Thursday, April 05, 2018

In Search of "Lost" Violinists

I was talking with my father yesterday about article in Sunday's New York Times, (my father was around in New York during the 1960s, and never heard of Saul Lipshutz) and it brought to his mind a fellow student at Curtis, Michael Serber, who, according to my father was the very best violinist around Philadelphia during the 1940s, and, as far as he knew, didn't continue in music.

I thought it would be interesting to see what a few Google searches could find.

I found an obituary for Serber that revealed that he was concertmaster of the National Symphony, the American Ballet Theater, and the National Gallery Orchestra before going to medical school at Howard University. He was the Clinical Director of the Atascadero State Hospital in California, and "pioneered the systematic teaching of non-verbal components in assertive training and introduced the use of film and videotape feedback to teach assertiveness, tenderness and other social and sexual skills."

He died from Cancer at the age of 42.

Curtis has put listings from all of its concerts on line, and I was very excited to find this program for a concert in 1948:

[click for a larger view]

My father, who, like Serber, studied with Ivan Galamian, didn't pursue a career as a soloist. He went into science, and got a Ph.D. in chemistry. He continued to play professionally (i.e. he got paid to play) while he worked at NASA, and if he hadn't taken an audition for the Boston Symphony he might have been one of those "what ever happened to" violinists. But contingency intervened, and he is now known as one of the great violists. (Yes, I know that a viola joke could be inserted here. You can do it yourself.)

There are a great number of musicians who have chosen alternative careers to that of being a soloist (and a lot of them are working in orchestras, teaching, and practicing medicine, law, science, musicology, etc., and probably making a better and more stable living than a soloist) who could be profiled in meaningful ways by the New York Times.

But people like stories about redemption. I say "phooey" on redemption.

1 comment:

Geo-B said...

I think the value of art of course lies in the expression, and the only result need not be to be a famous artist, famous musician, famous actor, famous writer. I feel justified in calling myself an artist because I make art every week, lead a printmaking studio weekly, teach a drawing class weekly, and have something hanging in an exhibition pretty much continuously. But I'm an English teacher. Since I tend to teach 20-year-olds, I see them very amibitious to become well-known writers, and I wish them well, but it's not the only measure of success.