Sol Berkowitz – Piano
Curtis H. Biever – Conductor
Seymour Bilkis – Saxophone
Johnny Blowers – Drums
Alfred J. Coliaco – Trombone
Emanuel Darmante – Trumpet
Horace Diaz Jr. – Piano
Howard Michael Dunn – Piano
Jennifer Eley Handler – Piano
Cy Feuer – Trumpet
Andrew Frega – Violin
Anthony Galla-Rini – Accordion
Nathalie (Natasha) Ghent – Violin
Arnold Gross – Tenor Saxophone/Copyist
Harry Kolstein – Saxophone
David Le Vita – Piano
Morgwn Lochner – Cello
Arif Mardin – Arranger
Elwood G. “Mac” McAdams – Trombone
William Miller – Piano
David Val Olman – Violin/Arranger/Copyist
Nathaniel S. Paris – Saxophone
Frank Reysen – Piano
Howard Shanet – Conductor
Joseph Siegelman – Violin
Alfredo Silipigni – Conductor
Florian ZaBach – Violin/Conductor
Johnny Blowers, 95, a drummer and an 802 member since 1938, died on July 17.
Mr. Blowers was the last surviving drummer from the great swing era of the 1930’s. He is well remembered for his long solo rendition of “Caravan,” his signature piece.
He recorded with Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Sidney Bechet, Billie Holiday, Bobby Hackett, Don Byas, Red Norvo, Perry Como, Bunny Berigan, Bud Freeman, Dave Newcomb, Clyde Newcomb, Judy Garland, Eddie Fisher, Mel Torme, Teddy Wilson, Eddie Condon, Artie Shaw, Woody Herman, Paul Whiteman, Bing Crosby and most importantly Frank Sinatra, who chose Mr. Blowers to be his drummer in 1943.
Mr. Blowers’s first real break was with Bobby Hackett’s small band at Nick’s in Greenwich Village, performing with such luminaries as Eddie Condon and Pee Wee Russell. Nick’s was the place to be seen in 1937 and by April 1938 he had joined Bunny Berigan’s big band.
Later in 1938 he recorded with Teddy Wilson (“Don’t Be That Way”) and also performed with Jan Savitt and Ben Bernie.
Mr. Blowers always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. Possibly it was his drumming that helped make Judy Garland’s, “On The Atchison, Topeka and Sante Fe,” Buddy Clark’s, “Linda,” Louis Armstrong’s, “Blueberry Hill,” or Perry Como’s, “Prisoner of Love” such big hits. He continued as staff musician for CBS, NBC and ABC through television’s early days in the 1950’s.
He spent nearly a year at Eddie Condon’s Jazz Club in 1947 and briefly owned his own club, the Club Blowers, in Queens, New York that same year. In the early 1960’s, he accepted an offer to host his own radio show on Long Island where he would play music and do interviews. Mr. Blowers recorded interviews with Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Gene Krupa and many others.
In the 1970’s the renewal of interest in traditional jazz and swing music led to many gigs at festivals and clubs. He spent a number of years in the Broadway show “Follies” as one of the musicians who performed on stage with a small jazz band.
Mr. Blowers recorded an album (“Those Giants of Jazz”) in 1991 and continued touring the world with the Harlem Blues and Jazz Band. He joined the band in 1986 and spent the next 20 years with the band until 2005 when he became too ill to continue.
He also appeared in a rock video by the band They Might Be Giants (“They’ll Need A Crane”) in the early 1990’s.
Mr. Blowers’s autobiography is “Back Beats And Rim Shots,” published by Scarecrow Press, Inc. (1997).
His sister, Catherine Ivy, survives him as well as his youngest son, Ronald, his daughter-in-law Frances, his daughter, Deborah Lewis, and her husband, Arne, and his grandsons Robin and Owen.
This obituary edited from the Westbury Times (Long Island).
Horace Diaz Jr.
Horace Diaz Jr., 97, a pianist and an 802 member since 1929, died on May 25.
Born in Vera Cruz, Mexico, he moved with his family to New Orleans as a child. He relocated to New York City in 1927 and to South Amherst (Ohio) in 1999.
