Tag Archives: Orchestra Hall

Don’t sell yourself short…

Long ago I found myself in a very strange predicament; one that has had a lasting influence on my life.  I wanted to study the flute seriously and was looking for a good teacher.  By chance I was offered a ticket to a Minnesota Orchestra concert.  During the concert I found myself listening to some gorgeous flute-playing.  At one point the beauty and sonority was so compelling I found myself standing, in the front row of the first balcony.  I was mesmerized.  As the friend who had given me the ticket tugged my hand and I sat back down I thought ‘who is this person who can play like this?’  I learned that it was the orchestra’s Principal Flute, Sid Zeitlin.

Could I study with him?  Not likely, I told myself.  Someone at Orchestra Hall gave me his phone number.  I called him.  He wanted to hear me play.  I grabbed the piece I had been most recently working on, the Telleman Suite in A minor, and went to see him at his studio at the home he shared with his wife, who also played with the Orchestra.  They had a beautiful music room — very airy and spacious.

Sid barely came up to my shoulder.  I recall that we stood and looked at each other for a moment.  He had a round face, dark hair and a scowl that I soon learned was a frequent expression.  I played for him, not sure what to expect.  “Well, I’ll take you on, but that isn’t a very good piece of music.  Try this.”  He gave me the flute part to the Bach Second Suite, which I later learned was one of his signature pieces.  A bit puzzled, but obviously elated, I left.

During the next lesson he asked to see my flute.  It was a Haynes closed-hole model.  “You can’t use this,” he said.  “I’ll show you some open-hole flutes next lesson.  You can try them out.”  And so, before too long, I found that I had traded in my Haynes as partial payment for one of his Louis Lots, because I loved its sound.  However, I quickly found out the the issue for me was not open v closed-holes, but that the aperture on the mouthpiece was small, and it was not easy to hit the center of each of the notes.  It did not occur to me until much later that Zeitlin was, of course, aware of this and perhaps using it to test me.

I was surprised, as lessons progressed, that he did not recommend my working on any other pieces.  Nor did he talk about exercise books.  So I brought in what I had and he seemed uninterested in them.  Something didn’t seem quite right by that point, but I had no idea what it was.

Then I received a phone call from someone at Orchestra Hall, telling me that I would not be able to take lessons with Zeitlin, as he had suffered a major heart attack while playing tennis at a Northwest Racquet Club.  He was lucky to be alive.   I was shocked and concerned.  I let go.  I had no choice.  (In hindsight, I can see that I should have let go for good, as what followed became something of a nightmare for each of us.)

By this time I was starting to ask myself ‘if not him, who else would teach me?’  I also began to wonder where, other than this negative and combative orchestra environment that he was involved in, could I go to perform?  There seemed to be no alternative.

In short, I did call him some six months or so later and began to take lessons again.  But he was a changed man.  He seemed depressed and bitter.  He snapped at me.  He sent me on rabbit trails.  He refused to teach me orchestral excerpts (which was one of the main reasons, of course, that I wanted to study with him).  But he did teach them to the young woman whose lesson was before mine, I realized one day when I arrived early — so I sat in the hallway and learned second-hand.

Some time later Zeitlin called me to say that I would need to take my lessons at his new apartment downtown.  His marriage had fallen apart.  I felt uncomfortable at this, though I said nothing.  Soon after that he changed the lessons to a practice room at Orchestra Hall.

By this time I had learned that Zeitlin was a long-time heavy drinker, and that this could have contributed to all his problems.  I offered to go with him to an AA meeting, as I was in recovery myself, but he declined.  And then I came to realize that everything really had come to a dead end.

Not long after that I learned that Zeitlin had messed up a recording session and was likely to be fired.  Somehow, he survived.  Later I heard that he was definitely going to be fired, and for some reason I felt compelled to call the Music Director’s office and plead for his job for him.  (I am sure others did as well.) The stay did not last long, however, and then I learned he was out.  The next thing I learned was that he had died.  I still cannot describe just how I felt — this great dream I had for him and for myself had been brought to nothing.  The extraordinary tone and exquisite technique — with notes shaped like petals of a flower — had shriveled and died.  To Zeitlin’s credit, he had made sure I acquired a good headjoint for the tricky Louis Lot flute he had sold me, and so I play it to this day in his memory, and to honor the gifts that he was once so blessed to have been given.  But I carry a greater sorrow, that of accepting when there is nothing more one can do and the outcome is dismal.  I know that is an alternative I do not want for myself or anyone else.

