Music director calls time after 18 years

Raymond Harvey, a rare minority maestro on the US orchestra scene, is stepping down as music director of the Kalamazoo Symphony at the end of the current concert season.

He wants to concentrate on teaching at the Moores Opera Center at the University of Houston, he says.

Harvey, 65, has held music director posts at the Fresno Philharmonic, Springfield Symphony and El Paso Opera.

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  • Define “rare” and “minority”. Without any effort I quickly named two dozen minority maestros of American orchestras. Black, Latino, Asian, female, gay…I’d be surprised if any European country has as many minority conductors. What is rare are black or Latino male orchestra members for reasons I’ve never understood.

    • Well, ethnic minorities make up around 50 percent of the US population; while they make up a rather smaller proportion of the population in most of Europe. Even in Britain, ethnic minority people are not much more than 5 percent of the population (and Britain has a larger proportion than most other places in Europe).

  • A tale that has nothing to do with Raymond Harvey but incidentally with the Kalamazoo orchestra. Not being from the USA, I had never heard the name Kalamazoo until I was at the funeral of Sheldon Gold, the founder President of ICM Artists. Isaac Stern played and Itzhak Perlman gave the oration (many felt it should have been the other way around)! Perlman told of his extreme displeasure at reading the schedule for his first full professional season. He went to the Hurok office and demanded to see Gold. Once there, he shouted that Gold had promised he would play in Carnegie Hall, with the best orchestras around the world etc. – and yet here was a schedule with small towns and second and third tier orchestras. “Why do you have me playing in Kalamazoo, Michigan?”

    In no uncertain terms, Shelly told him to shut up and sit down. “You are going to Kalamazoo now because they will probably never be able to afford your fee again. And these good people will remember and be proud that you came and will buy many of your recordings for the rest of your career. You WILL play in the finest halls and with the best orchestras. But for your first season you will play where I want you to play because there are very good reasons why you should play those dates!” Perlman performed as scheduled and remained with Gold at first Hurok and then ICM until Gold’s death in 1985.

  • I’ve had the good fortune to work closely with Raymond Harvey in the past. He is a brilliant musician, a commanding and humane leader, exacting in the best sense, a great speaker, an intellect of a high order, and he possess a phenomenal and infectious passion for classical music. A real American success-story. He should have been much more in demand with a major orchestra or opera company than he has been. This will be Kalamazoo’s loss, but a great boon to the University of Houston’s distinguished opera program.

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