He began playing piano professionally at the age of 15 with John Hyman’s Bayou Stompers in New Orleans. In New York, he played with the Artie Shaw and the Eddie Duchin bands, as well as on the Coca-Cola Radio Show with Morton Downey and Jimmy Lytell and his orchestra. He played in every major New York City hotel and was an arranger for many bands and singers.
He loved Latin music and was an avid golfer.
He is survived by his daughter Donna Hauck, five grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
The family suggests that donations may be made to Avon Oaks, Porter Pavilion Activities Fund, 37800 French Creek Road, Avon, OH 44011.
This obituary from the Chronicle-Telegram (Ohio).
Howard Michael Dunn
Howard Michael Dunn, 74, a pianist and an 802 member since 1976, died on July 26.
Mr. Dunn was self-taught; by age 14 he was playing professionally. He minored in music at Haverford College (Pennsylvania), studying under Professor Swan, Igor Stravinsky’s star pupil. During his college years, he played professionally in jazz clubs in Philadelphia and New York. Nancy Wilson, Pearl Bailey and Ella Fitzgerald were but a few of the legends he worked with, when they were all starting their musical careers.
Mr. Dunn’s life was eclectic. He was an accomplished baseball player and was recruited by the Minor Leagues. He served two years in the Army. He earned a Ph.D. from Brown and eventually became executive director of the Classics Department of the University of Illinois, where he joined the AFM local there. He taught English as a second language and Latin in the Philadelphia public school system and was recognized by Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo for his innovative methods to teach languages to inner city youth. He received a number of grants which allowed him to study around the globe ranging from Fairbanks to Athens.
In the late 1970’s he joined Local 802. During this time he spent much of his time at the piano, writing arrangements for big bands, playing occasionally for small clubs and creating venues for informal jazz sessions. He also worked closely with Philadelphia saxophone player Tony Williams to develop a student jazz band, known as the Stenton Diner Big Band. In addition, he worked with Haverford graduates Nabil Totah and Ted Handy on various compositions including a production of jazz vespers performed in Southport, Connecticut.
After retiring, Mr. Dunn spent more time in the Turks and Caicos Islands, where his mother was from and where he spent the early part of his childhood. Mr. Dunn was buried in the family plot there.
He is survived by his daughter Georgia, son Michael, daughter-in-law Ursela, grandchildren Georgia Grace and Nolan Michael Dunn, brother Ian Dunn and several nephews.
Jennifer Eley Handler
Jennifer Eley Handler, 44, a pianist and an 802 member since 1984, died on June 2.
Ms. Eley Handler enrolled at Juilliard at the age of 13 in the pre-college division as a student of Jane Carlson and went on to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees under the tutelage of Martin Canin. Additional studies were as a scholarship student of Anthony di Bonaventura in the doctoral program at Boston University.
A native of Great Neck, New York, Ms. Eley Handler was born into a veritable musical clan. Lou Eley, her father, was one of the most respected and successful commercial violinists of his era and her mother, Jean, was a prolific and much-loved pedagogue in Long Island. Older sister, Karen, was a longtime student of Dorothy DeLay.
As a child, Ms. Eley Handler was a soloist with the New York Philharmonic for a Young People’s Concert at Avery Fisher Hall and was also selected to appear as a soloist at a festival in Salonika, Greece.
She gave her New York recital debut at Alice Tully Hall in 1990. Solo appearances with orchestras included performances with the Boston Pops, the Bordeaux Orchestra (France), the Buffalo and St. Louis Symphony orchestras and the Mexican State Orchestra, in a series of televised broadcasts.
She performed solo recitals worldwide and was the winner of the National Prokofiev Concerto Competition in Youngstown, Ohio, the coveted Richmond Prize in Boston and was a prizewinner in the International D’Angelo Young Artist’s Competition in Erie, Pennsylvania. At the 1988 International Competition of Porto, Portugal, Ms. Eley Handler was the silver medal winner and the only American to qualify for the competition.
Recordings made by Ms. Eley Handler included the world premiere recording of Felix Mendelssohn’s “Concerto in E minor” with the English Chamber Orchestra, recorded in the Rosslyn Hill Chapel in Hampstead, England, on the Koch International Classics label
Ms. Eley Handler was a member of the Long Island Philharmonic both as a pianist and as a cellist and maintained a busy teaching studio in Long Island.
She is survived by her husband John, daughters Olivia and Emma, and sister Karen Eley Galvez.
