From the Orchestra Library

A Librarian’s View from the Audience

Posted in The Music by kschnack on September 27, 2009

As a non-playing orchestra librarian (well, mostly anyway), I don’t get to hear the orchestra on stage as much as I did when I was playing more often and in the midst of the music.  Yes, we always have the monitor on so we “hear” the rehearsals and concerts, but I’m talking about participating in the performance as an audience member.  It’s still kind of a strange experience for me because, after being in orchestras of some kind or another nearly all my life, I don’t feel like an observer.  I feel like I’m part of the performance and, happily, that feeling will probably never go away.  A musician to the core, I’m right there with the players in every phrase, every solo, especially, of course, with the violin section.  (Oh, and the percussion section too, being where my husband is employed.  He was on triangle and tam-tam this week, but don’t let that fool you.  The triangle part is big, exposed — well, that probably goes without saying — and tricky.  Great job, honey!)

Sorry for going off track there for a second.

So, as the librarian, one has to plan in advance to sit in the hall during a performance.  Otherwise, the tasks of the moment will take precedence.  You suddenly find yourself racing against the clock to finish whatever has come up that night to be able to take 45 minutes or an hour to go out and listen with an unhurried mind, and appreciate all over again the reason you do this work.  And to support your colleagues.  A dear friend of mine who used to work at the DSO would often say:  “Someday we will miss this time in our lives when great music was flowing past us like water.  We should soak up as much of it as we can while we can.”  That’s for sure.  It’s a privilege and it feeds my soul.  How many jobs can you say that about??

Okay.  Not ALL of the music feeds my soul.  I said great music.  Some of the other stuff is a little soul-sucking to be honest.  But I’m not goin’ there!!

[These digressions must be so irritating for you.  Just go with it.  Work with me.  There’s a point coming but it’s a blog, not a scholarly article.]

Last night I was determined to hear the Mahler Symphony No. 1 in the hall.  The orchestra sounded fabulous all week during rehearsals.  I carefully scheduled my work so that when 9:00 rolled around I’d be free to go out for the second half.  I even came in early to get a jump on things as it was the last concert in the series before the orchestra has two days off.  Which means, as the universe would have it, all kinds of library issues popped up right before the concert and during intermission that had to be done last night.

The music director (who will be abroad for a couple of weeks) asked for a list of scores; several new items regarding upcoming audition repertoire needed to be addressed; some people wanted copies of various pieces; and then there was the usual stage move and dealing with scores and parts for the concert.  Suddenly a 30-minute first half was flying by.  When I finally delivered the materials to the MD*, it was a crunch to get everything done because I was not going to miss this performance!

Once out in the hall, I settled in for the nearly hour-long “Titan” which I love, and it was thrilling.  It’s amazing to hear things I’d never focused on before, even though I’ve played the work many times.  There’s no review coming here except to say the orchestra did a fantastic job.  Actually, that doesn’t do them justice.  It blew the top of my head off, and not because of decibels.  Wow.

Sitting there, I realized that if the top of my head can be blown off after nearly 20 years with this orchestra, and knowing the repertoire, players and personalities, then imagine the effect on someone who isn’t as familiar with the music, the art form, or the experience.  It was fun to catch reactions of people near me in the audience, including a row of three kids with their dad and a young couple, one of whom had obviously never heard or seen this piece live before.  They looked around surprised when the trumpet players came back onstage after the opening fanfares (the offstage performance was so perfect you couldn’t tell where it was coming from) .  They swayed with the ländler and the walzer and the klezmer  music.  They smiled when the horns and winds played bells up.  They were rapt with attention during the bass solo.  They jumped at the power of the 4th movement’s start after the 3rd faded away.  They looked at each other in amazement when the horns and trombone stood up near the end.  I’m pretty certain they went away from the performance completely awestruck by what they had been part of.  I went away awestruck by what I’d been part of.

And I’m certain classical music is not dead, despite what many would have us believe.  If this music can surprise and uplift audiences 125 years after it was written — and it clearly does — we should all walk around with our heads up, our confidence high, and our commitment unwavering to deliver this amazing, live art form to the world.  We are the ambassadors of it, after all, and we should be proud to be so.  Without apology or dumbing down or trying to turn it into something else.  We are lucky to have it flowing past us like water.

