The Musicians’ Voice

Volume 117, No. 4April, 2017

E-mail letters to or write to Allegro, Local 802, 322 West 48th Street, New York, NY 10036. Letters must be no more than 300 words. Opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of Local 802.


This year, we commemorate the 30th anniversary of the death of the esteemed musician and educator Carmine Caruso, who died on May 26, 1987 after being a member of Local 802 for 66 years. I am producing a tribute to my mentor, Carmine, at Local 802 on May 23. If you knew Carmine, I would love to get your reminiscences about him to include in the tribute. Please e-mail me as soon as possible at:

–Dominic Derasse


My husband Michael McGovern died on Feb. 9. You can read his obituary in this issue, but I wanted to add my personal reminiscences here. Michael was one of the most dedicated, honest and down-to-earth men who I ever met, and he always had my back. He was well aware of his imperfections yet never let them stop him. He was a man of deep convictions and also had a tender heart and a deep abiding faith in God. I’ve never met anyone as dedicated or disciplined with his trumpet, daily exercise, teaching, studies , writing, daily chores or cooking – the man could cook and loved good food! He was as real as real gets, never fake, genuine to the core. Though he could be exasperating at times, his awareness and honest heart would turn him around quickly. He was faithful and loyal to those he loved and to the things he believed in. His difficult life growing up ended up being the catalyst and motivation that not only started him off playing professionally by 15 but helped him find his deep faith in God. Along the way, he became an amazingly skilled and gifted teacher, a great writer, an articulate and intuitive speaker, and a constantly-expanding musician. He was loved and respected by his students, his fellow colleagues in the music industry and his friends in the Jewish community, where he was also known as as a true friend of Israel. He left a lasting impression on more people then he ever imagined (well, now he knows!). He will be forever etched on this woman’s heart and soul. His vitality and presence will forever be missed.

–Tina McGovern


Lawrence Sobol passed away on Nov. 28, 2016. His contributions to the clarinet world were truly revolutionary. Lawrence Sobol was my high school band director as well as my most important teacher. You can look up his prestigious biography online, so I just want to share some personal memories here. Mr. Sobol will always be my role model for balancing the separate lives of a high school music educator and that of a professional classical musician. As a teacher, I always tried to emulate his ability to motivate students to practice hard and create beauty in the performance. As a musician, I have followed his example by collaborating with other musicians to present concerts that stir the intellect and the emotions.

On the night before he passed away, I was lucky enough able to say thank-you and goodbye. I promised him that my next performance would be dedicated to him.

The following evening, I was rehearsing the Poulenc sonata and the Beethoven Op. 11 Trio with my colleagues Marcia Eckert and Mary Wooten on the Upper West Side. When I saw Mr. Sobol’s handwritten notes on my score (inscribed decades earlier in a private lesson), I started to weep while I was playing. I realized that those two pieces are what he played the first time I heard him perform at Carnegie Hall in November 1970. On my way home from my rehearsal that Monday night, I texted his wife to see how Larry was doing. When I told her what I had been rehearsing, she said, “Yes, we were listening!” By the time I got home, she texted me that he left us that night.

–Joseph Rutkowski Jr.

Above, the Lester Lanin band at the Bellevue Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia, on Dec. 23, 1996. Less than a month later, the band traveled to Washington, D.C. to perform for Bill Clinton’s inauguration. From left: Bob Hartzell, Bill Dunmore, Mike Ponella and Don Lane. Bill Dunmore died on Jan. 23 at the age of 100.


I would like to share my memories of trumpeter Bill Dunmore (see obituary), who recently passed way at the age of 100. When I first met Bill, I was impressed when he told me he had worked with the famous Casa Loma Orchestra. He enjoyed his life, and was especially proud of the yearly trips he would take to England with his longtime companion Rita. He was very comfortable to work with and he always practiced. I played in the Lester Lanin band with him for many years, and when Lester passed away in 2004, Bill kept practicing until his final days. Bill was almost 80 years old when he told me that he wanted to get a custom trumpet similar to mine (a Jerome Callet “Superchops”). I was pleased! From that day on he seemed to have a boost with his performance. I’m taking care of that trumpet for him now.

–Michael Ponella


This year, I remember the 100th anniversary of the birth of my father, Local 802 member Oscar Shumsky (1917-2000). Every time I put the viola under my chin I am reminded by the giant model of a great master. My father was the yongest student ever accepted by Leopold Auer. (Dad was 8 and Auer was 80!) David Oistrakh, Milstein, Menuhin, Primrose and Stokowski considered my dad one of the greatest violinists they had ever heard. My father’s awesome ear was unparalleled. He could accompany any concerto or sonata on the violin or piano. Dad was not about show and flash. His musical essence was like a wonderfully distilled coffee. For him, the instinctive feeling was far more important than over-analysis and conscious thought processes. He loved gypsy players. His violin hero above all was Fritz Kreisler, whom he knew and loved. Rachmaninoff and Toscanini were some of his greatest inspirations. But above all – even towering over Beethoven and Haydn and Mozart – was Bach. Bach was his God (though Dad was not religious).

The message for a younger generation: love what you do above all. Putting career above music is a huge mistake, which will lead to much disappointment. Be honest with yourself. Don’t be fantastic. Be good! And good in my father’s book was sublime. We all miss him greatly. He was a terrific human being.

–Eric Shumsky


I saw “La La Land,” a movie about a musician, with music and music philosophy prominent throughout. I stayed for the credits to see who the players were. They were listed at the very end after the dishwashers, cab drivers and others. By that time, the credits scroll was sped up and couldn’t be read anyway. How can we expect the public to respect us when the media and the power structure have so little regard for us?

–Howard Leshaw


April is Jazz Appreciation Month, so here is a new appreciation for the word “jazz.” Some musicians don’t like the term, the origin of which is obscure. The early history of the word brings to mind sex, brothels, prostitution, drugs, alcohol and the seedy sides of town. Some prefer to call jazz “America’s classical music.” But what if we dissect the word jazz and look for roots that could make it more positive?

I went to my German dictionary. “Ja” means “yes” in German. “ZZ” is an acronym in German that can stand for “Zu Zeit,” which means “at this time” or “at the present time.” Put them together and what do you get? “Yes – at present time” or YES – NOW. Is that a coincidence or was that always meant to be?

At the heart of jazz is improvisation. Improvising is so NOW! The word “jazz” must have been written in the stars. If you look, the inner meaning is right there all along and it only took a stretch of the imagination to reveal it. I can’t wait to tell my jazz musician friends what I found and see if perhaps this new way of looking at the word gives it the validity of approval. JAZZ = YES NOW.

–Carol Randazzo Orito Jones