Bel Kaufman, Claudio Arrau, Daniel Waitzman, Elaine Comparone, Eugene Lehner, Franz Mohr, Gerard Schwarz, Herbert Gardner, Indiana University, James Gardner actor, Leon Fleisher, Lillian Freundlich, Lillian Lefkofsky Freundlich, Marble Hill Projects, Marjorie Janove, Menahem Pressler, Murray Perahia, Raphael de Silva, Roselle Kemalyan, Samuel Gardner, Seagate, Seymour Bernstein, six degrees of separation, six degrees of separation in the music world, Theodor Leschetizky, Vladimir Horowitz

Shrinking degrees of separation in the music world?

The musical universe is smaller than we think. And perhaps this writing will incubate a linked chain of “connections” that will go further–especially since my relocation to Berkeley, California (September, 2012)

So here it is:

Now that I’m well past my Oberlin Conservatory student years, I notice that Lillian Freundlich, my beloved teacher during my New York City H.S. of Performing Arts era, is honored posthumously at the Peabody Institute website by students a bit younger than me.

lillianfreundlich  lil2

An Oberlin alumna, she began commuting to Baltimore, launching a second teaching career after her husband, Irwin, former Chair of the Juilliard Piano Department, passed away. That followed my relocation to Fresno in 1979. It’s no wonder that I would stumble upon Leon Fleisher, concert pianist, and Peabody faculty member when he performed on our local Philip Lorenz Memorial Concerts Series. He had spoken glowingly about my teacher.

If one went back far enough, Lillian Lefkofsky Freundlich’s piano teachers would have led to the famous pedagogue, Theodore Leschetizky, a historic name with its own treasure trove of connections. Reeling out his many students and theirs would unleash a gush of them with their tie-ins to the next generation of performing pianists. The list of virtuoso concert artists Leschetizky trained included Anna Yesipova, Ignaz Friedman, Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Artur Schnabel, Mark Hambourg, Alexander Brailowsky, Benno Moiseiwitsch, and Mieczysław Horszowski.

Horszowski crops up on a short list of Murray Perahia’s mentors. The legendary pianist had a connection to the Marlboro Festival in Vermont. (Murray was my classmate at the New York City High School of Performing Arts.)

Speaking of teachers and their descendants, I studied with Ena Bronstein before she left Fresno and continued her career at the Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton, NJ. Ena, a Chilean, was a student of Claudia Arrau’s assistant, Raphael De Silva, but played often for Arrau. When Gilmore award-winning pianist, Ingrid Fliter performed in Fresno, her bio revealed studies with De Silva, and by association a connection to Philip Lorenz, former husband of Ena Bronstein. Lorenz founded the Fresno Keyboard Concerts Series and helped Arrau edit the complete edition of Beethoven sonatas.

Emigration to California and more connections.

No sooner than I had touched down in the richly fertile San Joaquin Valley, I bumped into Lillian’s Freundlich’s Oberlin Conservatory roommate, Roselle Bezazian Kemalyan, from the class of 1933.

Kemalyan had set up the Bezazian piano scholarship at Oberlin, her legacy into the Millennium. The Bezazian name, has its own reservoir of connections.

Before I had even met Lillian Freundlich through her nephew, Douglas, (a well established Lutenist) and former camper at Merrywood in Lenox, Massachusetts, I acquired my first decent piano, a Sohmer upright formerly owned by Lucy Brown, a well-known New York City based concert pianist.

Uncannily, I recently discovered that Seymour Bernstein, the revered pianist and teacher, author of With Your Own Two Hands, had taught a student, who was a former pupil of the late, Lucy Brown, and “loved her.” (Would Lucy have known Ethel Elfenbein, my first West side teacher who played on the East River concert series?) Both had made appearances at historic Town Hall.

