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Conductor of the Year

Lawrence Bush
August 18, 2017

Gerard Schwarz, conductor of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra from 1985 to 2011 (he built the subscription base from 5,000 to 35,000) and of Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart festival between 1982 and 2001, was born in Weehawken, New Jersey on this date in 1947. Schwarz graduated from New York’s High School of Performing Arts and Juilliard School of Music and began his musical career as a trumpet soloist with the New York Philharmonic under Pierre Boulez. He began conducting in 1966 and became known as a champion of American composers. In 1994, he became the first American to win Musical America’s Conductor of the Year. He has been nominated for fourteen Grammys and has won four Emmy Awards. Schwarz has made over 100 recordings with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and more than 100 others with the Czech Philharmonic, London Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Berlin Radio, Orchestre National de France, English Chamber Orchestra, Tokyo Philharmonic, and others. To hear him conducting the New York Chamber Symphony playing Irving Fine’s “Serious Song -- a Lament for String Orchestra,” look below.

“The conductor looks at the orchestra as his colleagues in trying to make great music, but they’re not equal colleagues. The conductor makes demands on the instrumentalists in the orchestra, and they hopefully understand what those musical or technical demands are and are able to do what the conductor asks. In a sense we’re working together, and I think that my background as an orchestral player has a positive impact on my ability to communicate these ideas and to have the orchestra successfully work with me.” --Gerard Schwarz

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.