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Randall Fleischer|Youngstown Symphony

With an international career spanning four continents, three Music Director positions, a demanding guest conducting schedule, major awards and commissions and a prolific demand as a composer/arranger, Randall Craig Fleischer is making a substantial impact.

Randall Craig Fleischer has appeared as a guest conductor with many major orchestras in the United States and internationally including current repeat engagements with the San Francisco Symphony, National Symphony, San Diego Symphony, Festival Cesky Krumlov (Czech Republic) and others.  Other recent guest engagements include the Boston Pops, China Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Malaysian Philharmonic, Moravian Philharmonic Olomouc (Czech Republic), Hong Kong Philharmonic, Houston Symphony, Utah Symphony and others.

As Music Director/Conductor of the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, the Anchorage Symphony, the Youngstown Symphony, and formerly the Flagstaff Symphony, he is leading each orchestra through a dramatic period of artistic growth, demonstrating his abilities as a proven orchestra builder. (Kennedy Center)

This is Karen Schubert and I’m in the lovely Overtures restaurant. I love all the light in here. I’m here with Maestro Randall Craig Fleischer who is the music director and conductor of the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today.

Randall Craig Fleischer: My pleasure.

I know that you are also working with the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, the Anchorage Symphony and the Flagstaff Symphony—

I haven’t been with Flagstaff since I got this job. Sot it’s just Anchorage and Hudson Valley.

“Only” Anchorage and Hudson Valley. Still, you’re spread pretty thing. Talk a little bit about what that’s like for you.

They’re my three homes away from home. Next year will be my twentieth season in Anchorage. I’ve been in Poughkeepsie, I think, twenty-six years. I’m married thirty-five years. I’m a long-term guy. I get a good job with nice people with whom I enjoy making music, marching the uphill climb to keep classical arts alive in the United States, and I sort of get those jobs and keep them.

So what does your work year look like?  

Well, usually it’s the weekend after Labor Day that I leave home, and I’m pretty much traveling almost non-stop until May, with the occasional week or two home. I have a 17-year-old daughter who is applying for colleges, so the time during the year that I’m home is precious. But I’m pretty much bouncing between my three orchestras and then doing some guest conducting in between. So I spend a lot of time in airports and hotels. There are three hotels in America where they call me by my first name.

I can imagine. Where’s home?

Los Angeles.

Wow, so you’re not close to any one of those places. So we’re here at the Powers/DeYor Performing Arts Center and recently Power of the Arts had a historic theater tour. We have a local historian who wrote a book about the live and lost theaters in Youngstown. At one time there were seventy-five theaters in the city, and the biggest names came through. Ella Fitzgerald got married here.

Oh my god! I didn’t know that.

It’s such an amazing history.

We’re doing an Ella tribute in February.

Oh that’s wonderful! Because it’s one hundred years since her birth. One of the things we learned was that the Powers Auditorium was hours away from the wrecking ball. It was just saved.

Like Carnegie Hall.

It’s incredible to consider. How does this facility compare? What do you appreciate about it?

This is an absolutely—how shall I say this?—it’s a treasure of a facility. Specifically, I remember Carol Wincenc who’s one of the most celebrated flutists in all of classical music. She’s been the flute teacher at Julliard for years, she’s soloed with every major orchestra in the world, recorded, had many major concertos written for her. Christopher Rouse, Lukas Foss, Joan Tower. She walked in the door of Powers Auditorium, gasped, and said, “Oh my god! You mean we get to play here?” We’re so lucky.

We really are lucky.

And the thing that—it’s not just visually spectacular. The acoustics are great, particularly with the new acoustic shell that Patricia purchased for us about six or seven years ago. It looks great and it sounds great, and we are so lucky to have it.