In the same e-mail exchange, I discovered that Bernstein had used Franz Mohr to maintain his Steinway B. The piano technician turned up in Fresno in 1990, to help resuscitate my Steinway “M.” Dispatched by Steinway and Sons, after my article “How Could This Happen to My Piano?!” was published in the Piano Quarterly, Mohr had just completed a book memorializing his years as Vladimir Horowitz’s personal tuner.

Not to forget that Bernstein lists Alexander Brailowsky (a tie to Leschitizky) as one of his teachers.

Rosina Lhevinne, ushers in another gush of connections too long to tabulate, except to mention that I attended Lhevinne’s 80th birthday celebration concert at the Juilliard School back in 1960. Van Cliburn, John Browning, and Mischa Dichter, among her many illustrious students, were no doubt present at that event.

Flash forward:


Having met Elaine Comparone, harpsichordist, through her Internet postings and You Tube channel a few years ago, I discovered that she played chamber music with Daniel Waitzman, recorder virtuoso, who was a Marble Hill Projects dweller when I was living there from age 5 to 19. In fact, I heard him sample three different range recorders in his apartment one afternoon when he was about 18 years old. A Vivaldi presto played on a sopranino produced an unabashed display of virtuosity.

If that wasn’t enough of a common thread, I learned that Comparone took chamber music classes with Eugene Lehner, former principal violist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra when she was a Brandeis student. Lehner coached a string quartet at the Merrywood Music Camp where I played second violin.


Toss in Diana Halperin, violinist, and Gerard Schwarz, conductor whom I knew at the HS of Performing Arts. Both eventually performed with Comparone.

Taking a journey down memory lane, I’ll never forget the day I had bumped into two ladies at the Richmond California Amtrak station as I was heading home to Fresno from my El Cerrito piano studio.

Noticing their thick Bronx accents, I edged up to them like an in-your-face New Yorker would, and inquired about their origins. No sooner than I got my answer, we were seated tightly at a small table on southbound train 712 jabbering away.

In the course of the first twenty minutes, I discovered that both women lived right beside the music school I attended as a small child which was located off Kingsbridge Road and Jerome. To my astonishment, these ladies confided that they knew the eccentric Director, Mrs. Elston who came with beaded glasses and an officious demeanor. She sermonized about a “progressive” musical education that had a political and dialectical overlay. I just sat impatiently as a 6-year old, while my mother sucked it all up.

What an amazing coincidence to meet two people who knew Elston back then! As it played out, one of the travelers became a Facebook friend and lives in Florida. The other, who relocated to Arkansas, has been out of touch.

Bel Kaufman, author of the bestseller, Up the Down Staircase, and my English teacher at the Performing High Arts school celebrated as FAME knew my great aunt Sonia, among other relatives at Seagate, (on Long Island) Ardent lovers of Sholom Aleichem’s writings gathered in a lovely setting to read and share cultural kinship (in the 1940s) No doubt music was a vital part of these convergences.

This is a good place to insert a discovery that “Musakant” was my maternal grandmother’s maiden name acquired through painstaking Genealogy research conducted by my second cousin, Leon Ginenthal. I tried to go one step further, to find out if the family owned a piano factory in Eastern Europe as had been rumored. But I was resoundingly stopped in my tracks by a Music History Professor at the City University of New York. She insisted that all arrows pointed to St. Petersburg, not remotely a part of my family’s migration. Kaput! Finished! NO CONNECTION!


In a less “related” Facebook driven search, I had a Page reunion with Herbert Gardner, my Orchestra teacher at John Peter Tetard JHS 143 in the Bronx. His father, Samuel Gardner, became my violin teacher in New York City. Having played with the famous Kneisel Quartet based in New England, Sam probably knew, Eugene Lehner, a long-time member of the Kolisch Quartet that played in Boston. (The New England connection)

Since Gardner Sr. made chamber music appearances at Blue Hill, Maine, where his teacher, Franz Kneisel founded the summer festival, it was no surprise that Murray Perahia would turn up in the 60s as a Blue Hill chamber musician along with his appearances at Marlboro in Vermont. (the Rudolf and Peter Serkin hub)

The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center is the next spin-off. Murray Perahia, Richard Stoltzman, Richard Goode, Elaine Comparone, and Andre Michel Shub come to mind. These names pop up in different locales. Stoltzman graced Fresno with a psychedelic concert, using a big screen of abstracts as an extra-musical backdrop. Perahia presented on Community Concerts here before it folded. Comparone insists she passed through Fresno under CC auspices. In one form or another she turns up as the ultimate in harpsichord playing. Goode, a close companion of Perahia more than tags along, having culled a reputation as a serious Beethoven interpreter and master class presenter.