*MD = Music Director

PS.  For those who are interested in this sort of thing, the MD had us insert a section in the cello parts to double the violas, 8 bars before 19 in the last movement (letting them drop out of their pizz. a bar early to be ready).  It certainly gave an extra richness to that high passage.


One Program, A World of Librarians

Posted in MOLA,Organizational Effectiveness,Preparing Parts by kschnack on September 24, 2009

The thing I love most about MOLA — and I love MOLA for many reasons —  is the incredible collaboration between our member librarians all over the world.  You get to know the greatest people this way through the selfless, unquestioning help they are willing to give at the drop of a hat for the sake of getting the right music in the right place at the right time for someone else, even if they are a world away and have never met.  They do this even though they are so busy trying to keep ahead of their own deadlines.  It’s mind-blowing how generous with their time and expertise my colleagues are.

Of late, about 8 American orchestras have been making arrangements to play a pops concert with the same artist who is doing a US tour for the next month.  There have been all the usual logistical and operational questions to work out, including repertoire, instrumentation, fees, when the music will arrive, whether or not the parts are already used and bowed, or clean (and then have to be prepared), and whether or not they will already be in folders or have to be put together.  On top of all that, this type of artist tour means the orchestra librarians — to save their own and each other’s time and sanity — need to work together to organize the materials and maintain that organization for each other as the music is shipped from city to city, librarian to librarian.  The work the librarians do on the front end, plus the markings that are clarified in those early rehearsals and concerts, helps every orchestra down the line.

In this particular case, the organizing and shipping of two complete sets of parts came from one of our very helpful colleagues in another country and he set up the schedule of how the charts will move about the country based on the dates and geographical locations of which two orchestras would need the music first.  We happen to be one of those two first orchestras.

Since the parts needed to still be put into performance folders, we had a judgment call to make.  Do we do the work, stuff 31 different pieces in our folders, perform the concert, and then deconstruct all that work just to send it to the next orchestra and make them do the same?  Or do we stuff a set of folders we can give away, and send everything to the next orchestra all ready to put on the stands?

We do the second.  Of course.  This saves each successive library at least HALF of the amount of time it would have taken them to redo all that work.  And we are not being martyrs here.  It saves us half the time as well because we won’t have to take everything apart.  Which would be a totally unnecessary waste of time. With this many charts for full orchestra, let me just give you the straight scoop:  this all takes A Ton of Time.  How pointless it would be for each organization to have to totally start over.

The orchestra that is handling the other set of parts is also doing the same for the ones following them.  All of us are sharing details about assistant horn and trumpet, sax folders, an 8-inch stack of percussion parts that have to be sorted, etc.  It’s truly everyone pitching in to help the whole group.

I don’t want to get all “We Are The World” on you here, but I have many times been the lucky beneficiary of work already done by other librarians in this manner.  And it definitely makes you want to sing about it, especially for a folder with 31 pieces.

So this time I am happy we can do the work on the front end that will help our colleagues.  I like being one of a world of orchestra librarians.

The Library Peeps

Posted in DSO Colleagues by kschnack on September 19, 2009

I think the start of a new season is a grand time to introduce and publicly thank the members of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra library, both part and full-time. These people work incredibly hard, are committed to the DSO, they always meet the challenges put in front of them, and, most of all, they are great colleagues.  Even so, they don’t get much acknowledgment or recognition, and I doubt most of the orchestra’s players, conductors or administrators realize the extent to which they labor to ensure that rehearsals and performances go as smoothly as possible.  If I have any sanity left, it’s because of the fine people with whom I work most closely.  (No snorts from the peanut gallery, please.)

So today’s featured librarian is Beth Rudy.  Beth started in the DSO library in 1993 on a part-time basis and has been working with us ever since (she’s very patient……).  I had met her in the free-lance scene doing gigs together and when she subbed with the orchestra, and she was a natural choice when looking for extra help.  She is a wonderful violinist (currently the Acting Assistant Concertmaster of The Dallas Opera: and an equally wonderful human being.  Beth is a very creative and crafty person (the make-things kind of crafty) and we depend on her for these qualities and talents.  She puts up with much nonsense from the rest of us but, though a very gentle and kind soul, has an ability to put things into perspective through her observations of life and the library world with a wry wit and wicked comic timing.