In hindsight, I think the problems Zeitlin was facing really stemmed from the false mindset held by many (maybe even most) professional musicians – that they have to beat themselves up in private in order to ‘play with conviction’ on the concert stage.  When I would try to describe the beauty of what I was hearing him do, he would snap at me.  He could not accept appreciation, no matter how well deserved.  Nothing was good enough.  I learned he had more insecurities than I did.  The orchestral system at that time had forced him into a box.

Flute players are especially picky.  They often end up with what I call ‘poodle flute-playing’ — they are so concerned about the superficial technical aspects of their playing that they miss the depth of playing that could be available to them. This is a horrible environment.

As I am, as it were, the flute player on the outside, in the fresh air (hence ‘Rossignol’)  who is free from those constraints I can say, (while heaving a great sigh of relief), that constant self-criticism only tends to block the unique gift and voice (or muse) that each musician has.  We have to go from ‘good’ to ‘better’ in order to keep that channel open and to be honest.  We need to be in competition with ourselves, not our colleagues.  We need performance opportunities that are fresh.  We need music that is alive.  Hence, in my case, improvisation.  This is our alternative — the one that works…:-)

 

 

 

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Minnegeddon — one day when ‘Monostatos’ (almost) told the truth…

When the person I call ‘Monostatos’ came into our lives, it was a very puzzling time.  What possible interest could this person have in us, I frequently wondered.  Something seemed not quite right, but I could not put my finger on it.  I grabbed a hint the first time I was asked to play the flute for him — he played accompaniment to a movement of a Bach sonata.  He kept looking up at me from under his prominent eyebrows.  He seemed to be lying in wait.  But why?  As soon as I flipped a page, he pounced, claiming I had ‘missed a beat’.  What is going on here, I wondered?  Why do I have the impression that it is either him or me?

In hindsight, of course, I wish that I had trusted that impression, for it defined the reality of the following 666 or so days.  Stealth, deception, hidden ill-intent were the norm.  Early-on, they were so far hidden as to be almost invisible.

And so, with helpful and gentle smiles, he enticed me to practice on the stage at Orchestra Hall after rehearsals, which I was invited to attend.  How could anyone resist?  So out came the Mozart flute concertos, and two of the Mozart violin concertos.  The Khat, the Nielsen, Bach, whatever I was working on, soared through the hall and, so he said, through the rest of the building, as i practiced on the darkened stage.

We were the oddity of the orchestra at the time — the concert master called us “Beauty and the Beast” — the gangly young man with the flute player and her three adorable children.  It seemed that everyone knew what was going on except me.

Well, that is not entirely true, as I had been studying with the Pricipal Flute player for a while before that.  This argumentative little man, in addition to sandbagging my practice, practically accused me of being responsible for the name change of the orchestra.  At the time, that seemed completely bizarre.  But again, he knew more than I did.  So I did have a heads-up — I just didn’t understand it.

But Monostatos agenda seemed to run afoul one day, after a very simple event.  On the stage, once again, he asked me to play the Mozart D Major Concerto.  He would accompany me (in a general way, as he was not a keyboard player).One of my favorite pieces.  The first one I had performed, in fact, when I was in High School.  It was, of course, astonishingly lovely to hear the flute in the acoustics of the hall.  Afterword, he seemed nonchalant as usual, but there was a glint in his eye that meant trouble.  I had done something again that had upset him.  I waited for a verbal attack to come — or worse.  But there was none.

Subsequent to that he slipped into a profound depression, spending his days in the darkened room I had long before abandoned, knees to his chest, clutching the sheets.  I tried to help, but was pushed away.  One day he walked into a psych ward and admitted himself.  A few days later he left.  Then he admitted himself to an in-patient treatment program (though he did not drink) and then left about a week later.  I felt helpless and bewildered.  I began to accept that nothing might ever work again, and that I had to prepare to take care of my children.

