Six years ago my wife Lisa confronted me with an ugly truth.
“Your bio in the program book is boring.”
“What do you mean, boring?”
“It’s just a list of where you studied, where you worked, the orchestras you’ve conducted, and some press quotes. Worst of all, it’s the same every year. The only thing that changes is how many years you’ve conducted the DPO.”
“But that’s what every conductor’s bio is.”
Of course, she was right. She’s always right. The solution: after 20 years of boring bios I had to come up with something different. Something interesting. So I did. Then a year later, I learned that this wasn’t a one-time thing. Every season I needed to have a new, interesting, non-boring bio.
So here’s this year’s…a brief musing on gratitude.
After the COVID fiasco, maybe gratitude’s a crazy thing to come to mind, but gratitude is exactly what I feel.
I’m grateful that my parents played music in the house and introduced me to classical music through Leonard Bernstein’s televised Young People’s Concerts. My mother, a public school music teacher introduced me to music, of course. And my father, an English professor, introduced me to studying as a way of life.
I’m grateful that I had wonderful teachers. My violin teachers, Helen Goodwin, Channing Kempf, and Jenny Wagner. My high school English teacher Dr. Murray (she apparently had no first name, just Doctor) who taught me how to edit my writing. My key teachers at Yale: John Mauceri, who gave me the idea of pursuing conducting; Kerala Snyder, who gave me my first chance to conduct (Alessandro Scarlatti’s oratorio La Susanna, which our class had edited as a term project); and Joan Panetti, who suggested I go to France to study with Nadia Boulanger. Then the three teachers who formed me as a musician and taught me to teach myself: Mademoiselle Boulanger, her solfège-teaching assistant Annette Dieudonné, and my Maître, Charles Bruck, who turned me into a real conductor at the Pierre Monteux School.
I’m grateful to James DePreist, who gave me my first job, Assistant Conductor at the Oregon Symphony. To Kazuyoshi Akiyama, who gave me my second job, Associate Conductor at the Syracuse Symphony. To Zdenek Macal, who gave me my third job, as Associate Conductor of the Milwaukee Symphony. And to the Dayton Philharmonic, who gave me my fourth—and likely last—job as your conductor here in Dayton.
I’m grateful to my colleagues at the DPO for all the years of beautiful, committed music-making. But especially for their dedication and tenacity during COVID, refusing to go silent when so many others did.
I’m grateful to you for sticking with the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance as we navigated the treacherous waters of these last months.
But most of all, I’m grateful to be back playing great music again, with great musicians, for a great audience in a great city.
P.S. I’m also grateful to Tom Parker (no, not THAT Tom Parker!) my manager at Parker Artists. He’s the keeper of my “boring bio”, which you can find at parkerartists.com/Neal-Gittleman.html