Monday, April 17, 2023

Remembering David Fetler

 David Fetler passed away yesterday afternoon at the age of 96. He was a prominent figure in the classical music world both locally and nationally. He, his siblings, and his parents were predecessors of the famous Von Trapp Family Singers. The Fetler Family Band began performing concerts in their native Latvia and later throughout Europe. The photos I am providing of the Fetlers are from 1934, where you can see David on the conducting podium at age 7 (one photo has been colorized).

Locally, David Fetler was a legend. He spent many decades as a conductor and teacher. His teaching years were at the Eastman School of Music. He was most prominently known locally as long-time music director at St. Paul's Episcopal Church and as music director of the Rochester Chamber Orchestra for over fifty years. (I was privileged to serve as the orchestra's board president and treasurer during its final stretch.) In addition, David was music director of the Greece Symphony Orchestra for many years. For many performances by both the RCO and GSO, David collaborated with the Bach Children's Chorus, directed by Karla Krogstad. They added a special touch to the annual Messiah performance with the RCO.
Dr. Fetler had a unique knack for discovering new talent, and many musicians nationally and internationally can trace their first big break to him. David liked to roam the halls while Eastman students practiced their instruments. If he heard a student showing promise, he would occasionally ask him or her to perform as a soloist with the Rochester Chamber Orchestra. He also had a keen ear for promising talent around the country. On several occasions, he would listen to recordings of potential soloists and then ask me to look up corresponding performances by these soloists on-line and ask for my input. He would then contact them about playing with the RCO.
When David Fetler and I appeared on WXXI for an interview in 2014, it was for the occasion of the Rochester Chamber Orchestra's 50th anniversary. I had done some research beforehand and discovered that David had reached the milestone of being the longest serving music director of an orchestra. The previous conductor with such distinction was the late Arthur Fiedler, who had led the Boston Pops for 49 years.
R.I.P. David Fetler. Your musical legacy will be remembered for many decades to come.

Sunday, January 22, 2023


 R.I.P. Bishop Matthew Clark. I paid tribute to him on Facebook a couple days ago, because I knew his death was imminent. I will simply add that in addition to having been a mentor and friend, I will always think of him as having been a humble servant.

In both politics and religion, there are leaders who either draw attention to themselves via a quest for power, or leaders whose primary interest is being of service to those they serve. Bishop Clark was never drawn to the authority aspect of being a church leader. Instead, he represented a pastoral mode, whereby he provided encouragement to all he represented. In brief, Matthew Clark was a very kind man, and that is a good legacy to leave behind. Jesus warned against the excesses of power, and instead tried to model pastoral leadership to his disciples: healing the sick, welcoming the disenfranchised, and placing the value of serving others over being served. Bishop Clark was faithful to the pastoral model. 
One of the joys of my life was that of knowing Matthew Clark. He will be missed by multitudes in the Diocese of Rochester and beyond. I will close by saying, "well done, faithful servant."

Friday, December 30, 2022


 My New Year resolution for 2023 is to keep my promise of bowing out of political commentaries. These have taken up a lot of my time during the past few years, and life is short. I predict the immediate political future of our country will be dreary and bordering on a fine line between fascism and democracy. My hope is that younger generations will run for public office for the right reasons, and not for the purpose of fulfilling inflated egos.

My political predictions for the next two years are as follows:
1.) Donald Trump will fade from the political landscape. We probably won't see him land in jail. However, he will be carrying too much baggage to become the GOP's presidential nominee in 2024.
2.) I predict Ron DeSantis will be the GOP's presidential nominee in 2024 if he decides to enter the race. On the Democratic side, I expect that despite his age, Joe Biden will run for reelection, even though I would like to see a younger candidate, especially if Ron DeSantis should be the GOP candidate. (DeSantis will be 46 in 2024, and Biden will be 82.)
3.) With a Republican majority in the House, beginning in January, I don't expect much in the way of actual work getting done on behalf of the American people during the next two years. I expect Kevin McCarthy will make concessions with far-right GOP members in order to become Speaker. This means we can expect revenge tactics targeting Democrats, which potentially means hearings, impeachments, and ugly behavior. We will see very little work on legislation.
4.) International affairs will continue to be troubling. We must continue to hope that nuclear exchanges never occur, despite the increase in totalitarianism across the globe.
As I fade from political commentaries on social media, I look forward to maintaining a focus on my primary area of interest, which is the performing arts. At the same time, I will continue to pray for a political environment in the U.S. and elsewhere that is more civil than what we are now experiencing.