He would not talk, would not share.  But, one evening, after going out for a bite to eat, leaving the children with a sitter, we drove to a new construction area on a street called Smetana Drive. I parked the VW beetle and tried to talk with him.  What is going on, I pleaded. And then he whispered, in the dark — “I don’t know if you are an amateur or the most exciting musician since Mozart.” I was baffled, and stunned.  What possible connecting thread could there be to all of this?

From that moment on, there was nothing but emotional and spiritual war in the house.  He ended up running out one night, never to return.  I was so relieved that the war was over I didn’t bother to ask what had motivated his becoming involved with us in the first place, much less the traumatic events that followed…

 

The significance of die zauberflote, and the price that some have paid…

  1. Since the time of my experiences with “Monostatos’ Orchestra” and the demise of some of its members, I have said with regret that it seems that the aisles of Orchestra Hall are full of the corpses of those who have tried to block die zauberflote (the flute, not the opera) and slander me.  Why, I have asked plaintively, would I want there to be any more?
    Here is a current example of what happened to someone who tried to do this…
    During the summer of 2014, for some unknown reason, Andrew Patner decided to attempt to slander me on a blog called Slipped Disc.  Less than six months later he was dead:
    When I read his first slanderous post I contacted Norman Lebrecht, who manages the blog.  Although it is my thinking that Norman realized I was only posting under my own name and that there was no basis to Mr. Patner’s rant,  he did nothing to bail me out, which he occasionally does when a thread gets too far off base.  I found that disappointing.
    Here is the thread including his rant and my replies…
    Andrew Patner says:

    Ah, are you all just now learning about Ms (?) Pamela McElwain-Brown of Minneapolis USA (and always “born in Fairfield CT”? For seven years (until January 2014) she ran Blogspot weblogs called AndrewAndJoshua and JoshuaAndAndrew in which she impersonated a young gay male couple in Minneapolis and Boston as well as all of their friends, relatives, *and* site commenters. Behind these sock puppets she went after the then longtime critic of the Cleveland newspaper mercilessly and falsely. Again hiding her (?) identity she viciously went after individual orchestra players in Minnesota by name during their lockout. She is also very active — in this case using the Pamela McElwain-Brown name — as a JFK assassination conspiracy theorist. Apparently PMcEB at last lost interest in her web children and left them all hanging seven months ago. Here is her flute website: http://www.themagicflute.org She reminds me overall of a character in a late Hitchcock film. (And of course “George Kaplan” is the man who does not exist in Hitch’s “North by Northwest.”) Caveat lector! I know from experience, I admit. Oy!

    1. Amy says:

      Good to hear from you regarding Pamela, Andrew! Those creepy blogs savaged some good friends, some musicians I admire and some strangers I have always had compassion for, having been hurt for no reason other than pure malice. (Just what the world doesn’t need any more of.)
      Oy! back at you…!

      1. Amy, it is my impression that you are well aware that someone created a false blog about me and is using my image without a release.

    2. sdReader says:

      Thanks, Andrew. I always thought she was a bit odd. Then I realized she was a musician, and she seemed genuinely interested in the Minneapolis war, so I have given her comments a little more weight recently.

      1. What purpose can you possibly have into taking this thread OT?

    3. Why would anyone take this thread OT with a mismash of fact and libel? :-0

    4. Elise says:

      Thanks for the info, Andrew. In case anybody wants to keep track, “Pamela” also uses the following aliases: Joan Marshall, Claudia Menlo, Andrew van Zeveren, Joshua Adams, Sarah Westfield, Ron Brown, Hiram Foster, David von Pein, Anna Smith O’Hara, George Kaplan, Edgar Brenninkmeyer, and others.

      1. sdReader says:

        Edgar B is Pamela too? Oh, this really does need to be policed. It’s just wasting people’s time!

      2. That is false. I post using my own name and a photo. And, again, of course, OT.

      3. OT and false. Unlike you, I post using my first and last name and a photograph.

        1. sdReader says:

          Good. I’m glad to read this — because I can tolerate a wacky someone coming here with 2 or 3 identities and engaging in what Amy Adams aptly called dolls talking to each other, but Elise’s list of 12 or 13 false names, including one I spent time conversing with, just turns me off completely.

