Death of a classical superagent, 86

Death of a classical superagent, 86


norman lebrecht

February 15, 2018

Opus 3 Artists have posted a death notice for Lee Lamont who went from being Isaac Stern’s secretary to one of the toughest global agents in the classical business.

Lee ran ICM Artists with an iron fist. She took no prisoners. One partner came back from lunch to find his office being emptied by removal men. Artists who crossed her were never forgiven.

But, tough as she was, she was funny, engaging, respectful of talent and generally good to be around. We clashed several times, once on a public platform, and managed to stay friends. Her artists included Claudio Arrau, James Galway, Yo-Yo Ma, Midori, Leonard Slatkin, Wynton Marsalis, Yefim Bronfman and Sarah Chang,

She retired in 2002.

I never knew her full name was Lenore Tagliamonte. She had a husband, August, and a daughter, Leslie.

She was the last of her kind.

God rest you, Lee.

Here’s a piece on Lee in her prime.



  • David J. Hyslop says:

    It was my great pleasure to work with Lee over the many years in both St. Louis and Minnesota. I also considered her a friend and kept contact when she retired. What you saw with Lee is what you got and I liked what I saw and liked what she had to give .

    Got to know her late husband Augie as he was a freelance musician in New York City when they both were based in New York.
    Lee’s passing is the end of an era.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      She was pretty much the last survivor of that era, David.

      • David J. Hyslop says:

        Agreed .

        Doug Sheldon, at 75, is giving it a good run at CAMI for the generation after Lee.

      • Dominic Stafford says:

        Tony Russo! And my father, David Law, is still alive!

        • Raffaella de Angelis says:

          I used to work for Tony Russo as an entry level assistant at ICM Artists and remember Lee Lamont vividly. I would love to send Tony a note. How would I find his contant information? I was very happy to hear he is still alive. Raffaella de Angelis

          • Writer says:

            Dear Ms. De Angelis,
            Your authors are so privileged to be represented by an agent who is passionate both about music and about literature.

  • Leonard Slatkin says:

    Lee was an unforgettable person. Under the tough exterior was a truly warm and caring person. It was my privilege to be guided by her for almost twenty years. Lee’s sense of humor, her acute business skills and knowledge of the industry was second to none. Although she had been retired for many years, her presence was always felt by those whose lives she touched.

    Rest in peace dear Lee

  • erich says:

    Wonderfully feisty and implacable in negotiation, a tigress when fighting for her artists – but underneath it all was a heart of gold and a real love of music. Rest in peace.

  • Chris Clift says:

    She sounds like a truly remarkable (and rare) person

  • Jeffrey Biegel says:

    Lee was a very strong personality, and always maintained that strength for the benefit of her artists and the company. She knew her competition was indeed tough and she kept strong-willed to maintain a stellar global roster. I stayed in touch with Lee through the years following her retirement; my last email to her in September 2016 inviting her to a Colorado engagement was unanswered; I knew something was not right. But she always answered in prior years and was very warm and kind. Her words of advice in 1986, ‘play everywhere you can, play chamber music and make friends in the business.’ These words were very definite, and I thanked her for this advice years later. Aside from her business savvy, she always maintained respect for her artists’ musical integrity. Rest in Peace, Lee.

  • Nick2 says:

    When I first met Lee 40 years ago, I was pretty near terrified! Here was a young unknown orchestra manager facing a strong, tough, tell-it-as-it-is agent and manager, the cigarette smoke almost heightening her glare across the desk. Yet like so may others I soon found the warmth below that exterior and a long-lasting friendship developed, one that I have treasured. I cannot count the number of times she helped me even decades after I ceased working with an orchestra, took me to lunch over the years, arranged hotels for me in New York – and quickly forgave a big error I made in failing to make a major project she had also worked on come to fruition. In a Christmas card to her two years ago I tried as best I could to express my gratitude. As I expected, she jokingly upbraided me for talking nonsense!