 I recently wrote a lengthy review of the movie, TAR. My focus was primarily on the performances, the narrative of the story, and my expectation that there will be Oscar nominations for best film and best actress (Cate Blanchett). Since I have studied the art of conducting in the past, in addition to the fact that I continue to follow the careers of conductors I admire (wanted to be one once-upon-time), a musician friend asked me what I thought of Cate Blanchett's character and how I felt about the manner in which classical music is treated in this film. So, I will address these issues now.

It is important to state that Lydia Tar is a fictitious conductor. Cate Blanchett carries the role very well, and I guarantee she will send chills up and down the spines of viewers. That said, from a musical standpoint, I felt that the movie did an injustice to conductors in general, especially women conductors. The best conductors know how to collaborate well with orchestra musicians. It is this type of collaboration that produces respect and trust between conductors and orchestras. A dictator on the podium, such as Lydia Tar, will only instill fear and disrespect.
Two female conductors I highly respect and admire are Marin Alsop and JoAnn Falletta. I have no doubt they were horrified if they watched the film, TAR. The primary symphony used in the movie is Gustav Mahler's #5, a challenging work by all accounts. We see Cate Blanchett's portrayal of Lydia Tar as a tyrant, with temper tantrums reminiscent of those displayed by the late Arturo Toscanini. Her berating of conducting students in a master class was beyond the pale. Her method of choosing a cellist for Elgar's Cello Concerto (made famous by the late Jacqueline Dupree) was also contrived and would be inexcusable in a real-life setting.
There is much more I could say about TAR. If you simply watch it for its intent, which is a study of musical power gone wrong, you might agree with me that Cate Blanchett is deserving of an Oscar nomination. It is simply important to keep in mind that a conductor such as Lydia Tar would be immediately dismissed by an orchestra's board of directors. My deep admiration continues for Marin Also and JoAnn Falletta for being perfect role models for women who aspire toward careers on the conducting podium.

Tuesday, November 08, 2022

Perhaps My Final Political Commentary

I won't be making any political comments after election results are finalized. My hope is that younger generations will build a better future for themselves, beginning with preparations for 2024. This does not mean becoming Trumpers and tearing down all the democratic values our country stood for before he entered the political stage. It rather means ensuring that our country returns to its reputation as a beacon of hope for those who worry that our good standing in the world is slipping away.

I am somewhat comforted by the fact that the far-right represents only perhaps one-third of the GOP. Hopefully, the other two-thirds won't engage themselves in supporting revenge tactics being planned the far-right, such as impeaching Democrats, investigating the current Congressional January 6 Committee, and overturning election results they don't like.
I am finding that I want to enjoy whatever time I have left in this world. The political climate has become too toxic for me to continue offering rational views in the face of political darkness. I therefore look forward to returning to topics on social media that bring me joy, especially the performing arts. I leave the political commentary in the hands of younger generations who will hopefully choose good values and common sense over tyranny.

Monday, July 04, 2022

A Reflection on Independence Day, 2022

 As we celebrate Independence Day, it is not unreasonable to question whether or not our independence is being eroded. Would our founding fathers be pleased with our republic today? Most likely NOT.