It’s a little piece of American pop culture history: the Warner Brothers, who were from Youngstown, built this place. And it pains me when I run into people at the grocery story and they say, “Oh, you’re the—” “Yes, I am.” “Oh we love the symphony! We’re so lucky!” “When’s the last time you’ve been downtown?” “Oh god, I haven’t been to Powers Auditorium in twenty years.” Are you kidding me? It’s like people who live in Brooklyn and never go to Carnegie Hall. It is a tragically underutilized facility. And I think there are a lot of people who don’t really understand what an extraordinary gem we have here.

It really is a gem, but I can’t imagine how much it costs to keep this up.

It is difficult.

Someone was telling us just about the terror of the roof alone.

The roof, the heating and cooling— it seats 2400 people. It’s a big room. Anyone who has to take care of an old historic building of this size can fill volumes with the challenges presented by that. Having said that, love this place, so challenges or not, we’re going to keep it open and keep it thriving and keep great art in this space.

Thank you for your part in that. Can you talk about how sound works? What makes it acoustically successful? How does sound maneuver in that space?

It’s usually wood and then the overall shape. I’ve had the honor of making music in some of the halls over in Europe, these ancient, seventeenth century, spaces and such like that. And here, we have a sort of new template in that concert halls here in America are way bigger. Way bigger. Carnegie, I think, seats 3000. This seats 2400. The typical opera-symphony space in Europe seats about 800 or 900. My theater in Poughkeepsie, with my orchestra there, seats 950, that’s more typical of the old. Well, you know, everything in America is bigger. But still, it’s mostly wood and reflective surfaces, but enough to also soak up, there’s carpet in the aisles, the seats are carpeted, and then the new acoustical shell that Patricia had put in there is fantastic in the way that it bounces the sound magically out to the audience. What’s so wonderful is, the sound feels immediate.

📷In some of the new halls, like, for instance, Avery Fisher Hall in New York where the New York Philharmonic plays, they have gutted and redone that hall three or four times, it still doesn’t sound that great, because it’s a big rectangle.

If you look at our space, it’s kind of a semi-circle. And wood and plaster; there’s very little solid cement in that space. Cement does not reflect sound in a pretty way. Wood does, and then space. There’s space directly under the stage. There’s space on the other side of the walls, and space above the ceiling. So it becomes like an echo chamber, but just enough echo, not too much, that the room vibrates. And it also beautifies the sound. The sound on the stage is a little bit more harsh and brittle, when you walk out in the house it’s prettier, and there’s an immediacy which is great.

How do you select work for the Youngstown Symphony? Do you have—this might be a dumb question, but I can imagine, if I were the director of a theater company and I had a particularly strong male actor, I might select a piece for him. Does that come up in a symphony? Where you say,  wow, my percussion is off the charts

It does; actually, I more select works based on what I think the audience might like. And there is that sense that I’m the coach of this team. And like any coach, I want to challenge my players. And I want to constantly be building the quality of their work. So there are some pieces that I will pick that will do that. So maybe a longer work, or more challenging work—

[Hey Jeff! How are you? Jeff Crystal, the head chef here.]

It’s about supplying the audience with a healthy meal. All puns intended, with the head chef going by. In the sense that they will look at the season and see things they like about the season and look at each individual concert. It’s both a magnet for subscribers, to buy the whole meal, and individual ticket buyers to just buy each course. At the same time, I’m thinking about the life and the growth of the ensemble, what will challenge everybody for different reasons. This is a really hard piece for strings, or this is a really hard piece for woodwinds, or this is hard to coordinate, there’s lots of stop and start and slow and fast, and slower and faster, tempo fluctuations, and you build that communication with everybody.

A symphony is a team. So I’m always focused on calisthenics for the team and also winning each game. [Laughter] We have to prepare this concert and get the sound right for this concert, but I’m constantly— this weekend we just had a marathon series of auditions. I hired a new principal clarinet, I hired two bassoons, I hired string players in each discipline of violin, viola, cello, bass. There’s constantly an influx of new, young musicians. And I’m really excited about a lot of these hires. So that’s kind of my job, to provide an overall package to the audience that they will enjoy, the hiring and firing of musicians, and then in each rehearsal are we getting closer and closer and closer to a higher level of precision and expression?