Beth has done her fair share of bowings for the DSO, and she is our go-to person for making audition books, extracting excerpts for youth and family concerts, and for creating complicated scores and parts that require piecing things together like a puzzle.  Although she is exceptionally talented doing this with old-school skills using scissors, glue and tape, she loves technology and new toys, and has become quite an aficionado of the DocSend unit.  She is always finding new ways to use the software for music preparation (see September 15 post “Standing By My Copier”).  Recently, however, we did an experiment for one piece to see if it would be faster using the new or old-fashioned way, and Beth proved she could turn out the parts in 30 minutes each doing it manually compared to an hour each with the high-end technology.  Score one for experience.

Quite a few years ago we were preparing the program that started my gray hair — a television celebration of Gershwin — and we had to mesh together two different arrangements of the same tune for the unlikely duo of Maureen McGovern and Tommy Tune to perform.  As I recall (and, bear in mind, I’ve blocked out much of this because putting together the show was so traumatic), Beth handled that particular project with her usual steady aplomb.  We listened over the stage monitor during the first rehearsal and nary a note was out of place.  Yea Bethie!

Here is a picture of Beth with her lovely daughter Rachel:

Beth and Rachel

Beth and Rachel

That’s actually a little frightening because I met Rachel when she was 3 years old.  She clearly isn’t 3 anymore, although we still have pictures hanging in the library that she drew back then.  Beth’s family has been part of our library life through the years with Rachel sometimes coming in and helping out, and husband Bob building our project shelves and a special entry-way work counter.  Talented and crafty, all of them!

Project shelves on top of counter by Bob Rudy

Project shelves on top of counter by Bob Rudy

During the late spring, summer and early fall, Beth is able to work fairly regularly in the library a couple of days a week for 5 or 6 hours.  Soon, though, she will be back to work full-time with The Dallas Opera as it opens its season in the new Winspear Opera House, part of the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts.  We won’t get to see her as often through the fall and winter months, but hey, the new building is right next door to the Meyerson so if we get in a bind we know where to find her.  I am thrilled Beth has been able to spend many years working in the library with us and hope she will continue for many more.  I’m so glad to have her as a colleague and privileged to call her my friend.  Thanks, Beth!

Standing By My Copier

Posted in Library Supplies and Equipment by kschnack on September 15, 2009

Some other folks are apparently trying to get my beloved copier to transfer its affections.  They think I don’t notice how they sidle up and flirtatiously tease it with gifts of glamorous projects and new technical thrills.  Or how they have to tear themselves away from it clearly yearning to return.  That is, if I can get them away from it.  Sometimes they spend hours huddled closely together throughout the week, working as one with great attention to the smallest detail. Because it really is addictive, this copier.  Trust me, I know.

You see, it’s not just ANY copier.  It’s so much more.  And I’m not just talking about the universal tray we customized for music paper, or the double-scanner for duplexing, or the faxing or e-mailing capability.  Nor am I even referring to how we can receive a regular letter-sized pdf file and transform it from our computers to the copier which then produces a beautiful image on 60 lb., 10.5 x 13″ paper.  Sure, all those things are part of what makes this particularly fine specimen so special.  They’re just not the whole picture.

So, I have a confession.  I’ve been holding out on you and haven’t told you everything.  There was a clue in the photo when I first introduced you to the light of my library life, but I didn’t let you in on what it all meant.  And why, despite everything we’ve been through and the temptations to which it regularly succumbs, I’m still hopelessly in love with my copier and standing by it no matter what.

Here it is.  Have another look:

DSO Library Copier

DSO Library Copier

Notice that station next to the copier with a monitor and keyboard with the music up on the screen?  (I’ll let the librarians identify what the excerpt is.)  No, that is not just a regular computer turned sideways.  It’s not an ATM either, although nearly everyone in the orchestra called it that when we first got it.

It’s a unit that is designed to fit with the copier (in this case, Ricoh) that uses EFI print management software in a format developed by IKON called DocSend™.

And I can no longer live without it.

DocSend Unit

DocSend Unit

I know that most of this is old technology to those in other fields, or even those in other parts of the music industry.  And, by now, a number of my colleagues around the world have similar units, or, if they don’t have the separate tower, they are doing the same kind of work at their PC’s.  (We like having the tower because we can do all the scanning and editing at the copier without running back and forth to our PC’s.) In fact, we wouldn’t have understood the potential of this gizmo if we hadn’t attended demonstrations by our brilliant colleague Michel Léonard of the Montreal Symphony at a couple of MOLA conferences a few years ago.  As one who is very experienced in music editing, he was using Adobe Photoshop® long before most of the rest of us had even thought about it to manipulate parts electronically — clean and crop them, fix the notation, add rehearsal systems, make excerpts — instead of manually with scissors, tape, erasers, and Wite-Out®.  Not to be confused with music notation programs like Sibelius and Finale, this type of editing is a different process, targeting a different set of problems that, in my view, is even more essential to what the librarian is doing every day:  preparing the parts for performance that have already been created.

