From the Orchestra Library

We’re Not in Kansas, or Texas, Anymore

Posted in DSO Colleagues,Touring by kschnack on July 6, 2011

One of the most important times in our Vail residency is when there is…….

A Day Off.

Did you think I was going to say “Rehearsals” or something? Silly you.

Now, I know we are here to work, and to do our work at the highest professional level. This is not a vacation, and no one in the organization sees it as such. All of us take this obligation and opportunity seriously. To well-represent the Dallas Symphony Orchestra whether on stage or off is an honor and we are proud to do it. I love it when someone who hasn’t heard the orchestra in a long time says “Wow, the orchestra sounded really good before but now it sounds phenomenal!” Or, “I think the DSO is highly under-rated; it should be mentioned in the same breath with the top orchestras.” I heard both of these comments in the past week and it was a great feeling. So, work hard we do. When we are in the middle of the performance schedule there is a rehearsal and concert each day of completely different repertoire, and we must transition from classics to pops and back again in a way that looks and sounds effortless. It is a difficult job, and takes a lot of concentration and stamina.

But here we are in the mountains and the cool, dry air — which, after coming from Dallas is a gift for which we are most thankful. This is what registered on the car dashboard as I went through Wichita Falls on my way here last week:

June 28 temperature in Wichita Falls, Texas

A colleague who had driven up the day before said it was 116 in Childress when she went through. So, you can imagine the glee with which we embrace the change in environment and the fervor with which we plan our precious time off during the residency. We lug the hiking, camping and biking gear; we pore over trail guides and maps weeks in advance; if we are smart, we also get in shape beforehand so we don’t miss a chance to enjoy the surroundings.

When I saw this on the car dash two mornings ago, it made me smile:

Ahhh, relief!

We always have at least one day off during the residency, and usually two. The outdoor enthusiasts among us try to hit the ground running, literally, on that first day off so we have been known to push ourselves pretty hard in these mountains. Huffing and puffing in the thin air, and using muscles that haven’t been challenged in a while, we bag the summits, raft the rivers, bike the passes. Conditions right now are making things a little more difficult than usual though.

Gore Creek

This past winter and spring, Vail Mountain had a record snowfall of 525 inches, topping the previous 35-year record by some twenty inches. The result has been extremely high and fast creeks due to snow melt runoff. Trails that are open are muddy and slippery at best, or still snow covered (knee-deep) and impassable in places. And some of our favorite trails are closed.

Of course, all that extra snow makes for extremely gorgeous scenery and excellent subject matter for photography, another summer hobby for many in the orchestra. Although the pine bark beetle infestation has destroyed millions of acres of trees throughout the western and northern United States, the aspen trees and other vegetation seem to have benefited from the easier access to sunlight and additional moisture.

As with many music festivals, the location is a draw not only for the tourists and locals, but also for the musicians. It’s impossible not to be inspired by the surroundings. Music and mountains are an unbeatable combination in my opinion, and can only enhance the experience for performers and audiences. Some of the greatest symphonic music ever written is meant to depict the scenes and forces of nature.

One of the most stunning views up here is looking east from the Gerald R. Ford Ampitheater. When the concerts are over, between 7:30 and 8:00 each evening, the alpenglow over the peaks dares anyone to not stop and stare.

Can you blame us for wanting to get up there when we have the chance? I didn’t think so!






The Steel-Toed Librarian

Posted in DSO Colleagues,Stage and Concert Duties by kschnack on March 22, 2011

Well, I didn’t intend to be away from the blog for so long. It’s certainly not for a lack of material to write about from the orchestra library, trust me. So I have nothing but excuses and won’t bore you with my non-productivity in this area. However, a little insight into the past couple of months might amuse you.

It seems that every season we put our heads down in the mid-to-late fall, pushing madly through holiday concerts into preparation for the new year’s programs, until we can take a breather and look up just before spring. This winter I grabbed a quick look up one late night at precisely the wrong moment — to watch the snow fall, of all things — and seconds later found myself flat out on the frozen ground, painfully reminded that there was a thick layer of ice under that snow. Now, after almost seven weeks, the boot that was protecting a broken ankle with severely strained ligaments has come off… my great relief. I gotta tell you, trying to do the physical duties of an orchestra librarian with that thing on has been quite the challenge. And entertaining for the whole orchestra, too!

The Boot

The ordeal was indeed comical on many days, especially with the uneven shuffle I used to hobble along, or Hop-Along (as I was dubbed) especially in the beginning. I managed to kick and trip over everything in my path which led to a few more twists and turns. The stage was suddenly a terrifying minefield of chairs, stands, instruments, mutes and RISERS. And one look at a pops set-up with all the electric chords, mikes and amps sent me straight back to hide in the library.

So, many thanks to my colleagues Mark and Melissa (despite her impending motherhood) for picking up the slack with folders and stage moves, as well as the players who graciously handed me music when asked so that I wouldn’t have to try and climb over things to reach them. They surely saved me from mowing down a whole row of woodwinds more than once.

