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Glendale Symphony Looking for Maestro

August 11, 1985|LARRY GORDON | Times Staff Writer

After the loss of two musical advisers in two years, the Glendale Symphony Orchestra will have four big-name musicians as guest conductors during the 1985-86 season instead of a permanent new leader at the podium.

However, symphony officials say that the guest conductors--Lalo Schifrin, Henry Mancini, Anshel Brusilow and John Williams--are all under consideration to become musical adviser and permanent conductor the following season.

"A ship does need a rudder," said Harlan Huebner, president of the Glendale Symphony Orchestra Assn. "But we checked with enough people to find out that one season with guest conductors will not be detrimental to the orchestra as a whole."

The symphony still feels the loss of Carmen Dragon, its leader for 19 years until his death in 1984, musicians and board members say. His successor, Daniel Lewis, lasted one year in the job and left after he reportedly failed to persuade the symphony board to switch from the orchestra's traditional fare of light classics and pops to more contemporary and what Huebner called "heavier" classical music.

TV, Movie Composers

The orchestra board and musicians are hoping that any lingering bad publicity from Lewis' departure will be overcome by this season's lineup of nationally known conductors, three of whom--Schifrin, Mancini and Williams--are extremely popular composers of movie and television music.

"I think this is a step in the right direction. I think the audiences will like it," Sheridon Stokes, the orchestra's first-chair flutist, said of the upcoming season of seven evenings at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles. He said that having four conductors, each choosing music, will lend an unusual degree of variety. "It's almost as if each conductor is trying to outdo each other," he said.

'One Wonderful Person'

Shirley Seeley, a volunteer who is full-time administrator of the symphony, said the board hopes to choose a new musical adviser by spring. She said that 55 people have sent in resumes and that the board has talked to several others.

"We are looking for that one wonderful person who wants to conduct an orchestra of our size and can get that special ignition with the audience going," she said. "We are looking for another successful marriage."

The symphony is widely considered to be Glendale's most important cultural and social organization. Its board and auxiliary groups are strongly supported by Glendale's wealthy business community. It was founded 62 years ago as a partly amateur group and is now made up of professional free-lance musicians, many of whom make their living playing at movie and television studios.

Musicians and some board members said they thought it unlikely that Mancini or Williams would enter into a long-term relationship with the symphony because their fees are so high and they have so many other commitments.

Boston Pops Conductor

Williams is conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra and has won four Oscars and 15 Grammies for his scores for such films as "Jaws," "Star Wars" and "E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial."

Mancini, who composed such hit movie themes as "Moon River" and "Days of Wine and Roses," has won four Oscars and 20 Grammies, and guest-conducts around the country.

For Glendale, both men are expected to conduct pops concerts featuring their own music. Mancini is scheduled for Nov. 23, and Williams for April 12.

Symphony members said it appeared more likely that Schifrin or Brusilow might be chosen as musical adviser.

The Argentine-born Schifrin has won four Grammies and is known for his scores for the "Mission: Impossible" TV series and such films as "Cool Hand Luke" and "The Competition." He has also composed concert pieces, including Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra, which was premiered by Angel Romero and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra last year at the Hollywood Bowl.

Schifrin has guest-conducted widely and is now music director of the Young Musicians Foundation Orchestra in Los Angeles.

Met With Board

In a telephone interview from his Beverly Hills home, Schifrin said recently that he enjoyed meeting with the Glendale Symphony board earlier this year. "They question everything," he said. "I don't mind that. I like that. It helps me to understand their problems."

Schifrin said he has worked with many of the Glendale Symphony players at movie studios and is impressed with the orchestra's healthy finances.

Symphony officials say that 41% of last year's budget was met by ticket sales--considered unusually high in an era of enormous deficits by performing-arts companies. The rest of the nearly $420,000 budget was met by donations, government grants and funds from the association's investments.

Brusilow said in a telephone interview from Dallas, where he is director of orchestral activities at Southern Methodist University, that he was interested in becoming Glendale's conductor.

Happy With Pops

A former concert violinist and concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Brusilow said he would be happy to stick with the symphony's mixture of pops and familiar classics, which he said was similar to that of the Dallas Symphony. But he said it would be difficult for anyone to replace Dragon, who was beloved by many subscribers.

"That's something only time could heal," he said. "It's like when someone has a new wife and the children still relate to the old one."

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