An amateur cellist mourns her conductor

An amateur cellist mourns her conductor


norman lebrecht

June 24, 2018

From an unusually touching op-ed  by Kathleen O’Brien in the NY Times:


…. Karen Pinoci’s short but lethal illness shouldn’t have rocked me so.

Were it not for this: She was my conductor.

I play cello in a community orchestra in New Jersey, the New Sussex Symphony, and she was its music director for 27 years. For two hours every Tuesday night, she led us, taught us, cajoled us, amused us, goaded us, encouraged us.

We’re a small orchestra that others might view as rinky-dink. (How rinky-dink? Let’s just say that when I joined nearly three decades ago, the men still had to be reminded that “concert attire” meant no white socks.)

It’s the perfect orchestra for me, though — strong enough to play music that speaks to me, yet needy enough to welcome an amateur. (When an editor at The Star-Ledger discovered I was a cellist, he asked, “You any good?” I gestured around the newsroom and said, “If I were, would I be here?”)

We know our limitations….

Read on here.

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  • V.Lind says:

    The purists may sneer, but it is orchestras like this, playing their best in their communities and without pretensions to being anything other than they are, that keep classical music alive.

    The tribute was sincere and touching. I hope they find another conductor as dedicated.

  • Christopher Clift says:

    A message really for Jordan Brown, the conductor recently appointed to the late Karen Pinoci’s orchestra, the New Sussex in New Jersey.

    With players like Kathleen in the orchestra, (who wrote the article about Karen) he should have a great time.

  • David Katz says:

    I knew Karen well at the Pierre Monteux School in Maine in the 1980s, where we (and so many others) were forged in the crucible of the great conducting mentor, Charles Bruck. He rode us hard, always insisting on getting everything we could give, emotionally and musically. He was not easy on anyone.

    Karen never became “famous,” except to her local constituency, and although she and I lost touch over the years, it is clear from this heartfelt tribute that she had absorbed the essence of Bruck’s lessons. She had learned that music was about so much more than just notes and rhythms—that’s its emotional power to heal, and comfort, and touch, and teach was possible to share without achieving technical perfection from her ensemble. (If that were not true, there would be no amateur orchestras, choruses or bands anywhere, instead of everywhere.) She had obviously honed her ability to project music’s power to players and audiences in ways that were keenly felt and well remembered.

    Conducting always appears to be someone waving arms in front of players, to keep them together, but the art goes far beyond that—only real conductors (and probably only some of them) actually understand what it is they do. Audiences and performers respond to far more than mere gesture, and in ways they often don’t realize and can’t articulate, but only feel.

    Karen had the gift. It made her special, and now mourned, and already missed.

    David Katz, chief judge
    The American Prize National Nonprofit Competitions in the Performing Arts
    actor and playwright,
    “MUSE of FIRE: Charles Bruck and the Art of Conducting”

    • Alexander Platt says:

      I, too remember Karen from the old days at the Pierre Monteux School. So serious, so dedicated, zero egotism. A real loss.

  • Richard says:

    I’m so saddened by this. I just learned about her death (11/2020). Karen premiered my composition for chamber orchestra, Song of the Open Road, with the Brooklyn Heights Symphony (now the Brooklyn Symphony) in May of 1995. She did an exceptional job. I”ll never forget her musicality. and generosity in taking this on. RIP Karen..I