I broke a foot once before about ten years ago, and had a horrible blue/gray/white boot that looked and felt like one of those 1980’s ski boots. That particular adventure took me on tour to Carnegie Hall, and tromping all over New York City trying to keep up with my library friends from the Met and Philharmonic. One feels particularly graceful and stylish clunking around on stage in such gear.

At least this time I was bedecked for spring fashion week. And the boot was concert black.

Spring Couture?

More about Library Peeps

Posted in DSO Colleagues by kschnack on October 23, 2009

I think this is a great day to tell you about Shannon Highland, a wonderful musician, friend, colleague, and fellow librarian.  You saw Shannon earlier in the summer stuffing folders for a 25-piece July 4th concert:

Shannon Highland stuffing July 4 program

Shannon’s main day gig (and, of course, night gig too), is Librarian of The Dallas Opera.  Go to this page and float your mouse over her name for a lovely formal photo:  Tonight is the opera’s opening for its 2009-10 regular season with a production of Othello, having moved to the new Winspear Opera House.  Between the start of a regular season of productions and preparing two high intensity gala programs with selections from numerous operas and musicals, she has had her hands full with the needs of the orchestra next door.  Before the rehearsals went into the new house, the opera orchestra came over to the Meyerson one afternoon, so Shannon took the opportunity to stuff the Broadway gala music.  Which, oddly-enough, looked exactly like the photo above.  We helped her so the process would go much faster and be less painful for all concerned.

Here is Shannon earlier in the year before the orchestra’s first hard-hat tour of the Winspear (that’s the lobby of the Meyerson):

Shannon ready for tour of new Winspear Opera House

Shannon ready for tour of new Winspear Opera House

This is Shannon’s third season as the opera’s librarian; she is also a fine bassoonist and often plays in the opera, as well as in many other ensembles around the DFW area.  In the summers, we are thrilled to have her work with us in the DSO library.  Since the opera season is only 17 weeks in the fall, winter and spring, this is a win-win for everyone.  We are especially shorthanded late May through mid-August, and that is when she is free to work with us.  Thank heavens she is also willing!

We first met Shannon quite a few years ago when the DSO’s former Director of Education, LeAnn Binford, and I were looking for a summer intern to share between our departments.  We headed to an arts district jobs fair for high school AP students in Dallas who would be sponsored by a foundation and matched with one of the area’s many non-profit arts organizations for an internship.  This was set up similar to “speed dating” except it was “speed interviewing” and everyone was trying to meet all the available students.  Shannon was the top student there, and pretty much all of the arts groups wanted her as their first choice.  As did we.

So we just flexed a little muscle as the largest arts group in the area, and had our pick.  Lucky us!

Shannon worked her first summer for both departments, and impressed everyone.  Smart, quick and accurate with details, she exhibited a conscientiousness, work ethic, and aptitude for orchestra library tasks that led to her return the next summer exclusively as a paid library assistant.  We couldn’t have been happier that the arrangement continued during summers throughout her college years at the University of North Texas, until she took off for grad school at USC.  We had to say good bye and good luck, not thinking we’d get to work with her again in the library world after she left.

A few years later, all grown up and with her Masters in Music (Bassoon Performance), Shannon decided to take the interview for the library position at TDO.  We were surprised and pleased about that, and so excited when she won the job.  We love having her back full-time in Dallas, especially as one of our city’s small, merry band of orchestra librarians.  You get to know the essence of a person’s character doing this work together, and Ms. Highland is a stellar human being, a delight to spend time with, and funny as all get-out.  The Dallas Opera is very lucky to have her, both as the librarian and as a bassoonist, and she is doing excellent work over there on both counts.  She has professionalized the position in a way that had not been accomplished before, and we are so very proud of her!

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!

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

OPS: The Orchestra’s Engine

Posted in DSO Colleagues,Organizational Effectiveness by kschnack on August 10, 2009

I would like to introduce you to the fine folks at the Dallas Symphony Operations Department (minus the librarians, stage crew, and personnel managers who are considered an extended part of the department).  Here is a picture of 4/5’s of them:

DSO Ops Team:  Margaret Moore, Victor Marshall, Mark Melson, Amy Wagliardo (not pictured, Mary Lynch)

DSO Ops Team (from left): Margaret Moore, Victor Marshall, Mark Melson, Amy Wagliardo (not pictured, Mary Lynch)

Don’t they look like a great group of people?

Well, they are.

I’ll tell you a little bit more about each of them in a moment (and the black clothes), but first I just want to say that I have been a very lucky person to work with this group for many years.  They are smart, knowledgeable, fun, helpful, resourceful, creative, experienced, marvelous people who do an amazing amount for the orchestra and get little public credit.  I am grateful for them, I tell you for sure.  And I thank them for their daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly commitment to the DSO and for being such great colleagues and friends.  The library (and orchestra) could not have any kind of success without their truly tireless work.  And I appreciate that they put up with me, because I’m not a Quiet One.