As it happened, I heard Goode play in Karl-Ulrich Schnabel’s Masterclass at the Mannes College of Music back in the early 70s. Richard was then in his twenties, and performed the Schumann Fantasie. Speaking of Mannes, my latest connection to that music school, is through Irina Morozova, accomplished pianist and faculty member. I spotted her incredible set of You Tubes that revealed great artistry and sensitivity. She provides an additional tie-in to the Y, where I took coaching in Chamber Music from Yuval Waldman in the early 1970s, except that Morozova teaches at the Special School, known as the “other Kaufman Center on 67th Street,” not 92nd.

Flashing back:

Herb Gardner from my JHS days, it turns out, fathered son James, whom I remember from his containment in the stroller. A well respected actor, he turned up as Facebook friends with P.A. Grad, Alexander Carney, one of our “shared” connections.

Lillian Freundlich was friends with Rudolf Serkin I discovered when I greeted him in the Green room of Carnegie Hall following his memorable performance of Beethoven’s “Waldstein” Sonata. He was so kind to embrace me and send is warm regards to her.

Peter Serkin, Rudolf’s son, was close friends with Harris Goldsmith, one of my musical companions in New York City when I was living on West 74th Street. Harris was writing for High Fidelity Magazine reviewing concerts and disks. He was pals with Murray Perahia and Richard Goode.

Murray Perahia, a year ahead of me at P.A. turned up in Fresno for a Master class, three weeks before my delivery date. In a mini-reunion of sorts, I performed Beethoven’s “Tempest” Sonata, on edge.

Jerry Grossman, cellist and youngest member of the New York Philharmonic was my floor neighbor on West 74th Street and Amsterdam. I attended “Young People’s Concerts of the Phil,” when Leonard Bernstein was music director.

Loaded with musicians, our building housed apartment dwellers with even less than six degrees of separation between them. You could apply the same to the historic Ansonia a few blocks west which was stacked with opera singers who serenaded passersby below.

Members of the Metropolitan Opera came through the Ansonia with its own wealth of connections.

Marjorie Janove, piano teacher in Portland Oregon, to whom I referred a student, received her Doctorate at Indiana University, where she studied with Menahem Pressler. I heard Menahem perform with the Beaux Art Trio in Tanglewood when I attended Merrywood Music camp.

Another favorite from the Indiana school was Gyorgy Sebok, also known to Janove, who presented Masterclasses at the Oberlin Conservatory when I was a student.

Gabriela Montero, concert pianist and improviser who performed in Fresno, was a pupil of Rosalina Sackstein, one of my family members through marriage. I played for Rosalina when she visited my uncle and aunt in Hartsdale, New York. Sackstein was Chair of the Piano Department, University of Miami.

On that note, I’ll pause until more “connections” rise to the surface from my deep-layered, fuzzy memory.

Oops, I forgot that I spotted an Oberlin alumna at Seymour Bernstein’s You Tube Channel site. He featured “Lydia Seifter,” who was a member of the Jack Radunsky “rat pack.” (A group of his students, including myself, formed a clique at the Oberlin Conservatory)


Enough said.

If you have “connections” to share, please send. There’s no telling where all this could lead! We might be related.