          You are claiming, then, that Andrew Patner’s research about you no longer applies?

          1. I only post on this blog using my real name and a photo. Why don’t you do the same?

            Andrew’s posts are a mixture of fact and libel. However, as this thread has been hijacked from its original topic, which is the Met, I do not plan to reply to it line-by-line on this blog.

  2. Andrew Patner says:

    One can hope that exposure lessens the audacity of these sorts of folks, Amy. At least people now know who this one “is” and can screen her (?) out. Sigh. And thanks!

    1. Guess I’ll have to work harder to win you over. :-0

      1. sdReader says:

        Or Slipped Disc will have to work harder to get rid of you. Annoying sick woman!

        1. OT.
          Plus, I post using my own name and a photo. You don’t and are making a libelous claim. Just which is ‘sick’?

          1. sdReader says:

            “I post using my own name and a photo” tells us nothing.

            “I post using ONLY my own name and a photo” would begin to address the concerns you have raised this week with at least three bona fide readers.

            Wondering what Norman thinks of this … .

          2. I do apologize for not making myself sufficiently clear to you. I only post on this blog under my own name and with a photo. Any other claim is false.

            And Norman manages to deal not only with those who are not hiding behind an alias as well as those who are with considerable aplomb, imo.

  3. Andrew Patner says:

    Thank you, Elise. Six years ago (!) when I rather belatedly cracked the scam of “her” bizarre “Andrew and Joshua” weblogs and then shared the story on my website, I wrote, “So I guess the great unraveling is done now. ‘La commedia è finita.’” Perhaps now, with your larger catalogue of this person’s mischief-making — sometimes trivial, sometimes seriously harmful — aliases, this nonsense will at least subside. Probably not, though: A person living in his/her own universe with time on his/her hands . . . At least people now know the web that has been woven.

    1. OT, Andrew.

      I am surprised that someone using their own name would post information they have already been told is false. I have nothing to do with “Andrew and Joshua” blogs. Someone other than me created it and is falsely using my image. I am working to have it removed but WordPress is not helping me and def lawyers, as you may realize, are expensive.

  4. Andrew Patner says:

    I certainly have no plan to respond to whomever it is who regularly clutters up these and other pages with some 15 different aliases (though almost always the same personality and phrasing). But as Norman Bates (certainly not Norman Lebrecht! 😉 )/Mother Bates has several times tossed the word “libel” out the window of his/her Motel, one notes that truth cannot libel nor is it clear how imaginary characters and sock puppets could be libeled, harmed, or defamed even if there were any intention or malice, which, of course there is not. I and others here are only calling attention to the single identity of an individual who has sucked in enough people and wasted enough of their time one place or another for at least the past seven years. If people wish to engage with this individual about any subject, or let him/her post comments on their websites, that’s not my affair. As I said initially: Caveat lector!

    1. sdReader says:

      It is Norman’s duty to police this blog.

      For the time being, we must accept Pamela Brown’s assertion that on Slipped Disc she uses only her own name and image.

      But I’m somewhat turned off. 24 hours ago I didn’t understand what Amy was getting at.

      And I’d still like to know whether my dialog with “Edgar Brenninkmeyer” was honest or not, in light of Elise’s post!

    2. Andrew, I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. I only post on this blog using my own name and a photo. I have only posted on this blog since the MO lockout began.

      I sincerely hope that you will apologize.

  5. SDreader said, “For the time being, we must accept Pamela Brown’s assertion that on Slipped Disc she uses only her own name and image.”

    This is your viewpoint while hiding behind an alias? With all due respect, just what color is the sky in your world today? :-0

    BTW, I will be responding in detail to Andrew Patner’s ‘research’ on a post on my own blog and will provide a link here when that happens. In the meantime, let me just state for the record that he has my name right, he used my actual website http://www.themagicflute.org, and I am a JFK researcher. Everything else from almost the first word is false. I was not ‘born’ in Fairfield, CT. I was born in Chicago.

