To put it lightly, degrees of separation in our musical cosmos are melting rapidly. By example, a Facebook post to my profile page from my 1960s era Orchestra teacher, led to a long lost neighbor who was the youngest member of the New York Philharmonic.
To backtrack a bit, Herbert Gardner, a time-honored music director at J.H.S. 143 (John Peter Tetard) in the Bronx, glided easily over the 80-year benchmark, rejuvenating his conducting career, post-retirement in Florida. At the same time, he circulated his teaching materials and compositions through an international free music database. (Imslp.org)
Gardner, my former music mentor, had kept in touch through social networking channels as he reeled off names of ex-students (from my era and beyond) who’d earned a lingering musical spotlight. (Nardo Poy, violist with the Met Orchestra was among his star-studded graduates)
“Mr. Gardner,” a task master in the good sense, would throw board erasers in the direction of brass and woodwind players when they missed their cues, blubbered notes, or chatted among themselves. (At ground zero, in my role as concert master, seated at the foot of the podium, I watched missiles fly by, reaching their target with A-1 accuracy.) Relentlessly, the energy-packed band and orchestra director whipped his troops into line, teaching task-centered practicing and lifelong discipline. He made sure our music-making was as important as mastering the 3Rs.
Fast forward to 2014: Gardner’s FACEBOOK entry on my profile page, was a reflection of his devoted life’s work: (His comment on Leon Fleisher’s quote: “Hear it, Before you Play it,” resonated loud and clear: “Exactly,” Gardner added, “it’s called Ear Training for us teachers.”)
He didn’t skip a beat, linking me directly to his educational materials:
“Check out my ed stuff onwww.imslp.org under “composers,” “Gardner, Herbert Straus.”
As my Junior High Years flew by, memories were blurred by my overlapping membership in the Manhattan Borough-wide Orchestra where repertoire was often duplicated.
Nonetheless, I was nearly certain that Marche Slave and the Von Suppe Overture had been on the Top Ten at the JHS 44, W. 77th Street rehearsal venue for the Borough-Wide, and simultaneously on the rack at JHS 143 in the north Bronx.
Still, one link deserved another…
Gardner’s dad, Samuel, became my violin teacher in the early 60s. A member of the Kneisel Quartet based in Blue Hill Maine, his pedagogical materials and compositions (“From the Canebrake,” a well known encore piece) had been archived at the University of South Florida. (The Kneisel connection will soon surface in the course of this narrative)
Samuel Gardner bestowed my first violin of value. It was a Hornsteiner 1799 that he personally selected for me at a Paris auction.
Before drawing the bow over this beauty, I had been enslaved to a “cigar box” that barely pumped out the “Exodus” theme at a Junior High School music festival held in Brooklyn. But to its credit, the fiddle led to my acquiring a Stradivarius copy, that was leased to me by the School District. (Gardner had promptly delivered sobering news that violin facsimiles such as mine were a dime a dozen and worth less than $200.)
As time passed my interest in the violin waned and being an alumna of Tetard’s Orchestra took second tier to forging ahead with piano studies.
Herbert Gardner, Sam’s son, nevertheless, invited me to perform as a pianist, at a JHS 143 event, which was a tribute to his respect for musical choices and diverse journeys.
Meanwhile, Nardo Poy, regaled by our well-celebrated Junior High music mentor, traveled from the Tetard orchestra to the Met, which by association led to Jerry Grossman, cellist. (Poy, it turned out conducted a New York-based chamber ensemble where Grossman was a member, and both were affiliated with the Metropolitan Opera orchestra)
So how did Jerry, a principle Chair, fit into my cosmos?
In the early 1970s, while a single girl residing on 74th and Amsterdam, I bumped into new neighbor, “Jerry,” who’d just become the youngest member of the New York Philharmonic. Naturally, I was infatuated from the start wanting to set up a musical collaboration. Another neighbor on our floor, Flautist, David, had rehearsed a Mozart concerto with me, alongside a Pergolesi composition, so why not add a cellist to the mix.
Grossman, a wiry fellow, with his cello case contoured perfectly to his body, didn’t seem interested. Perhaps it was because he was unhappy at the Phil, his having briefly shared these misgivings with me.
I’d gleaned from our conversations that forming a quartet was one of his keen desires, but after I left the Big Apple in the late 1970’s, I lost contact with Jerry and many other musical acquaintances.
How ironic, then, to have a reunion, decades later, by You Tube!
One URL connected to another, and before I knew it, I was watching a substantial interview with Jerry (circa 2012), before I flipped to another with interspersed footage of Grossman playing in an All Star Ochestra conducted by Gerard Schwarz, my former classmate at the New York City High School of Performing Arts.
More melting degrees of separation.
I soon learned that Jerry had spent his summers in Blue Hill, Maine at a Kneisel Chamber Music convergence. (Samuel Gardner and the Kneisel Quartet were ironically, synonymous)
And yet another link in the chain surfaced. Murray Perahia (Performing Arts High classmate) had often frequented Blue Hill as a chamber player, while he participated at the Marlboro Festival under by Rudolf Serkin’s direction. Jerry Grossman, had made the same double journey.
Finally, to cap this whole narrative with its web-woven links, Beth Levin, pianist who’s a Facebook Friend of Jerry’s, connected to Fresno where I lived for a time. In the 1980’s she gave a local Keyboard Concert recital before turning up 30 plus years later in my social network loop.
At first I couldn’t quite place the name and event, but soon enough I tracked down the concert where Beth had stunningly rendered Beethoven’s “Tempest” Sonata and definitively, we had our cyber-reunion.
The musical world is shrinking by the minute, and the Internet brings us even closer to a family of musicians who would be otherwise lost in the crush of time. For this, we should be grateful.
Shrinking Degrees of Separation in the Music World