    After Shelly Gold’s unexpected early death in 1985, the ‘competition’ between Lee and Marvin Schofer who looked after conductors at ICM seemed at times intense. But once she had been installed as President, there was never any doubting that she was made for the role. Even as some artists left ICM and the new rival upstart IMG Artists used the interregnum to poach Itzhak Perlman, ICM continued to thrive under her leadership.

    Lee was deeply affected by the sudden death of her husband which dashed her plans for retirement. But she loved being near her daughter in Colorado Springs. May you rest in peace, dear Lee.

  • Rob McAlear says:

    I heard a fun story about the night Lee went to see Dame Edna Everidge on Broadway in 2000.

    Within the first few minutes of the start of the show, Dame Edna spotted Lee, an unusual and riveting New York presence, impeccably dressed and coiffed, sitting confidently in the third or fourth row. She had no idea who she was.

    “What’s your name, dear?” asked Edna, who, after a bit of back-and-forth, invited Lee onstage.

    Thinking fast, Lee tried to outsmart Edna. “I’m sorry, but I can’t”, said Lee.

    “Why not, Lee?”

    “It’s my legs”, she explained. “They can’t make a trip like that …”

    Dame Edna smiled sweetly and cocked her head to one side. “Oh, Lee, Lee, Lee. Then how were you able to walk into to the theatre tonight, dear???”

    Edna usually got her way, but met her match that night. Lee wouldn’t budge (unlike another legendary super agent, Harold Shaw, who obeyed when Dame Edna summoned him onstage, and then participated in some unforgettable and slightly tipsy banter during that same Broadway run).

    Too bad… The Dame Edna and Lee Lamont Show would have been Broadway’s finest hour.

  • Robert H Wilkins says:

    The list of some of those “strong” ladies in the music business has diminished by one more with Lee Lamont leaving us. I always thought of her being in a group with Vera Stern, Vera Leinsdorf, & Eleanor Slatkin….wow!!!!

  • Eleanor Hope says:

    Lee Lamont was a great lady and a brilliant colleague. It was a privilege working with her — and the late Shelly Gold — and I learned so much from her. I loved visits to her in New York with the inevitable lunch at the Russian Tea Room, and we shared much laughter together. I shall miss her. The music industry is the poorer. Rest in peace.

  • La Verita says:

    A more balanced & objective view is in order here. Interesting to read all these short-term-memory glorifications of Lee Lamont, all of which serve to confirm the fundamental problem of the artist-management business, which has traditionally been handled by the Lee Lamont’s of this world – i.e., uneducated, blue-collar folks who use nastiness to compensate for lack of knowledge and skills. Those of us who were around when Shelly Gold died observed with dismay as Isaac Stern & Lee Lamont hijacked power at ICM Artists, and the company shook like a tower swaying in the breeze as top-drawer artists bailed out & valued executives were fired or quit amid the chaos (much like Trump’s White House). But there were enough big acts under long-term contracts (and in perpetual demand) – and so that’s what kept ICM going during the painful transition. And eventually even Lee realized that one catches more bees with honey, so she replaced her nasty-tiger persona with a saccharine veneer– which seems to be what the above comments prefer to recall. But the truth is that the most popular artists on the ICM roster continued to sell themselves — irrespective of who was sitting in the president’s chair — while the younger talents in need of promotion were left to die on the vine (unless of course they were favorites of Isaac Stern). Lee was fond of saying “Artist management is a dirty little business ” and she contributed to that reputation in no small way.

    • Nick2 says:

      Truth? I knew Lee for years before the transition at ICM. I noticed little change. Yes, some artists “bailed out”. But La Verita should be far more honest about the reasons. The fact is – established fact – that whenever there is a change at the top of an artists’ agency, there are always changes in senior staff, rosters and even direction. Artists develop relationships with individuals and when those individuals are no longer there, many move elsewhere.