And the new musicians, where are they coming from?

Mostly, the area. Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and even further. There was one guy who was finishing a degree in Michigan State in Lansing. We have musicians who travel from Cincinnati, that’s about the furthest somebody will drive for, four and a half hours, to get here. The the tuba player just moved here. He commuted several seasons from Cincinnati.

We are very lucky here in Youngstown. Not only because we have the Dana School of Music and there are quite a number of faculty members who play in the orchestra. But there is Cleveland Institute, Oberlin, Carnegie Mellon and even not that far from here, we even pull from the University of Michigan, Michigan State, Cincinnati Conservatory.

If you play the tuba, and you’re a symphonic tuba player, there are only so many jobs in America. There’s twenty violins in the orchestra, one tuba. So when we hired our tuba player, we had thirty-two candidates for the job. So we pull student musicians, and some of them plant roots in the area. Like for instance our principal oboe, Cindy, her husband plays in the Cleveland Orchestra. So they’re here for the long term. So Cindy’s going to be our principal oboe for a long, long, long, long time. Second clarinet Catherine teaches at the Dana School. But both bassoon seats have been a revolving door of student bassoonists who are finishing a master’s degree or doctorate at CIM, they get a fabulous orchestra position somewhere else and they’re gone. So I’ve been here eight or nine years, we’ve had five bassoon auditions. A real revolving door. Our principal viola is also the viola teacher up at Dana. He’s probably going to stay for awhile. So there’s this constant influx of really wonderful young musicians.

I see how— as you talk about the season as a menu, and people ordering à la carte, and that’s how you’re attempting to reinvigorate the person who hasn’t been to the symphony in twenty years. Oh, I always loved that one piece

If you look at the season, we try to find a hook that isn’t necessarily the old, Oh my god! You mean they’re playing Brahms 2nd? I love that piece! That scenario, that conversation doesn’t happen so often in Youngstown. So if we can find a theme, like this next program is a patriotic theme. This is a very patriotic area. People know John Williams, they might know Aaron Copeland. Samuel Barber actually was a veteran. He served, I think, in the Army Air Corps. Ferde Grofé Grand Canyon, I mean, who doesn’t want to look at spectacular images of the Canyon while they hear that wonderful music that was inspired by the Canyon? You know, little hooks to try to pull people in who might recognize something about this program but they’re not really the classical music aficionado.

But for a city our size I find the area is pretty artistically dense. There’s a nice context for it. And I think Dana certainly has a

It helps a lot.

Right? Feeding musicians into the community every year. They’ve studied really well. So another event that we hosted recently was a symposium on arts and culture funding, and we had that at St. John’s Episcopal Church because St. John’s is working to become an arts hub in the community.  So of course we talked about your symphony! What a wonderful project!

Can I tell you a funny story first?


I wanted to spend some time in the space. The first time I visited, just the sunlight coming through those windows was so striking.

Isn’t it beautiful?

And I just fell in love with the space. So last summer when I was going to write the piece, I was spending some time in Ohio. My daughter was doing a writing program at Kenyon, so Heidi, Michaela and I came to Ohio for a couple weeks, and my dad lives in Canton, my in-laws live in Cleveland. But the ideas was I’m going to go to St. John’s and just soak up and meditate and let the muse take me. So I get there, and it turns out they’re repairing the organ. And if you’ve ever heard somebody working on repairing or tuning an organ, let me give you a little demonstration of what it sounds like EEEEHHHHHHHHHHHH [Rising in tone] [Laughter]

So I’m like, um, this isn’t exactly the meditative silence I’m looking for and so the organist there who is a wonderful musician, a great guy, he said, you can play a few notes on the piano and it won’t bother us. And I said, bother you?! [Laughter] So I had to write it a different way.