Cy Feuer, 95, a trumpeter, producer, director, composer and educator, died on May 17. Mr. Feuer joined Local 802 in 1928.
On Broadway, Cy Feuer produced or directed “Where’s Charley?” (1948), “Guys & Dolls (1950)”, “Can-Can” (1953), “The Boy Friend” (1954), “Silk Stockings” (1955), “Whoop-Up” (1958), “How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying” (1961), “Little Me” (1962), “Skyscraper” (1965), “Walking Happy” (1966), “The Goodbye People” (1969), “The Act” (1977), and “I Remember Mama” (1979).
He also produced the films, “Cabaret” (1972), “Piaf” (1982), and “A Chorus Line” (1985).
He was born in Brooklyn. After graduating from Juilliard in 1933, he played trumpet at the Roxy and Radio City Music Hall before becoming head of the music department of Republic Pictures where, between 1937 and 1948, he scored, arranged and conducted 125 films.
As composer, he received five Academy Award nominations for “Storm Over Bengal” (1938), “She Married a Cop” (1939), “Hit Parade of 1941” (1940), “Ice Capades Revue” (1941) and “Mercy Island” (1941).
As well as discovering Gwen Verdon, Julie Andrews, Chita Rivera, Stubby Kaye and Hans Conried, he one of the first to racially integrate Broadway orchestras.
His productions garnered 24 Tonys, eight Oscars, three Golden Globes, one Pulitzer Prize and countless others.
From 1982 to 2003, he was president, then chairman of the League of American Theatres and Producers.
His autobiography, “I Got The Show Right Here,” received rave reviews.
Andrew Frega, 94, an accordionist and violinist and an 802 member since 1935, died on Aug. 13.
Mr. Frega worked as an accordion and violin player for Ponte’s Restaurant here in New York City for 30 years before retiring at age 64.
He served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. He was a member of the Queen of Peace Church Choir where he played violin.
He is survived by his sisters Phyllis and Marie, brother Frank, sister-in-law Pearl, brother-in-law Joseph, and many nieces and nephews.
Nathalie (Natasha) Ghent
Nathalie (Natasha) Ghent, 74, a violist and an 802 member since 1953, died on June 4.
Born in France, she began early violin studies at the age of 4 with Ivan Galamian at the Russian Conservatory in Paris. Following the outbreak of World War II, Ms. Ghent and her family immigrated to New York where she continued her violin studies at the Juilliard Preparatory School with Dorothy De Lay and her former teacher Galamian, who had recently immigrated to America. She also began studying viola with William Kroll and Hans Lenz and developed a lifelong love of chamber music during summers spent as a string quartet coach at Meadowmount, in Westport, New York. Ms. Ghent graduated from the High School of Music and Art in 1951 and entered Sarah Lawrence College as a scholarship student, graduating with a B.A. in 1955.
Ms. Ghent worked extensively as a violist in the New York musical world. She was a member of the American Symphony Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski, the American Ballet Theatre Orchestra, the New Jersey Symphony, the New York Opera Orchestra, and the Queens Symphony. Together with Gerard Schwartz, the current music director of the Seattle Symphony, she founded the Soho Ensemble, a chamber group dedicated to the performance of contemporary music in art galleries throughout downtown New York. She was a prolific composer of music for young ensembles, writing “The Eternal Song” in 1955 for students at Sarah Lawrence College, “The Gold Hat” in 1963 for the Joan of Arc Junior High School Orchestra, and many other works with a distinct pedagogical bent such as “Ode to Pythagoras”, “A la Schradiek”, and “Homage a Katchaturian”. In 1980, her compilation of original duets for two violins, “Who’s On First?” was published by General Music Publishing, and in 1995, Hildegard Publishing, a company devoted to works of women composers, published “The Angel”, a cantata for voice, violin, and viola with Synclavier, set to Lermontov’s poem. For 56 years, Ms. Ghent was also a beloved teacher to hundreds of private students in violin, viola, and piano.
After retiring from freelancing, Ms. Ghent began to teach music in the New York City Public School system, first as a substitute teacher, and then at P.S. 120 in Bushwick, Brooklyn. When funding for music programs was cut, she taught kindergarten and first grade, but she continued to weave music into the curriculum through her 12 original songs, “Music through History,” which introduced major figures such as Columbus and Lincoln in imaginative and easy to sing songs that the students at P.S. 120 loved.