Oh, the things we can do together. Erasing without shavings! Extracting excerpts without so much as picking up a pair of scissors!!  Putting those excerpts in any order at all without having to mock up individual physical sheets that then have to be recopied front-to-back, wasting huge amounts of time and paper!!! Sending everything back to the PC, and in just a few clicks, printing exquisite parts on the music paper.  It’s a thing of beauty.

I know.  You must be thinking that none of this sounds all that amazing these days, what with every type of graphic image manipulation software available to anyone who wants to seek it out and learn to use it.  Are orchestra librarians so in the Dark Ages that we can be thrilled with a simple touch screen, over the moon about Deskew and Undo options?

Well, yes, I guess we are.  For a field that is one of the last to use pencils, erasers, and scissors — and not for teaching school children — it’s pretty exciting stuff.  And it makes me happy, happy.

To think that just yesterday I was talking about the old days.

So I’m standing by my copier.  Yes, I realize we are now supposed to call them printers or scanners or whatever.  But to me, he will always just be Doc, The Copier.  I will share him with the others on an as-needed basis.  But I know he knows who his true love is.  I know he knows you gotta dance with the one that brung ‘ya.

Our favorite library tool

Just Like the Old Days

Posted in Organizational Effectiveness by kschnack on September 13, 2009

There’s a great moment in the recent movie incarnation of James Bond — Casino Royale — when M, played by Judi Dench, delivers a withering tirade against her new double O for his latest fiasco.  She says how much she misses the Cold War when an agent who displayed such lack of judgment and disdain for how things were supposed to be done would have had “the good sense to defect.”

I know just how she feels.

Of course, the “old days” were never as golden as people remember, and we often forget how much easier so many things are these days, mostly due to advances in nearly every industry through technology.  And I’m loving learning new skills and how to think about things in new ways all the time.  But I do sometimes miss how things Used To Be in certain situations, the old-school ways of doing some things. Everybody knew the unwritten rules, to not follow them “just wasn’t done” and you could count on things being a particular way.

In our kind of work, these were such things as orchestral parts being the proper size with a predictable number of staves on the page depending on whether it was a popular chart or classically-composed music.  You never had to explain to anyone how big to make the page or the notes — everyone just knew.  There were no 8.5. x 11 parts.  (That doesn’t mean they were always legible, I admit.)  Orchestras sight read more, especially for pops.  (Again, admittedly, this wasn’t always comfortable for the players.)  The books would roll in with the band, and the road manager or conductor knew what went where.  Charts were in order or, if there was a change, the order would be announced at rehearsal and you played the show down without worrying about order sheets.  In the rehearsals the conductor hit the tricky spots, starts and stops with the orchestra alone, and then after an hour the artist would arrive and go through a couple of tunes as a warm-up.  Everybody would break for dinner and come back to do the show.  At the end, the books were packed up with the rest of the trunks and went with the band to the next city.

No shipping, no panicking, no mucking about.  There was an understanding from the artists that the orchestra players were pros and respected that they would get the job done.  Oftentimes, when the artist did a return date even years later, the same guys were in the band and the orchestra musicians would remember them and everyone would catch up on what each other had been doing since they last played together.

Most of the time it doesn’t feel like that anymore.

Forgive me for being a little wistful.

We’ve done a good bit of pops at the start of this season, culminating in yesterday’s gala 20th anniversary celebration of the opening of the Meyerson.  (We tend to call it “The Mort” and aptly so, because it was named for Mort Meyerson.)  A couple of big-name headliners came back with their band members and performed again with the DSO like they did when the hall opened in 1989.  In juxtaposition with some of the newer pops artists who don’t have much experience performing with symphony orchestras, and all the issues with parts (see previous ranting post about “Real Parts”), these guys stand out as reminders of how things “used to be.”

Yes, the old books are huge and heavy, the parts are marked up, and there are even quite a few of the same charts as in years past.  But the level of professionalism is just so ingrained in these musicians.  No issues, no problems.  Just taking care of business.  And the awareness that everyone can depend on each other to do their jobs, and that they know what those jobs are.