But you know, it was kind of the story of Youngstown. The story of Youngstown is the steel industry. What I did with that piece which I titled Coming to Youngstown, I took songs that were public domain songs that were popular at some of the critical junctures in the history of the church and the history of Youngstown. And it turns out Stephen Foster, you know, [Singing] beautiful dreamer, summered here in Mahoning County, and his sister was one of the founding members of St. John’s.

Oh my gosh! I had no idea.

So I put in “Beautiful Dreamer,” and of course the church was founded right as the Civil War was raging, the most popular song of the north was “Battle Cry of Freedom.” [Humming]

So that opens the piece. Then, to tell the story of the industry, Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring is associated as the first factory-influenced symphonic work. I mean it’s a ballet, but symphonies play it, so I grabbed a couple snippets of that, probably violating copyright laws, and I used this beautiful thing from Holst, The Planets, and actually Gustav Holst wrote some lyrics to it, and they’re kind of prayerful, and it’s very inspiriting, and kind of sewed all that stuff together. So part of that’s just an arranger’s task, grabbing songs, and also [Singing] fifteen miles on the Erie Canal. Threw in some things like that. I knew I wanted to use a singer for this.

And there are little snippets from the Psalms, up on the windows.

I didn’t know that either.

It takes a while to read them. [Laughter] You have to sort of turn different directions. So I used those Psalm snippets (I’m Jewish) [Laughter], we’re doing this series at temples as well, so it was written for St. John but I knew it was a thing we’re going to take on all of our stained glass series that plays to churches and temples, so I wanted to be ecumenical. So that was perfect! Psalms, great! Everybody loves those. And so I sew this whole—then I wrote a little fanfare thing, and then I really wanted to capture the feeling of sunlight coming into the window so that’s original music. And a couple of the snippets that are original, but really, the opening fanfare thing and the original material mostly just gets us from Point A to Point B, as I tell the story of that church, it’s opening, and the birth of the coal, iron and steel industries in this area. And I tried to leave it on a kind of uplifting, patriotic tune, everybody’s patriotic here, so that’s how that fell into place.

But I’ll never forget, It won’t bother us. [Laughing] I’m like, o.k.! That’s not the plan, but I’ll write it anyway.

So where did you grow up?


So you have a sense of this area.

I worked in the steel mill, myself. Republic Steel. It was a summer job. Worked in the melt shop, right in the hot nasty melt shop of Republic Steel.

And where did you go to school then?

Well, that’s a complicated questions, because, growing up in Canton, we went, my senior year, from four high schools to two, because enrollment was going down and down and down, as in the 70s, in this 60s, Youngstown was the third-largest steel producer in the world. By the late 70s it was already going downhill fast, so was Canton. So they re-organized and built a brand new high school right by the Football Hall of Fame and Fawcett Stadium, and for many, many years there was a high school named McKinley, we renamed the new school McKinley. So I went three years to Leman High School, and graduated from the new McKinley High School, this was now forty years ago.

And then what?

Oberlin, undergraduate. Master’s degree at Indiana University. Private study, very intense private study with probably the greatest conducting teacher at the time. The guy’s name was Otto Werner Mueller. That’s a great story, too. He was the teacher at both Julliard and Curtis, the two top conservatories in our country. And when I was a student at Indiana University, I was doing my master’s there, and the name Otto Werner Mueller struck fear in the hearts of young conductors. He stood 6’4”. He was not a nice man. When Mueller entered the room, enjoyment ceased. But he was commonly acknowledged, at the time he was still teaching at Yale—eventually Julliard and Curtis tried to lure him and they eventually succeeded and he taught at both schools. He was head of conducting and and also head of conducted both orchestras, taught conducting at both schools.

So my wife Heidi and I were already married when I was in graduate school. Moved to New York and I got a job temping. Within a month she was working in theater. She’s a very, very talented gal. And we bought a tiny apartment on the upper West Side with the help of my father-in-law. And I had heard, eventually I got a job as the assistant conductor of the American Symphony I was working almost like a secretary, and I heard Sergiu Commissiona who had just become music director of New York City Opera lived in our building. [Whispering] Oh my god there’s a famous conductor— So I go down to the doorman and I said I understand there is a famous conductor who lives in this building. And he said yeah. And I said Sergiu Commissiona. And He said No, no, no the guys’ name is Mueller. It was Mueller.