Ms. Ghent’s two marriages, to Harold Morris, and to Emmanuel Ghent, ended in divorce. She is survived by her daughters Nadia, Valerie and Theresa. (Nadia and Valerie are both members of Local 802.) She is also survived by her grandchildren Grady, Sara and Alex. Donations in Ms. Ghent’s memory can be made to Sarah Lawrence College, 1 Mead Way, Bronxville, N.Y., 10708.
This obituary from the New York Times.
Arnold Gross, 85, a saxophonist, flutist, clarinetist, violinist, copyist and conductor, died on July 25. He had been an 802 member since 1940.
Mr. Gross played with Herb Sherry, Hal Darnell and also led a band of his own.
He is survived by his wife Sydele, daughters Melinda, Robin and Stacey, granddaughters Faye and Molly, and son-in-law Kevin.
David Le Vita
Dr. David LeVita, 100, a pianist, conductor and musicologist, and an 802 member since 1927, died on Aug. 26.
As curator of music at the Brooklyn Museum from 1942 to l972, he presented weekly lectures on music to school children and created the museum’s children’s concert series, where he served as both orchestral conductor and lecturer. He presented classical music as a relevant, exciting and entertaining medium of artistic expression, often demonstrating his thoughts with humor and imagination, and this was enjoyed enthusiastically by the children and adults in his audience. He also initiated the museum’s Sunday afternoon concerts and the “meet the composer” series, where, in a more traditional manner, he interviewed such notables as Bela Bartok. These programs were broadcast every week over WNYC.
Additionally, he formed the Brooklyn Museum Trio with himself as pianist, Avram Weiss as violinist, Sidney Edwards and, later, Shepard Coleman as cellist. The trio performed frequently at the museum and, on occasion, at Carnegie Recital Hall.
Dr. Le Vita was presented citations for his contributions to music education by Mayor LaGuardia and Mayor Wagner and he was cited in 2006 for his work by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and Brooklyn Museum Director Arnold Lehman.
Dr. Le Vita made his debut as a concert pianist in Aeolian Hall in 1923. He graduated from Leipzig Conservatory in 1929 and received his Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology from Leipzig University in 1931. He began his career as a solo pianist, accompanist and chamber music player and later was director of the piano department at the Henry Street Settlement Music School and director of the Prospect Plaza Music Center in Brooklyn.
Survivors include his wife Gertrude; two daughters, Isabel Ganz of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. and Julie Wegener of New Paltz; three grandchildren and two great grandchildren. The family suggests that memorial contributions may be made to Hospice of Palm Beach County, Fla. (www.hpbc.com) or a charity of one’s choice.
Arif Mardin, 74, an arranger and record producer and an 802 member since 1964, died on June 25.
Over 36 years, Mr. Mardin worked with dozens of top names, including Average White Band, Anita Baker, the Bee Gees, Judy Collins, Phil Collins, Roberta Flack, Aretha Franklin, Hall and Oates, Donny Hathaway, Chaka Khan, Melissa Manchester, Manhattan Transfer, Bette Midler, Modern Jazz Quartet, Willie Nelson, John Prine, Dusty Springfield, Norah Jones and many more.
Originally from Istanbul, Turkey, his body will be flown there for burial and services.
Elwood G. “Mac” McAdams
Elwood G. “Mac” McAdams, 76, a trombonist and an 802 member since 1986, died on June 13. Mr. McAdams was previously a member of Local 77 (Philadelphia).
His musical career spanned more than 60 years and took him across the entire country as a big band trombonist, working with Lester Lanin, Mike Carney, Neal Smith and many others.
Mr. McAdams’s musical career continued during his military service during the Korean conflict. He was assigned to Tokyo, where he was promoted to the rank of sergeant and assigned to the military band.