So, yeah, I occasionally miss that simplicity.  Not all the old ways of doing things should be obsolete.

Especially if a new way takes more time, is no more accurate, doesn’t get rid of the mistakes (just creates different ones), and doesn’t really help us in the long run.  And is less professional.

Sometimes It Just Takes a Village

Posted in Organizational Effectiveness by kschnack on September 10, 2009

How many librarians does it take to ……………………………………………make an orchestra happy?

Just kidding!  Bad joke.  😉

Let’s try this. How many librarians does it take to:

Put the music out for rehearsals? Stuff a set of folders? Or unstuff? Mark a set of parts? Or clean and repair? Put measure numbers in everything? Proofread a major work? Transfer markings from an old edition of a Beethoven symphony to a new one? Copy out a transposed part? Create excerpts for auditions or youth concerts? Make performance parts? Make an extra score? Make practice copies? Place rental and purchase orders for a whole season? Catalogue the music? Enter repertoire info into the database for all programs? Research a new work? Answer players’ questions about upcoming pieces? Put together practice parts for individual players? Get fee quotes or perusal scores for potential repertoire?  Return music to the publisher? Reshelve sets after performances? Answer questions from conductors, composers, and publishers, as well as the internal questions? Answer the phone? Make phone calls? Create a budget? Revise the budget? Have parts ready a month in advance? Change a program at the last minute?

Well, that’s The Million Dollar Question, isn’t it?  How many librarians does it take to run an orchestra library professionally, efficiently, providing a high standard of service to everyone, not make mistakes, and get everything done?

Of course we librarians usually believe there should be more librarians.  We know when we need more help, and we know what is being asked of us from all directions throughout the organization on a daily basis.  We know that the demands are increasing while resources are shrinking.  More “one-off” programs are being scheduled, and more artists are being hired who are unfamiliar with working alongside symphony orchestras in programs of less-traditional repertoire that have greater music preparation challenges.  More pieces are showing up with improper parts or electronically. We also know how often we are working 10-12 hour days/nights, or strings of days in a row without a break.

Those in charge of our organizations often believe we can get by with fewer librarians, that we can Just Do More, and that our pleas for extra help or additional money to hire another librarian are exaggerated.  Especially in tough times, this discussion is tabled for a future “better” time economically. And this can snowball on itself in a bad way.  Because tough times mean smaller budgets and fewer workers, so things don’t get taken care of early enough, there are more last-minute issues and all of a sudden everyone is in crisis management.  Which is very expensive from an organizational standpoint and a very slippery slope.

There’s all the stuff to do (some of which I listed above) that no one cares to hear about from the librarians.  They just want the work done.  I certainly don’t blame them.  You probably skimmed through that yourself and didn’t really want to think about it.  There are so many details it would make your head explode.  Just as I’m sure mine would if I knew everything about other people’s jobs.  And there are the money problems and the recession and the drop in giving which is wreaking havoc on plans large and small for orchestras around the country.  So no one wants to talk about fully-populated libraries and why that is crucial for the organization.  It’s usually low on the priority list, and there is a general lack of understanding across this and other countries’ orchestras about how the library can help achieve the organization’s goals, both artistically and fiscally.

I  know it’s kind of counterintuitive in the current climate for folks to realize that having a fully-staffed library actually saves money in the long run.  And sometimes in the short run.  And it certainly helps the performers excel on stage, which helps the whole organization realize its long-term vision.  Great concerts, recordings, and tours breed more success which can build upon itself.

But so often the short-term view is as far as things go.  I understand where that kind of misguided thinking comes from, to be sure. But it is misguided.  I realize we can’t have 10 librarians, or even 5, but if the library isn’t provided with the necessary resources to do the job RIGHT, it causes all kinds of problems and can cost a tremendous amount of money.  Things like unnecessary rental rush or cancellation fees, buying the wrong music, hiring the wrong players, not hiring enough players, orchestra overtime, and more.  Beyond that, it also costs everyone artistically through parts not being prepared properly and wasted rehearsal time spent on fixing things instead of rehearsing,

So, what I don’t understand is how the same expectations can be, well, expected from the library if budgetary cuts are made and there isn’t enough help.  I mean, if you have less money to spend on your household, and you’ve decided you can only afford a modest steak for everyone in the family once a month, then that means there will be NO STEAK for the other 27-30 days of that month.  Simple concept, right?  Can’t afford luxury items except for special occasions. Clear?

