07 Oct

My father was Viennese. That city has, for several centuries, been bursting with great composers and musicians - as well as many less desirable characters. Like almost all highly obedient Jewish children, especially those whose families originated in central Europe, I found myself taking piano lessons at an early age. After two or so years, my piano teacher suddenly expected me to make a big keyboard jump into some music composed by my namesake: "Frederic" whose last name was, apparently, Chopin. This did not sit well with me on the piano stool and so, to the teacher's considerable surprise. I promptly gave notice. Following this abrupt departure, I never again played the piano. I recall that my father found a more dramatic way to terminate his musical education: he covered the piano stool with black ink. Good thinking, Dad!


Fast forward to 2007, when I went to a Fourth of July parade in Carmel. A brass band was playing the customary patriotic music(patriotism is vastly overrated, don't you think?). The conductor of the band graciously allowed me to take close-up photographs of the musicians and their gleaming instruments.

The photographs must have impressed him, for he subsequently interviewed me twice on his radio show (twice?...you've got to be kidding!). Not only that, but he suggested too the marketing director of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra that I should be invited to photograph some of the symphony's performances. This opportunity was quite an honor. for the symphony had several paid professional photographers on their books (I was, of course, more than thrilled to shoot "pro bono."

The highlight of these experiences came when Maestro Mario Venzago, the former conductor of the orchestra, who had been unceremoniously fired by the previous C.E.O., was invited back by the C.E.O's far more polite successor. I was told to make sure that I got shots of the great man when he took his bow after a rapturous performance. That was easy, for the audience gave him a long, standing ovation, and was going nuts.  I just thrust my way past them (I can thrust with the best) and got what was needed. 

There was also a reception afterwards, when a portrait of him was unveiled...a portrait that should have been executed far earlier. The Maestro even stopped and chatted with me for several minutes (surely he had far wealthier folks with whom to hobnob.). Everyone loved him, for he bubbled with Italianate gaiety and charm, even running to the podium with a huge grin on his face before starting to conduct. It was a magical evening, and one that I will never forget!!

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