Cancer… and Conducting

Cancer… and Conducting

Music has always been a huge part of my life, and I have derived enormous joy from listening to music. When our family immigrated to the US in 1951, I recall that one of our first “possessions” was a High Fidelity music system. I recall that it included a Pilot FM tuner, a Bogen amplifier, a set of 12” speakers, and a record turntable for 33 1/1 LP recordings. I also remember being ‘glued’ to this set whenever radio broadcasts of Toscanini or Bernstein took place.

While I began to play violin at age 7, the notion of conducting an orchestra has always been an active dream/fantasy that remained dormant.

Fast forward to my 70th birthday party: One of the wonderful gifts that my kids gave me, was a certificate which entitled me to get my first conducting lesson at the Aspen, Colorado Music School. I was thrilled! Four years ago I traveled to Colorado; however, things changed, and the lesson really never materialized.

Move forward in time some more to the present: I’ve been getting daily radiation treatments at a major medical facility. I rented a room close to this hospital, and receiving these treatments every day at 8 AM. I decided early-on that I ought to add some badly-needed content to each day by auditing two music classes at the university associated with the medical center. Yep… one of the classes is a freshman seminar in the Music department on…. CONDUCTING!

The class assignment for last Thursday was to memorize the music for Beethoven’s Symphony #5, and to explore how various conductors handled the tricky beginning of the first movement. When we all came to class, our Professor asked for volunteers to show what each of us had learned. Of the 16 students, nobody raised her/his hand!

So… I raised my hand!!! I asked the Prof: “Who is going to play the piano transcription of the Symphony?” And he answered: “No need for that; we’re all going to SING IT!!!

Imagine the scene: Hank Zauderer, radiation patient, 74 year old music fanatic got to conduct 15 wide-eyed kids, who sang the various instrument parts of Beethoven’s Symphony #5! What a great moment of joy, and an opportunity for smiles and reflection on Life, Change, Music, and honoring my passion!

Here is Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, 1st movement, conducted by Arturo Toscanini/NBC Symphony:



And here’s a conductor I admire greatly: the late Carlos Kleiber, leading Beethoven’s Symphony No.7, Op.92



Tags: Cancer, radiation, conducting, Beethoven, Toscanini, Kleiber

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