Apparently not.  I hear stories from my colleagues all the time, and have experienced similar situations myself.  We librarians, as a species, are usually still expected to do the same amount of work even with fewer people (so, in less time) and with a smaller budget, which translates to fewer resources.  We have to prioritize (or triage) in a way someone else might not like, especially if their need or request gets put to the back of the line.  And then there is an inevitable push by someone going over our heads to our bosses to instruct us to do the very thing we have decided must be cut due to lack of time and money based on our experience of what is most critical.

  • Bowings meticulously done for all programs in our control?  Necessity. Checking bowings in pops artists’ own books?  Not.
  • Fixing the most critical errors of major works from existing errata lists?  Whenever possible. Proofreading from scratch?  Luxury.
  • Some kind of rehearsal system in a work?  Absolutely.  Measure numbers in everything?  Impossible.
  • Practice copies for the major works for all the string players?  Yep.  Practice packets automatically handed out for every single piece?  Nope.
  • New parts acquired and marked for some sets that are really terrible?  Of course.  Making new parts for every pops piece that is sub-par?  No can do.
  • Inserting cuts from guest conductors if provided three months in advance?  No problem.  Inserting cuts at the last minute?  No way.  You will have to announce them from the stage.

Steak once a month.  Not every day.

There is always much discussion in library land about how many of us are in each organization, full-time or part-time or both, who does what, and how far do we go with proofreading, correcting errata, creating new materials, adding measure numbers, etc. We talk about numbers of conductors, numbers of different programs, and how long it can take to prepare ONE set of parts for ONE piece for ONE program or even ONE concert. Here at the DSO we usually have five conductors:  Music Director, Assistant Conductor, Pops Conductor, Choral Conductor, and Principal Guest Conductor.  That doesn’t count the regular guest conductors all season, for everything from pops to parks to classics.  Let me tell you a fact, my friends, the more conductors you have, the more different programs there are — and the more librarians you need!

Of course, there is never enough money to hire what we really need, because the truth is that the work is never done.   There are always more parts to mark or fix.  Someone can (and always does) want more personalized service.  Conductors often want more changes/additions/cuts added to the parts but don’t always provide the information until a couple of weeks before the rehearsal. Which is too late.  By then the folders are out for the players to practice.  We have to determine what are truly legitimate needs for right now, and what are “wish list” items that have to wait.  We have to set limits every day.

I’ve often wondered what it might feel like to go home at night and know that I had finished everything.

Ain’t gonna happen.

There are days when it seems like we need one librarian for each player and conductor.  Then there are moments, rare ones I hastily add, that it seems like one lowly librarian could handle the various items on the docket that day/night and, really, everyone else should take the day off.

But then comes 9:40 or so on a Tuesday morning before the first rehearsal of a classical program begins, and all hell starts to break loose.  The stage set has changed since we put out the folders a half hour before.  Someone forgot their parts.  Music Director asks for a librarian to talk about scores needed for later, or, worse, changes to today’s music. Cover conductor asks for a score at the last minute.  Players realize they need practice parts for tomorrow.  Admin upstairs calls and wants a quick answer on rental fees for a potential program change.

Right about then I could use a Village of Librarians.

Rest in Peace

Posted in DSO Colleagues by kschnack on September 5, 2009

Today we lost our friend and colleague, the Dallas Symphony’s chorus director, David Davidson.  He has been ferociously fighting cancer for more than two years now, all the while continuing to live his life actively and fully and without complaint, no matter whether he was in pain or feeling ill from his treatments.  He never gave up and never gave in.  Just this past Monday he went to work at Highland Park United Methodist Church where he was also choral director, and then led the DSO’s Monday night chorus rehearsal of Beethoven Symphony No. 9.

As his condition suddenly worsened this week, it was hard to focus really well on other things.  David has been with us for 15 seasons, preparing the chorus for all the major works they performed with the DSO both at home and on tour, and also planning and conducting the popular annual holiday concerts.  He built the chorus into what it is today, and it has never sounded better.  Many of us have played at his church over the years – everything from patriotic concerts to requiems — and we’ve shared sad times and celebrated happy ones.