      It is well known that Perlman felt a strong loyalty to Shelly Gold. He left partly because the fledgling IMG Artists (in existence for less than a year) was desperate for a ‘name’ on its tiny roster. With the parent company IMG’s ability then to obtain huge corporate sponsorships – e.g. a lucrative Fuji Xerox deal for Perlman in Japan, amongst others – and highly-paid special events in addition to lower commissions on fees, Perlman’s move was going to happen sooner rather than later. With his conducting aspirations, Zukerman wanted more control over his affairs and decided a break to a tiny agency was better able to achieve this. Ashkenazy left because some European managements, including his own, set up their own company EADS – European Artists Direct – in an ultimately failed attempt to obtain a greater share of North American commissions.

      As for younger artists, La Verita again fails to mention those who were brought in to the ICM fold and went on to major careers. Also forgotten are the new initiatives developed under Lee Lamont, including presenting performing companies from other countries, including China. Few, if any, of these sold themselves at the outset and many did not “die not he vine”!

      La Verita should change his or her handle. In this case, the post is nothing but a nasty little smear job.

  • Christine Reed says:

    I had the great privilege of becoming friends with Lee after working with her for many years. She could be tough but also very funny, kind and warm with people she liked and trusted. She was a very special person and one-of-a-kind in her field. She will be missed. Rest in peace, Lee.

  • La Verita says:

    Ok, let’s deal with established facts: Perlman left ICM for Hamlen-Landau Management (established in 1978 as Hamlen Mgt), well before it was absorbed into IMG. IMG Artists quickly became a powerhouse that rivaled ICM, as Galway, Watts, and many other established artists flocked there, as they saw an opportunity to put their careers in the hands of an erudite Harvard graduate, rather than a bullying yenta. IMG offered a refreshing alternative for artists seeking intellectual, responsible representation, as opposed to being treated as a pawn in ICM’s game of “If you want Yo-Yo Ma, then you have to hire 3 other ICM artists to get him”. IMG took the “Hustle” out of the artist management business, which is why they were so immediately successful. In negotiations with presenters, IMG was suave and congenial, in contrast to Lee Lamont’s holler-scream-threaten approach.

    • Nick2 says:

      La Verita really should check his/her facts before posting here. Again the latest post is plain not true. Respect the truth, La Verita! Perlman did not leave ICM Artists immediately. His departure was announced In March 1986. Presumably it was negotiated a month or two prior to that date.

      The take-over of Hamlen Landau management by IMG to form IMG Artists took place in 1984. So much for Mr. Perlman’s move “well before it was absorbed into IMG Artists”.”Established facts” please, La Verita!

      Yet more proof of La Verita’s nasty little smear job.

    • Nick2 says:

      And one additional point. As for the comment “If you want Yo-Yo Ma, then you have to hire 3 other ICM artists to get him”, I engaged Yo-Yo Ma three times. Never once did I have the slightest pressure from Lee Lamont to engage any other ICM artist. I did hear that refrain from other managers, though. When I had tried on several occasions to book Jessye Norman, Harold Shaw whom I had known and some of whose artists I had booked for several years explained I would also have to book the Boys Choir of Harlem and a couple of other artists on his books!

  • ML says:

    I came across this article via a search of my old guitar teacher, Augie Lamont. He taught guitar in a back room @ Hillcrest School of Music in Queens. He was a very laid back, nice man. It’s nice to know that his wife had such a wonderful career in music. 🙂

  • Timothy Jon Sarris says:

    ‘A postcard from Italy’

    Was with ICM for a little while back in the nineties. My go to man under Ms Lamont was Richard Corrado, a real mensch although I would not recommend that a young artist choose such a large agency or it’s Opus incarnation with which to begin a musical career. Although Dick was always approachable there was definitely a corporate feel to the offices at ICM.
    I actually never knew Lamont was of italian decent, but I guess she or her forebears anglicized Tagliamonte for reasons of social acceptance as did many immigrants.
    (actually, I thought she was Jewish).

    In addition to Dick Corrado, whose name was obviously italian, there was also a certain Anthony Russo(Tony). Both these guys were clearly proud of their roots and even spoke fluent italian. Now that I live in Italy and speak a little of the native language myself, there comes to heart a strange nostalgia when I read of Lamont’s death.

    RIP Signora Tagliamonte