As you now know.

First up, on the left, is Margaret Moore.  She is the Associate Artistic Administrator so deals with artist contracts, visas, travel arrangements, and payments; transports artists as needed to and from airports, hotels and the hall; generates classical programming worksheets, rehearsal orders, and other such info; handles all correspondence, scheduling and arrangements for the Music Director; processes commissioning agreements; communicates with artists about their requirements and distributes that info to the rest of us; works concert duty on classical concerts, and a whole bunch of other things I am leaving out.  Margaret is a professional organist, and she is one of the most excellent souls you will ever meet.  She is usually pretty unflappable, so when Margaret finally reaches the end of her rope, you know that the situation has truly gone too far.

Next to Margaret  in the photo, is Victor Marshall.  He has just retired after 28 years as the DSO’s Artistic Administrator, and now is the Artistic Advisor.  He knows everyone in the business, many of the great artists of our time call him their friend, and he has helped program the classical series, negotiated and booked artists all these years, handled their “care and feeding” and is extraordinarily knowledgeable about all things related to the classical music industry, particularly recordings.  He has a background in radio, an announcer’s voice, and so has been “The Voice of the Dallas Symphony” for promotions, PR, and radio spots since I’ve been here.  It’s him we hear every night just before a concert telling us to turn our phones off.  He will continue to work on our recordings (both historical and new projects) and advise about programming.  Victor always wears black, which is why everyone in the photo is wearing black, because they were at his retirement party and decided to pay proper tribute. Oh, and he knows every local dive, greasy spoon, and TexMex restaurant in the greater DFW metroplex, as well as the history of nearly every building!

Next to Victor, second from the right, is Mark Melson, Vice President of Artistic Operations.  Mark has been with the orchestra for almost 25 years, and head of operations since 1988.  In that position he, of course, oversees all aspects of the orchestra’s production including programming, tours, guest artists and conductors, budgets, hiring, and scheduling; he negotiates musician and stage hand contracts, and he is our boss.  Doesn’t he have a fun job?  Mark absolutely loves this art form that we strive to present at its best, and he is especially proud of the Dallas Symphony, listening to all the concerts and reveling in their success.  He knows alot about great singers, and is always sharing his recordings of performances he has found. He is a proud grandfather of two, sings in his church choir, and has this weird thing in his brain that causes him to express groaner puns without missing a beat.  Even in large groups.  He is not shy about it.  I am keeping a catalogue of some of the better ones.

The person on the far right of the picture is Amy Wagliardo, Director of Operations.  She is the newest and youngest member of the department, although she has been with us 5 years now, and when she joined us it was like she had always been there.  She has a Bachelors in Music Education, Masters in Arts Admin and an MBA, lots of financial background experience, and a mighty quick mind, so the department is in good hands with all her skills.  She does the orchestra schedule, is the liaison to the players, librarians, personnel managers and stage crew for any operational issues, manages the production details and orchestra logistics, communicates to Marketing for all program-related information, to Finance for the departmental and series budgets which she formulates, puts together the nuts and bolts of run-outs and tours, and on and on.  She has the largest computer monitor in the department, for which we tease her endlessly, but honestly, she absolutely needs and deserves it as she is always working on about ten things at once.  Amy is incredibly funny and fun to be around, she’s a great amateur photographer and has her own blog ( where she posts many of those photos.

Last but not least of the department (and not pictured) is Mary Lynch, the Operations/Pops Coordinator.  Mary handles all the details for the pops series’ conductors, artists, programming information, including contracts and riders, setting up travel arrangements and hotel accommodations for the entourages, communicating with road managers about logistics and repertoire, and is their liaison to the orchestra while on site for all rehearsals and concerts.  She also proofs Stagebill before publication.  In her role, she runs into some pretty interesting characters (where ego is never in short supply) and I’m always amazed and impressed with how she is able to remain patient and friendly no matter how they act!  Mary has a heart of gold, and when she has a little space in her schedule always offers to help us with bowings or measure numbers.  She is a singer (former member of the Dallas Symphony Chorus), very creative in arts and crafts, and an incredibly generous person.

So, that’s the core of our Operations Department, the people responsible for getting all the rehearsals and performances on stage.  I hope players in every orchestra can stop and think a bit about how much their ops teams do for them — can you imagine the huge number of details they handle in a day? I encourage everyone to go to their offices and hang out for a while, you would be amazed at all they cover (and, sorry to my guys for undoubtedly leaving out huge segments of what you do).  I think the Operations people have to be part manager, school teacher, therapist, travel agent, organizer, negotiator, listener, mediator, and Jack of All Trades.   There is no way any of our orchestras could function smoothly without these folks.

So thanks for everything you do, Ops!  I am proud to know and work with you, and be on “the team.”