of a six-week concert tour in full swing, I realized that no two works would be repeated during this trip. Only one of them was new to me, however, and as I explained in last month’s journal entry, The Fountains of Rome became an old friend during the first stop back in October.

    Continuing in Spain, I moved on from Valencia to Madrid. In times’ past, the country, in general, was not a pleasant place to make music. Its resident orchestras were undisciplined and did not possess the musical values I was used to in other parts of the world. That has changed drastically over the past fifteen years or so, with exciting and vibrant music-making now taking place throughout Spain, even in smaller cities.

    Read more