David was a kind of larger-than-life person.  Tall and distinguished, he was a gentleman who loved a good laugh, a good red wine, a good vacation abroad.  He adored his family and his beloved chorus, and he always stayed true to what he thought was profound and meaningful about the great choral repertoire, and his chosen life in sacred music.

We are really going to miss David striding into the library and cracking up with his big laugh at a bad joke.  We are going to miss working with him, especially for this year’s Beethoven 9, Alexander Nevsky, and Christmas performances.  We are going to miss him for the kind of person he was, and the example he set in the way he lived and died.  May he now rest in peace and sing with the angels.

Rose Window Notre Dame Cathedral

Rose Window Notre Dame Cathedral

The First of September

Posted in Uncategorized by kschnack on September 1, 2009

I guess I am going to have to face facts.

Summer is over.

I have been trying through every means possible to pretend that it isn’t, and sometimes that’s pretty easy when you step outside in Dallas in the middle of an August day.  I also practice mind games, saying things to myself like:  “The season hasn’t officially started yet” or “We still have Labor Day!” or “The music director isn’t here yet” or any number of an increasingly pathetic and shrinking supply of excuses for why it’s not yet time to be back in the concert season full swing.

Because, when the orchestra is on vacation…….there are fewer work hours and no nights and weekends.  (Well, except all those parts brought home.   Yeah, there is that.)

But it’s just brain whine.  To be honest, I really love my musician hours.  The mix of some days, some nights, weekends and even some holidays is all I have really ever known on any kind of regular professional basis, because it’s a given as a musician.    I certainly would not prefer having to do a M-F, 9-6 or 8-5 or (heaven forbid) 7-4 schedule.  I’m not good at having the same hours all the time or strict structure.  OMG.  You who know me are laughing now about that understatement!

And let’s face it, NONE of us in the orchestral industry would have jobs without the players playing concerts. It’s that simple.

The other thing is that the moment the great music starts again, I am renewed and inspired.  Because it’s in my blood like everyone on stage, and it gives my life a daily richness that I feel lucky to have.

There are actually quite a few things to celebrate here as we hit the First of September, 2009.  I use that day to mark the start of a new season because that’s when our orchestra’s contract says it does.  And, for the first time since I came to work at the Dallas Symphony in the fall of 1990, the two full-time library positions have been added to the collective bargaining agreement.  Yep, after this summer’s negotiations, we are now recognized musicians and members of the orchestra.  We are so excited and happy, as it has been a very long, and, at times, frustrating wait.  But that is behind us now — we feel like we finally belong and are grateful for this recognition from our playing colleagues in the orchestra, as well as the acknowledgment from our administration.  We appreciate all the work that went into making it happen.

Another reason to celebrate, as mentioned in previous posts, is the 20th anniversary of the opening of our concert hall, the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center.  It is a magnificent building and concert hall, and a pretty great place to go to work.  The DSO is the primary tenant even though the hall is owned and run by the City of Dallas, and so we rehearse on stage every day, the library is only feet from backstage, the players have great locker space and a wonderful lounge, and the concert hall is absolutely stunning.  Not to mention the sound.  Can I mention the sound? It’s incredible.  I suppose there are times when I wish the music director’s office wasn’t right across the hall from the library 😉 but even that has its advantages.

The Meyerson is the cornerstone of a long-planned Dallas Arts District that is finally coming to fruition.  In October, the new Dallas Center for the Performing Arts Winspear Opera House will open with gala performances by The Dallas Opera.  The striking hall is right next door to us, and other pieces of the Arts District puzzle are also being completed near the Meyerson with a new theater center and additional performance spaces.  So it’s a fantastic time in the city’s arts history to be working here and see the city’s long-held vision come together (

Which segues right in to my other reason for celebration — I personally start my 20th season at the Dallas Symphony today.  Wow, it hardly seems possible.  I guess I am half-way through my career here if I make it to retirement (okay, okay, a little more than half-way………sheesh) and one never knows what the next day will bring.  But it is something of a personal milestone, so I am marking it by mentioning it and, if all goes well, I’ll have a party this time next year!

I walked outside a minute ago, and, even down here in Texas, the air has changed.  The edge is off, it dipped into the 60’s last night, and although it will still reach 90 degrees today, it’s different.  You can tell that fall is on its way.  These next weeks will be some of the most beautiful of the year in this part of the world.

So it’s soon Indian Summer.  And with that word “summer” I can still procrastinate just a little bit!