    1. Come to think of it, SDreader, you don’t have to ‘take my word’ for anything. All you need to do is Google my name, “Pamela Brown”. I quit using my birth family name some years ago to give them a layer of protection.

      It has been my privilege to be a “public figure”, so to speak, in the narrow yet international niche of JFK research for some time, have been published, have presented at conferences and participated in a number of TV programs.

      On the other hand, if you would prefer to keep your head in the sand, don’t let me stop you. :-0

  6. Andrew Patner says:

    My sincere apologies to all! Wherever this person was born, the claim PB makes is that she “is originally from Connecticut,” “grew up in Fairfield, CT,” and that it is her “Hometown.” I am sorry to have so grievously misread those statements and to learn that, under whatever name, she now says that she was born in Chicago. She also writes: “Unquestionably, the most unusual musician of her generation, Pamela Brown has been called ‘the most exciting musician since Mozart’ and her playing ‘the real magic flute’ by ‘professionals’ we will just refer to as “Monostatos”, who then shunned have attempted to lock her out.” PB also tells us that these people were known to “target my children.”

    As stated twice before, this is not someone people want to spend time with/on without open eyes, if then. Have a nice day, all!

    1. Andrew, while I appreciate your apology, it is a bit difficult for me to understand if you are directing it to me or someone else. I sincerely hope we can find a way to move forward in a positive manner.

      BTW, I was born at Cook County in Chicago. My family moved to CT. I grew up in Fairfield.

      I’ll discuss your other references on my own blog soon and provide a link here when I do.


– See more at: http://slippedisc.com/2014/08/met-latest-artists-celebrate-gelb-in-disarray/#sthash.UDzg9rEo.dpuf

Songs from the darkened stage at Orchestra Hall…(or Mr. Heifetz and me…)…:-0

Long ago, when my flute lessons took place at Orchestra Hall, my teacher, the then-Principal Flute, Sid Zeitlin, would turn me loose to practice on the darkened stage afterward.  “Monostatos” did that as well, once or twice a month.  Needless to say, it was a heady experience.  Apparently whoever was playing on stage was piped throughout the building.  I didn’t let that bother me. The sound of the flute with the acoustics at OH was sufficiently fascinating to take the edge off of any discomfort.  However, as if by some sort of dark magic, players would crawl out from the woodwork to attempt to insinuate themselves into my life through flattery.  I learned later that they were slandering me behind my back.  Such is the life when one is born with a target on their back. :-0

For as long as I can remember I cherished every recording I could find made by Jascha Heifetz.  My parents went to hear him once, at the Stratford Theatre in Connecticut, and refused to take me with them.  It took me years to forgive them for that. That sound, that grace, those chops.  I was mesmerized.  When I began to play the flute seriously I realized that I wanted to play it as though it were a violin.  I began to dream of somehow becoming one of Heifetz’ students, but even I realized that he would probably balk at having to deal with a flute player (or, more likely, roll his eyes and fall on the floor laughing) :-0 I would have been deliriously happy as a gofer, just sitting on the floor and listening to him play and teach, actually. I even had family in the LA area. I had everything figured out, I thought.  I had the privilege of hearing one of Heifetz students perform the Haffner Serenade with the Minnesota Orchestra.  The exquisite quality of Adam Han-Gorski’s sound and technique brought me to tears.  Heifetz, the master, had done his job well.  I tried to convince Mr. Zeitlin to write a letter of introduction to Heifetz for me, but he declined.  So I wrote to him on my own.  But a few months later he was dead, and my dreams were crushed forever.

So now I own the Complete Heifetz, and can honestly say that I have listened to virtually everything he ever recorded.  The whole is far more patchy than the parts — in pieces where I would have expected him to be brilliant, he might sound annoyingly ordinary.  Some of the itsy bitsy’s he so loved just make me grit my teeth. Some of his playing seemed stilted, as though he had not quite found the soul of the piece but was playing it anyway.  Some of his playing (horrors!) sounded even ordinary.  But on the whole I found I had uncovered one of the mysteries of his mastery — that when he learned a piece, he owned it, as though he were the composer.  Not only did he know every nuance of style and phrasing, but he understood the architecture of the piece.  He structured his performances so that there was only one real climax per movement.  His playing was never flashy, it was always in proportion to the music.