Mr. McAdams is survived by his wife Elizabeth and mother Violet. Additionally, he is survived by the following children and spouses: Gayle Gardiner, Kerry McAdams Conner and Ed Connor, Lori and Ricardo Esteves, Laurie and Robert McAdams, Lizanne McAdams-Graham and Robert Graham, Pamela and James Adams, Mary and Dr. Charles Owen, and Shari and Gary Ganter. He is also survived by 21 grandchildren, whose names are: Patrick, Gabrielle, and June Gardiner; Elizabeth Connor; Reinaldo Esteves; Amanda, Dustin, and Valerie McAdams; Madison and Everett Graham; Amelia, Elena, and Owen Adams; Chad, Elissa, Anna, and Travis Owen; Trey, Jax, Chris, and Katie Ganter. Finally, he is also survived by siblings and spouses Janet and John McAdams, Betty Weaver, and Virginia and Tom Michael.
David Val Olman
David Val Olman, 93, a violinist and long-time orchestral bandleader in Miami, died on Feb. 23. He joined Local 802 in 1931 and was a member for 63 years.
Olman conducted for many stars at the Fontainebleau and Eden Roc hotels – among them Harry Belafonte and Frank Sinatra – during the glitz and glamour of 1950’s Miami Beach.
A New York native, Olman was born Feb. 7, 1913, in Manhattan.
At age 6, Olman used to hog the bathroom where he would practice playing his violin. Years later, Olman would tell his own son how his three brothers would beat on the door to get him out.
Even though times were hard for the family during the Depression, the family sacrificed to pay for violin lessons for young Olman.
”He was a prodigy,” Mel Olman said of his father. “He was a very gifted violinist.”
At 16, he was touring Europe, giving concert performances. Later, he went on to graduate from Julliard.
Olman was a student of Joseph Schillinger, a well-known teacher of music who gave private lessons in composition. As a young adult, Olman learned the Schillinger System of Music, a method of composition that uses mathematical processes.
”Dad’s notebooks would be filled with mathematical equations to lead a 100-piece orchestra,” recalled Ronald Olman.
It was in January 1942, while working as a bandleader at a Manhattan club, that Olman met a ballet student. By October that year, Barbra and David Olman had married.
After working for years as a well-known society bandleader in Manhattan, the Olmans relocated to Miami Beach, attracted by the seaside’s city romance and glamour.
Nat King Cole, Dorothy Dandridge, Jerry Lewis, Ann-Margret and Milton Berle were headliners at the Beach clubs. In addition to playing the violin, Olman would conduct for these stars at the Fontainebleau and the Eden Roc throughout the 1950’s and 60’s.
”We would watch these shows and be escorted to the front row to see all these performers and meet them backstage,” Mel Olman said. “It was wild for us. The Big Central Park West apartment with a sunken living room, and the perks like Dad’s jobs in fancy resorts, we’d eat and dine for free all summer long.”
In addition to his love of music, Olman enjoyed golf, chess and reading.
Music was a passion throughout his life. ”He listened to music everyday and invited guests over often,” Ronald Olman said.
He was preceded in death by his wife.
This obituary from the Miami Herald.
Frank Reysen, 93, a pianist and an 802 member since 1935, died on June 14.
Mr. Reysen entertained hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers during a 60-year career as a professional piano player, organist and band leader..
He began his music career in the early 1930’s as featured pianist with the George Carroll Orchestra, playing at the old Fordham Collegiate Club in the Bronx. During the 30’s and 40’s, Mr. Reysen led the Frank Reysen Orchestra, playing every major dance venue in greater New York, including the Roseland and Arcadia Ballrooms on Broadway, the Manhattan Center and top hotels such as the Pennsylvania, Waldorf-Astoria, Plaza, Astor, Concourse Plaza, New Yorker, Essex House, Roosevelt and Biltmore.
Mr. Reysen also had the distinction of playing the first Harvest Moon Ball at the original Roseland and many subsequent Harvest Moon Balls. Throughout the 1940’s, Frank Reysen’s Orchestra was the house band at the Club Fordham in the Bronx, serving as opening act for a galaxy of Big Band greats, including Count Basie, Artie Shaw and Russ Morgan
Mr. Reysen also played in the Johnny Messner and Joe Haymes Orchestras. In the early 1950’s, Mr. Reysen was the star pianist and arranger for the Ed DeLuna Orchestra and was featured soloist on the band’s hit recording of “The Do-It Polka.” He also accompanied singer Jerry Vale on his early demonstration records and rock pioneer Lillian Briggs on her club dates.