Most recent documented Oberlin CONNECTION: to David and Eleanor Bidwell through John Bidwell, Authors Den contributor

My family’s genealogy

My High School Years:

Music, Life, and Memories (Recollections of Lillian Freundlich)

Piano teachers and students/Reluctant Farewells

Gerard Schwarz, Murray Perahia, New York City High School of Performing Arts, Reva Cooper, Setsuko Nagata

My New York City High School of Performing Arts (FAME) Yearbook and what I found

I wonder how many P.A. grads still have the emblematic school pin? I just recovered mine among other memorabilia contained in a big cardboard box sent from New York City.

And as I perused various Dance, Music and Drama Programs, I looked for names that might be in bright lights in each field.

For starters, I remembered Anna Horsford of Amen TV sitcom fame who cracked classmates up every time she opened her mouth. One wondered if her self-style form of comedy reflected the culture of Harlem, because it flowed effortlessly as if generations of African Americans needed humor to survive discrimination and poverty.

Here’s her pic straight out of the Yearbook. Notice her quote: “What was it? Did you call me by my name?”

That’s exactly what Anna would say, especially if called upon to read one of her essays in English class. We were all in stitches.

No doubt she put comedy to good use in her chosen endeavor:

Here’s Anna playing Thelma in Amen:

In the Dance department, I spotted Tony Catanzaro, who bedazzled on stage at school performances. I’d wondered what happened to him after graduation:

Here’s an update:

With this bio:

“Tony Catanzaro began his training at the High School of Performing Arts and graduated as the Dance Award Recipient. He joined the Joffrey Ballet and three years later, became a principal dancer with the Boston Ballet until 1984. Tony danced the lead in the Broadway production of “Annie Get Your Gun” with Ethel Merman and with the touring company of “Golden Boy” starring Sammy Davis Jr. He appeared in the first English speaking musical to travel to Japan, “West Side Story”. For the past 25 years, Tony has devoted much of his energy to the Ballet Academy of Miami.”

Moving over to the Music Department, some memorable names, but not in my particular class year:

These included Murray Perahia, beloved pianist/poet of the piano, (graduated a year ahead of me) and Gerard Schwarz, conductor (a year behind me) Gerry was playing trumpet at P.A. and landed in the New York Philharmonic beside Roger Voisin. Later he became a world class music director.

In the Drama Department, a student in her senior year grabbed a lion’s share of attention, as she was the featured lead in so many school productions.

Years following graduation, Robin Strasser played “Dorian” in the long-running soap opera, One Life to Live.

My closest friends:

In the 3 years I spent at P.A. I made two very good friends. Because students traveled from all parts of the city to attend the school, there was not the usual neighborhood after-class bonding. We had no sports teams or phys. ed. and many of the boys were gay, so I didn’t notice much dating or pairing going on, but I stand corrected if I was misinformed.

Setsuko Nagata, (Music) and Reva Cooper (Drama) were my closest pals.

Setsuko who had just arrived from Japan when she began studies at P.A. invited me and my parents to her home to feast on native food. We returned the favor and had many reciprocal visits over years.

I lost contact with Setsuko after graduation but on a Google search I found this:

“Born in Tokyo, Miss Nagata studied violin with Toshiya Eto. She came to the US in 1962 and enrolled at The Juilliard School, where she studied under Dorothy Delay and Ivan Galamian.

“She has been soloist with the Municipal Orchestra, the Jamaica Symphony, the Great Neck Symphony, the NY Orchestra, the Juilliard Orchestra and the NC Symphony. 1968 saw her Carnegie Hall debut with the National Orchestral Association directed by John Barnette.

“She has also appeared on TV, in radio, and in numerous recitals in the NY area. She has been active in teaching at Juilliard, the Meadowmount School of Music, Wesleyan University, Bowdoin College summer music school, a special program for the Manhattan School of Music, and in private teaching.

“She has won the Fritz Kreisler Award, the Naumberg Scholarship Award, a teaching fellowship from Juilliard, prizes in the Hudson Valley Competition and the Swiss Tibor Varga International Competition.