Oh my gosh!

Otto Werner Mueller, the most famous conducting teacher on the planet, lived in the unit directly below me. So I wrote him a letter. And his first wife Margo, who died not long after, wrote me a letter back. I said I would be so honored, do you take private students, we live in the same building, is there anything I can do—  so he does take private students, his wife sent me a little note back, taped it to my mailbox, set me up an audition. I’ll never forget, he opens the door to his apartment and there’s this enormous man, not smiling. His wife is very sweet and gracious. So he auditioned me. He puts a score in front of you and you have to play it. Because we conductors have to read, transpose, have to read different clefts— cause you know, violas have their own cleft. Clarinets transpose down to B flat. French horns transpose to F. It’s not all just a piano thing.

And he would sit by the keyboard, and if you played a wrong note he would actually lift your hand off the keyboard. So wwwppp! What did I do? And he did this whole ear training test, and then he would open the score, and he would say tell me about this. And so he took me on as a private student. I already had a master’s degree at that point. And the lessons would go about an hour, hour and ten minutes. And as part of one of my lessons I brought a video tape of a concert that I conducted with the American Symphony. Next lesson goes four hours. And at the end of four hours, this is one of only two times he ever said something nice to me, so I remember both like it was yesterday. I was exhausted. From the enormous insight this man gave me, and all the lessons went four hours after that. And two a week instead of one.

And I’ll never forget it, I said, Maestro, thank you so much for the extra time today, and he slapped me on the knee and said, Kid, you’re worth it! I’m like, Oh my god! I’m going to work! I’m going to work in this field! I might have a career! I was still a secretary basically. Because the Mueller students did not all go on to be famous, although Allen Gilbert, outgoing music director of the New York Philharmonic was a contemporary of mine, was a Mueller student—a lot of them did. And pretty much if he took you into his fold, you might not be the next Leonard Bernstein or a big famous conductor, but you were going to work. Of the various people who at some point wanted to conduct, maybe 1 or 2% of us actually end up making a living at it. And so that was really a crossroads with me, because I thought if I can just stay with this guy and absorb what he has to teach, I’ll eventually work as a conductor, and I did.

That’s a wonderful story. As I was reading a little bit about your work, I was impressed with the range, and not just the symphony, the original symphony about the windows, but also Rocktopia, and your Peter and the Wolf interpretation. So talk a little about Rocktopia, that’s a lot of fun, and then let’s wind up with touching on the Martin Luther King, Jr. piece, and Peter and the Wolf. It sounds like you’re reaching out to broader audiences and maybe drawing them in, making some bridges for them. I also want to mention that I love the photo on your website of you and Peter Schickele. So touch on Rocktopia, and tell us a little bit about that. What a fun project.

Rocktopia opens on Broadway March 20.

That’s so exciting. Congratulations.

I mean, I have to pinch myself. Finally, after a bajillion years of doing daring fusion project after daring fusion project, and in the early days being absolutely slapped down by my contemporaries in the symphonic field, to have a project that could have a real life and a real profile, I mean, I’m just ecstatic. And it’s a headache, things in pop culture don’t go so smoothly. [Laughter] We in the symphony business, we book the dates, we book the artists, we send a contract. Done! With pop culture it’s on again, off again, and who’s going to do what, and who’s going to say what, and bah bah bah bah bah, so it’s a whole new level of—how shall I say—drama in my life.

You’re involved with that aspect?