In the 1960’s, the Frank Reysen Quartet was the house band at the Fort Hill Restaurant in Yonkers, NY. In the 70’s, Mr. Reysen turned to the organ and played many engagements at restaurants and colleges in Rockland County, NY.
Mr. Reysen is survived by his son Frank Jr., daughter Joan DePalma, son-in-law Pat, and grandchildren Joanne and Michael.
Howard Shanet, 87, a conductor, composer and professor at Columbia University who wrote an important history of the New York Philharmonic, died on June 19. He had been a Local 802 member since 1946.
As a conductor, Mr. Shanet appeared with several major American orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic and the Boston Symphony, and he frequently performed in New York with the organizations he founded, Music-in-the-Making and String Revival. He was partial to new music and unusual works that had become eclipsed, like Sousa’s operetta “El Capitan”; a Schubert opera, “Die Zwillingsbrüder” (“The Twin Brothers”), for which he commissioned an English libretto from Chester Kallman; and Gottschalk’s “Night in the Tropics,” which became popular in the 1970’s in Mr. Shanet’s reconstruction.
Mr. Shanet began his musical studies as a cellist and earned a bachelor’s degree at Columbia in 1939 and a master’s in musicology, as a student of Paul Henry Lang, at Columbia in 1941. That year he joined the faculty of Hunter College. He also served in the Pacific from 1942 to 1946.
After World War II Mr. Shanet studied composition with Bohuslav Martinu and Aaron Copland and conducting with Serge Koussevitzky and Fritz Stiedry. He was a conducting assistant to Leonard Bernstein at the New York City Symphony in the early 1950’s and wrote program notes for the New York Philharmonic in 1959 and 1960.
He eventually returned to the Philharmonic in a different guise, as a historian researching his “Philharmonic: A History of New York’s Orchestra,” published in 1975. Four years later, when books about the orchestra by Henry Edward Krehbiel, James Gibbons Huneker and John Erskine were reissued together as “Early Histories of the New York Philharmonic,” Mr. Shanet wrote an introduction and historical notes. He also published a music textbook, “Learn to Read Music,” in 1956.
In 1953 Mr. Shanet joined Columbia as a professor of music and a conductor of the university’s orchestra. He was chairman of Columbia’s music department from 1972 to 1978 and later was a professor emeritus.
As a composer, Mr. Shanet wrote music for orchestra, string quartet and band.
He is survived by his wife Bernice Grafstein and son Laurence Paul Shanet.
This obituary from the New York Times.
Joseph Siegelman, 84, a violinist and an 802 member since 1940, died on March 14.
Mr. Siegelman was born in Jersey City. When he was 14, he began lessons with Rafael Bronstein, who was a major influence on his musical life.
Mr. Siegelman met his wife Shirley when they were students, he at the New York College of Music and she at Juilliard. They went to Tanglewood together.
His early gigs were with various freelance orchestras like the Westchester and Brooklyn symphonies. After serving in the Army for four years, he landed a job as concertmaster of the Ft. Wayne (Indiana) Orchestra.
Later he played with Radio City for five years before landing a chair with the New York City Ballet, where he performed for 30 years.
Mr. Siegelman was an expert on stringed instruments and bows.
He is survived by his wife Shirley, who is also a violinist and an honor member. He is also survived by a brother Henry, nephews Robert, David and Steven, five grandnephews and two grandnieces.
Alfredo Silipigni, 72, a conductor and an 802 member since 1964, died on March 25.
A conductor whose international career included appearances with the Vienna State Opera, English National Opera, Teatrale L’Opera de Montreal and Opera de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, Mr. Silipigni was particularly renowned for his skill conducting “verismo,” a style and repertoire that required an instinctive feeling for free tempo.
Placido Domingo was known to request him when singing verismo, and Mr. Silipigni was responsible for staging productions featuring verismo stars such as Magda Olivero and Giuseppe Taddei, who were rarely invited to America’s larger opera houses.
Critic Andrew Porter, in London’s Financial Times, once commented that “Newark may perhaps be the last place in which to see authentic verismo stagings.”
“He was unique in all the world,” said Duane Printz, artistic director of Teatro Grattacielo in New York, which presents little-known verismo repertoire and worked with Mr. Silipigni for three seasons. “There’s no one left who understands the difficulty of verismo. He knew how to bring it to life.”