“As a chamber musician she has performed with the Aeolian Chamber Players, the Da Capo Chamber Players, the Tokyo String Quartet, the Music Project, and her own group, The Cremona Arts Trio, which made its NY debut in December 1982 at the Metropolitan Museum.”

Reva Cooper appears in my class Yearbook with her own quote beneath the photo and an endearing note scribbled to me:

We recently had our own mini-reunion when I visited New York City in October for my mother’s 97th birthday celebration. I reminded her of the Sweet Sixteen party she and her parents hosted at the Copa Cabana with Sammy Davis Jr. headlining. I was seated a few feet from him. What a performer!!

Here’s the latest on Reva and her professional orbit:

“Reva Cooper, who directs her own marketing and public relations business, has been a publicist and marketer since 1980, working in all phases of the arts. Current and recent clients include Symphony Space, The Town Hall, and New York Festival Of Song. Her background includes over a dozen Broadway shows, commercial Off-Broadway productions, and more than 50 plays and hundreds of music and dance events at organizations such as the New York Philharmonic, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Big Apple Circus, The Public Theater, Circle Repertory Company, Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts, and Tilles Center for the Performing Arts. At The Public Theater, she was also Press Representative for Joseph Papp’s Festival Latino In New York, for many years the largest Latin cultural event in the United States. Other projects over the years have included Twyla Tharp Dance, the New York City-wide Year Of Tibet festival, the opening of the French Institute’s Florence Gould Hall, Art Against AIDS benefits, and the opening of A.R.T./New York’s Spaces at 520 real estate project. Reva has lectured and taught marketing and publicity at New York University, Marymount College, Long Island University, Queens College, A.R.T./New York (for whom she wrote the guide, Theatre Publicity In New York), The Support Center and the Arts & Business Council’s National Arts Marketing Project.”

Well, we had quite a nice visit, having met in the West Village and then walking over to the Arch at the NYU campus. (my grad school)

No sooner than we took a few photos, we headed to my auntie’s where mom’s birthday party was being held and Reva joined in the fun.

That pretty much sums up the High School of Performing Arts and my connections to it.

As we sang at graduation, “PA Forever,” and with a well of tears, “We are closing your doors.”

IMPORTANT UPDATE: I met up with my favorite P.A. Math teacher, “Miss Katz” at a Memorial Service for my aunt Leepee in New York City. What a perfect opportunity to bestow a binder full of kudos from her students.

Here’s captivating footage:

shirley katz better


More well-known P.A. alums: Liza Minelli, Robert DeNiro, Edward Vilella, Dom Deluise, Freddie Prinz, Ben Vereen, Al Pacino, and Sonia Manzano ( “Maria” on Sesame Street)

Jennifer Aniston
Brooke Adams
Ellen Barkin
Richard Benjamin
Danny Burstein
Reggie Rock Bythewood
George Cables
Irene Cara
Nydia Caro
Christopher Chadman
Bill Charlap
Pat Crowley
Keith David
Wanda De Jesus
George de la Pena
Ron Eldard
Omar Epps
Eliot Feld
Herb Gardner
Rita Gardner
Erica Gimpel
Robert Greenwald
Glenne Headley
Brenda Braxton
Daniel Lewis
Hal Linden
Nicki Minaj
Melissa Manchester
Tony Iglesias
Erich Jarvis
Baayork Lee
Priscilla Lopez
Melissa Manchester
Arthur Mitchell
Isaac Mizrahi
Jim Moody (actor)
Esai Morales
Tony Mordente
Richard Nelson
Robert De Niro
Corey Parker
Suzanne Pleshette
Faith Popcorn
Lonny Price
Freddie Prinze
Ving Rhames
Amy Ryan
Esmeralda Santiago
Don Scardino
Gerard Schwarz
Helen Slater
John Steinmetz
Ricky Stotts (Royal Danish Ballet)
Suzanne Vega
Jessica Walter
Marlon Wayans
Steven Weber
Dudley Williams
Debra Wilson
Pinchas Zukerman
Morena Baccarin