I wrote it, yeah, I mean, yes and no. They asked me in the early stages do I want to be one of the co-producers and I said no, because at the end of the day, Rob Evan, who is one of my dearest friends in the world, and Bill Franzblau who is the executive producer, for the last year and a half, they’ve basically been focusing on raising the money to fund this and piecing together the team to make it turn into something, all day long every day. I don’t have the time in my schedule to do that. And candidly, I don’t even know how to do that. If I did know how, I would have done it already. [Laughter] So I’m ecstatic. And very excited for this and the life of this project. I’m in a tiny group of classical, serious conductors who have created product for Broadway. There aren’t so many of us who have done that. So I’m really very, very, very excited about this.

But rock fusion is the thing I’ve been doing since I was fourteen. The first rock fusion thing I did in my life was an arrangement for a rock band of the overture to Handel’s Messiah. With screaming electric guitars—the thing never saw the light of day, nobody every performed it, but I’ve had this vision and this passion my whole life. So I mean, this will be the sort of put-me-on-the-map on the creative side. I’ve been on the map as a conductor for a long, long time. And as an arranger of pops things, every orchestra in America has played my arrangements, pretty much, with very few exceptions. But to actually create product for Broadway, this is a first for me, and I’m extremely proud and excited.

In terms of all the other chapters, Heidi and I wrote A Spiritual Journey. We wrote it for Yolanda King who passed away suddenly and tragically about eight years ago. It was premiered by the National Symphony and was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. It was a labor of love for Heidi and me. We became friends with Yolanda, and talked regularly. It was recorded for PBS by the Louisiana Philharmonic, there was a nice PBS broadcast years and years ago. We’ve done it here. It seems so obvious to fuse these spirituals as underscore for Dr. King’s speeches. And as a kind of Dr. King’s “greatest hits.” The best parts, kind of like what Copeland did for Lincoln, best parts of his speeches. And when Heidi sent the script off to Yolanda, I remember the day— we were still living in D.C., years and years ago, and she said, Oh god, she’s going to hate it, she’s going to cut it to shreds. Didn’t change a word. Didn’t change a word. All Yolanda did was show up and read it, and love it.

I guess at the end of the day, the other thing for me, the other thing for me, in terms of my chapter, were these native fusion pieces. The first one was a Navajo Diné thing called Triumph that we premiered with Carlos Nakai playing the flute, and Jones Benally family, they’re pretty famous in Native dance circles.

Did you incorporate some Diné language?

Oh yeah. You know there’s Diné chants, and traditional Navajo Diné dances and songs, and then I wrote this sort of—it becomes like a Greek chorus-like, I don’t know, almost like a deity for the Native flute commenting on the rest of the piece and then this enormous hoop dance, crazy phenomenal hoop dance. And the original concept was that it would merge elements of modern dance, and Navajo traditional dances. So there’s this modern dance component.

The other piece I wrote was Echoes, which was commissioned, essentially telling the story of the 19th century whaling industry. Whalers were some of the first Europeans to make contact with a variety of Native American tribes. Native Alaskan, Native Hawaiian, some of the first visits, some of the first contacts, some of the first trading, was in the whaling industry. Now the whaling industry was a terrible, ugly thing. It was not a good thing. But nevertheless there was this long tradition of all those sea shanties, and all those were mostly whaling vessels, where those songs were sung. So that’s a component that tells that story.

But I guess, at the end of the day, I’m a guy from Canton, Ohio. I grew up very typical childhood, listened to Casey Kasem, that was the music of my time. My dad was a swing drummer, so I grew up with Sinatra and Ella in my house and all this kind of stuff. I drifted toward classical music as a singer in the high school choir, and then became serious about it. I was not one of these kids who knew any of the Brahm’s symphonies when I was twelve. Most of my colleagues played an orchestral instrument and they knew all the repertoire by the time they entered college. I didn’t know any of it. So my life has been a real bridge-builder between genres and cultures, and that’s what Rocktopia is, absolutely, fusing these things together. And these kinds of— feels like a scene from an opera than a pops concert.

And you’re also feeding your own creative impulses.


And Peter and the Wolf?