Mr. Silipigni, with his pencil-sharp mustache, slicked hair and pinstripe suits, also was the epitome of the cultured gentleman, never known in a 50-year conducting career to raise his voice to even the most difficult diva.
Born in Atlantic City and educated at Juilliard and Westminster Choir College of Rider University, Mr. Silipigni also played piano every night until just before his death, his daughter said, and was once an organist at Radio City Music Hall. He made his conducting debut with the prestigious NBC Symphony Orchestra at age 25.
But New Jersey State Opera, which Mr. Silipigni guided from an amateur group to a professional company with international standards, was his first love.
Also a specialist in Verdi, Mr. Silipigni led the company in mainstream repertoire as well as a few attempts at contemporary premieres.
Metropolitan Opera stars like Licia Albanese and Jerome Hines were longtime allies and supporters of Mr. Silipigni’s company, often starring in productions.
A long list of stars were wooed to New Jersey by Mr. Silipigni, including Domingo, Birgit Nilsson (singing her last stateside Turandot), Franco Corelli, Carlo Bergonzi, Roberta Peters, Beverly Sills, Richard Tucker and the verismo specialists Giuseppe Taddei and Magda Olivero.
Mr. Silipigni’s greatest legacy, perhaps, was convincing a small group of funders and supporters that New Jersey, wedged between Philadelphia and New York’s glittering opera scene, deserved a company of its own.
Mr. Silipigni is survived by his wife Gloria, daughters Marisa and Elizabeth, son Alfred, and two grandchildren. The family requests that donations may be made to the New Jersey State Opera, 50 Park Place, Newark, N.J. 07102.
This obituary edited from the Newark Star-Ledger.
Florian ZaBach, 87, a violinist and conductor and an 802 member since 1950, died on Feb. 25.
Born in Chicago, he was the son of Florian ZaBach Sr., a native of Austria who played clarinet with the Vienna Philharmonic, and the late Anna Morganfort-ZaBach. An only child, he began his study of music first with his father, then at the Chicago Cosmopolitan Conservatory of Music, and had further violin studies at the Prague Conservatory in Czechoslovakia.
A child prodigy, who at the age of 12 made his debut with the Chicago Symphony orchestra playing the Mendelssohn concerto, Mr. ZaBach is best known for his million-selling record “The Hot Canary,” which attracted worldwide acclaim, and for his speed in playing “The Flight of the Bumblebee,” about which “Believe It or Not,” which clocked the performance, wrote, “he plays 12.8 notes per second … faster than any known violinist in history.”
Upon his return to the states, he joined the music staff of Chicago’s NBC and WGN radio stations. Then he served 2.5 years in the Army Medical Corps as a private and a corporal. After his honorable discharge, his music career reached great heights upon being discovered in Washington, D.C., where, as the personable orchestra leader at the Mayflower Hotel, he became a favorite of the social set of the elite political scene. It was there that he was chosen by television’s Arthur Godfrey, who presented Mr. ZaBach on his shows several times each month for years. This led to multiple appearances on most of the mega-television shows emanating from New York at the time: Ed Sullivan, Milton Berle, Ken Murray, Red Skelton, Steve Allen, Jack Parr and 25 appearances on the “Tonight Show,” as well as his weekly CBS-TV shows from the Big Apple. For more than a year, he performed five one-hour shows daily, seven days a week as master of ceremonies, orchestra conductor and violin soloist on the stage of Strand Theatre on Broadway.
Then the tall, handsome blonde was called to Hollywood, where he was signed to film the new “Florian ZaBach” show, a weekly half-hour television series that was syndicated and carried nationwide in more than 90 markets, as well as most major cities throughout the world.
As his reputation progressed, each year Mr. ZaBach received more bids to appear with major symphony orchestras as soloist and conductor on their pops concerts here and in London, Vienna, Austria, and Genoa and Venice, Italy; Australia, and Bejing, among other concert halls. His musical arrangements and compositions are on record in the Florian ZaBach collection in the Library of Congress.
Mr. ZaBach recorded countless albums for Mercury and Decca (on which he recorded his million-selling “The Hot Canary”). During most of his career, his constant companion was his 1732 Guarnerius del Gesu violin, created in Cremona, Italy.
Surviving is a stepdaughter, Julia Shartzer.
This obituary from the Scranton Times-Tribune.