I have heard it said (when he was alive many people said this) that Heifetz’ playing was ‘cold’.  That, I feel, is another of his mysteries.  Heifetz was from Vilnius, in Lithuania.  He had the heart of a gypsy, but his playing was cool and his style eminently classical.  Because the fire was controlled, it shone through the cool technique.  The result was, as we know, simply breathtaking.  During the years after that, when my chidren and I were locked out of Monostatos’ Orchestra, I found, as one of the clique I call “Monostatos” was a string player, that I could not longer tolerate the sound of stringed instruments.  Except for Heifetz.  During all the times of struggle and disappointment, his music was my lifeline.  It still is.  I do listen to other string players now, and recently enjoyed Hillary Hahn’s new recording of the Mozart V#5.  She is splendid, and the recording is wonderful.  Then I said, “Hmmm…how did Heifetz interpret this piece?”  Different — light and delicate, yet with considerable power and speed.  Flawless…

So, back to the darkened stage, where, at that time, I practiced not only the Mozart flute concerti, the Neilsen, the Khat, Bach, etc…but also parts of the Mendelssohn, the Brahms, even the Tchiakovsky. During the next few weeks I plan to record excerpts from some of those pieces.  Stay tuned…:-)

#Minnegeddon — who should bear the angst of the Orchestra Hall rebuild?..s d reply…

I don’t recall a referendum for the citizens to vote on, per se, on the issue of the rebuild of orchestra hall. The MN legislature may have. I wrote to Gov. Pawlenty asking him to allow the uber rich patrons of the MO to take on the burden of the hall rebuild rather than the already overtaxed ordinary taxpayers of MN. Of course, that didn’t happen.

http://www.artsjournal.com/slippeddisc/2014/01/minnesota-musicians-beg-city-to-take-over-the-empty-hall.html?replytocom=185806#respond

 

#Minnegeddon — Darkness in the tomb of the MOA

Despite the investment of tens of millions of dollars, Orchestra Hall remains dark for yet another New Year’s Day.  The place is silent, except for performances of those few who dare to face the wrath of the union and its players by performing there during the lockout.  Is there a lesson to be learned, other than the obvious one — that union and management must support each other no matter what the cost or both will go down in flames?

This situation calls to my attention the recollection of my experiences on the darkened stage, where, at one time, I was enticed and even encouraged to practice by a handful of the players.  The sound soared throughout the hall, from pieces not only from the flute repertoire, but from the violin as well.  Players crept onto the stage to say remarkable things, then slink into the background to whisper behind my back.

At the time I was convinced doors would open for me and die zauberflote. How could they not — didn’t everyone love Mozart? But, sadly, that was not the case — not only does it turn out the real Mozart (not the fictional “Amadeus” version) was almost universally despised — but that he was perhaps even murdered, to blot out the extra gift he had that no one told him about.

I recall wondering at the time if music was really about a battle between light and darkness.  It seemed the darkness was trying to blot out the light.  Perhaps those who played Mozart’s music while secretly holding him in contempt blotted out at least some of that extra gift?

But then, after this big organization ground to a halt, I began to wonder if it was possible there was a connection between that lockout and what happened to me some time ago on that stage.  And I began to wonder, if light were to triumph over darkness, that is — if what people recall of the old Orchestra Hall might not be that at one time I practiced there?

Ah yes…a reminiscence about the fabled Vladimir Horowitz…SD reply…

It always helps to have an entourage.

I had an opportunity to sneak into a Vladimir Horowitz rehearsal at Orchestra Hall. It was amazing experience that I heard more than saw, of course, as I was peeking up from behind a seat in the balcony, trying not to attract the attention of guards seated at the corners of the stage, glaring outward.

Later that afternoon Horowitz came out of the stage door and stood waiting for a limo to pick him up. He was a small man, dressed in unmatched stripes and plaids, who would probably have gone quite unnoticed just about anywhere, were it not for the guards and the limo…

http://www.artsjournal.com/slippeddisc/2013/05/eurostars-phantom-pianist-is-valentina-lisitsa.html#comment-121849