I watched some Sunday talk shows yesterday, because of what is occurring politically, economically, and socially in the United States, in addition to world affairs we are currently engaged in. Much of yesterday's panel discussions eventually turned to the 2024 presidential election, because that could prove to be a consequential year for the future of our country.
Liz Cheney was interviewed on ABC yesterday morning. I continue to admire her courage for exposing Donald Trump for who is really is, and she rightly believes he should never be allowed to run for public office again. In fact, she hasn't ruled out running in the Republican presidential primary in 2024, even though radical wings of the GOP are attempting to punish her for her role in the January 6 investigative committee.
On the Democratic side of the aisle, as discussed on NBC's Meet The Press yesterday, there is hope within party ranks that Joe Biden will announce ahead of this year's midterm elections that he is not running in 2024. He is being blamed by most in our country for the current state of the economy, even though presidents have very little to do with prices at the gas pump or at grocery stores.
As I have stated previously, if Democrats hope to be successful in the midterms and in 2024, they must put forth an energetic presidential candidate with solid ideas for fixing what currently ails our divided country. If Joe Biden does make an announcement prior to the midterms that he is not running for reelection in 2024, it will give prospective primary candidates plenty of time to assemble their platforms and raise funds for their campaigns. I am convinced Biden would not win in 2024, even if there were to be a rematch with himself and Donald Trump. Hopefully, the mainstream GOP will come up with someone other than Trump, whether he decides to run again or not. (It is interesting that recent polling in New Hampshire placed Ron DeSantis ahead of Trump.)
In conclusion, today's celebration of our independence is competing with disturbing developments in our country. What happens this November and in 2024 will have a huge impact on whether or not we will survive as the republic envisioned by our founding fathers.

Monday, June 27, 2022

A Reflection On The Supreme Court's Decision

 As I reflected on last Friday's Supreme Court decision, I thought about the year I was one of the website moderators for a national organization called 'Catholics for Kerry.' At the time, John Kerry, a Catholic, was running for the presidency. His critics often referred to him as being "pro-abortion." I repeatedly stated at the time there is a distinct difference between pro-abortion and pro-choice. (Kerry was pro-choice, as am I.) I don't personally know anyone who can properly be referred to as pro-abortion. The whole matter is rather about allowing a woman to have a choice, and I am 100% for that.

I don't know where the Supreme Court is headed next. Clarence Thomas suggested the court could tackle such issues as contraception and same-sex marriage. Hopefully, the justices will leave these matters alone. Enough damage was done last Friday, which now permits individual states to administer draconian laws that in some cases won't even allow abortions in cases of rape or incest.
In the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church, I can most likely be labeled a sinner, because I am pro-choice, I support the use of birth control, and I was ordained a married priest in 2006 by a married archbishop. In addition, amongst the more than 100 marriages for which I was the officiant, there were a few same-sex couples.
I continue to hope our country becomes more inclusive, and this includes religious institutions. Sadly, the U.S. is currently being looked upon as a divided nation. As Abraham Lincoln correctly stated, "a house divided cannot stand."

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

A Current Dilemma Concerning The Performing Arts

Performing arts organizations are facing tough decisions when it comes to Russian conductors, soloists, composers, etc. I personally don't feel their performances should be canceled in the U.S., unless they are openly supporting Vladimir Putin's actions in Ukraine. I have noticed that a few symphony orchestras have canceled or postponed the appearances of Russian guest conductors. The latest such decision was made by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.

My sense is that if Russian performers were allowed to speak openly, most would condemn Putin's actions. They are often placed in difficult situations when they travel, especially when they leave family members behind. When I was an Eastman student in the 1960's, famous composer and conductor Khachaturian came to the school for a week to work with students. He was accompanied by Soviet security, which prevented him from either defecting or speaking politically. When Dmitri Shostakovich composed, he was under extreme pressure concerning the type of music he could write, but managed to articulate freedom of expression whenever possible. Peter Tchaikovsky's lifestyle could have ended up with his exile in Siberia. However, Russian bureaucrats turned a blind eye, knowing how popular his music was around the world.
This is not the first time that the performing arts has found itself in difficult circumstances. I was thinking back to the life of my favorite composer, Gustav Mahler. For many years, his music was banned in Germany and Austria, for the simple reason he had Jewish origins. He converted to Catholicism, thinking it might ease his situation. However, Germany and Austria did not relent. He eventually came to the U.S., where he became the music director of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra for several years and his compositions experienced a resurrection under the influence of Leonard Bernstein.
I continue to pray for the good people of Ukraine, and for Russians who would prefer not to be under the autocratic rule of Vladimir Putin. In the meantime, I hope the healing quality of music is allowed to thrive. Difficult decisions will continue to be made by performing arts organizations. However, I believe art must always transcend politics.