Peter and the Wolf, at the time, was a really ground-breaking project. It’s all technology that’s completely long passé. But the CD-Rom of Peter and the Wolf was a joint effort between the Hudson Valley Philharmonic and IBM. They don’t tend to create much entertainment product so it was rare for them. James Cannavino, VP of IBM, was on my board for a brief time, of the Poughkeepsie Philharmonic.

It was one of the first DVDs that had streaming video. All the early DVDs had images, click this and click that. They were basically the early games. But none of them had streaming video until ours. So we recorded Peter and the Wolf with Tony Randall. He was a huge opera fan and a huge classical music buff. James Cannavino knew him through IBM circles. He only died about five years ago. And I remember the headline, I think it was Rolling Stone: Goodbye, Felix. He did the narration. And at the time, it was very ground-breaking in a lot of ways. It was ground-breaking for a symphony to get involved in technology. It was new technology because it was streaming video. It’s all completely like a museum piece now. But that’s what that was. It was wonderful to have classical music on a commercial product on the shelf at Best Buy. It was very exciting.

So your last message out to that person in the grocery store who hasn’t been here in twenty years, what’s a good way in?

I always say to people, you deserve it! I’ll tell you candidly, I didn’t know what to expect when I came here to conduct. I knew my orchestra in Hudson Valley was going to be good because it’s New York Metro area, they’re New York City freelancers, I didn’t expect the other where I’d be music director to be great symphonies.

But when I came to Youngstown, I was very positively surprised. I guess the proximity between Cleveland and Pittsburgh, this is an area, I call it the turnpike orchestra, you can actually make a living as a freelance orchestral musician in this area. Play with us, play with Canton, play with Akron, you play Erie, you play Wheeling, you sub maybe with the Cleveland Orchestra, you play the Broadway shows when they tour into Cleveland, you play Pittsburgh Opera, you sub with the Pittsburgh Symphony, you play the touring shows when they play Pittsburgh—you take on maybe twenty or so private students, you can make a living here. You can still buy a home for a hundred thousand dollars in this area., a decent home in a decent neighborhood. Maybe it needs a little work, but where I live in L.A. a hundred thousand dollars does not buy you a nice home.

And it might not need a little work!

Exactly. So, we’re in one of those places in America. You think of New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, those are the places where you can make a living as a freelance orchestral musicians because there’s a lot of different orchestras in the area. Like my guys in the Hudson Valley. I have a couple musicians who play in the Metropolitan Opera orchestra, and then sub regularly for New York Philharmonic. I lost my principle oboe for a year because he got a yearlong substitute position with the New York Philharmonic and then came back.

But you don’t think of Youngstown, Ohio—but it is. So we’re really lucky, and we have this constant influx of masters and doctoral students at CIM, students at Oberlin, doctoral and master’s students at Carnegie Mellon, even students at Dana or faculty at Dana, or faculty at those colleges. The guy who’s now the viola teacher at Dana taught viola at Oberlin for a year, that’s how we got him. So we can get good musicians. So that first time I conducted here for awhile, these guys are actually pretty good! So we’re so lucky!

And we have to support that. It’s not self-sustaining.

And you’ll pay essentially the same, maybe ten percent more, for the cheaper tickets here than you would pay for a 3-D movie on a weekend. It’s definitely cheaper than seeing a Youngstown football game. It’s way cheaper than seeing a major rock band touring at the Covelli Center. You know what? and it’s ours. It’s not a thing that comes in here one day and then leaves. These are our musicians. These are your neighbors. These are kids that maybe went to Dana and grew up next door. Went to the same high school with your kids. It’s ours. It’s like the Butler or like the beautiful parks and gardens that we have in this area. These are wonderful resources we have. People say, you know, we love the idea of having a symphony. Well, but if you don’t actually buy a ticket once in awhile, we won’t have a symphony anymore.

It’s an art form that’s so present.

You feel it.

You feel it. Thank you so very much! I really appreciate your time.

My pleasure.


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