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e-Briefing | Celebrity Setup

Musician's Instruments

July 26, 2001

L.A. Master Chorale conductor Grant Gershon is an avid Mac user who's always connected.

Grant Gershon will assume his place among the triumvirate of young music directors at the Music Center this fall when he takes the podium as lead conductor of the Los Angeles Master Chorale (the others being Esa-Pekka Salonen of the Philharmonic and Kent Nagano of the Opera).

Gershon, 40, grew up in Alhambra, where he is remembered as the only kid who carried around a score of Benjamin Britten's opera "Billy Budd" while in high school. He went on to win numerous awards at USC, tour as accompanist to Kiri Te Kanawa, premiere works by John Adams, and conduct major operas, chorale groups and ballet orchestras around the world.

His first season with the Chorale will begin Sept. 29 with a concert of music by Thomas Tallis, Anton Bruckner and Philip Glass.

Gershon will be living in Los Angeles with his wife, soprano Elissa Johnston, and their 2-year-old daughter, Claire.

DESKTOP: I'm an avid Mac user. I have a second-generation iMac. They are probably on the fourth or fifth generation by now, but I got it only about a year and a half ago. It was one of those things where you buy a computer 30 minutes before they announce the next version has come out.

I use it mainly for writing program notes and for when I have to give talks, and I have to say that my writing has improved exponentially since I started using a computer. It has given me the freedom to just jot down anything and then erase it if it doesn't work. I can't imagine writing anything without it; that would seem so prehistoric.

I also use Quicken and, of course, lots of e-mailing.

Q. No music uses?

I have a Korg synthesizer, but in truth I use it mainly just to goof around a bit. Sometimes I use it to work out some arranging.

Q. Do composers send you bits and pieces of new works by e-mail?

Not yet. But what John Adams did, quite a bit, was to program a piece into his gear at home to make a cassette or [digital audio tape] to send out. He did that for the theater piece "I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky" (inspired by the Northridge earthquake). I conducted as he wrote it. That was very, very useful.

LAPTOP: An iBook, one of the older toilet-seat models, and I love it. One of the things I most love about it is that it has a handle. When I am running around, I often have a lot of music scores and books in my briefcase. The idea that I can easily pick up the iBook with the other hand is really cool. I understand that in the upgrade of the iBook, they have eliminated the handle. I'll miss that. Memo to Steve Jobs: Bring the handle back!

Q. You are on the road a lot.

Right now we are living on the road. We're in escrow on our co-op apartment in New York and we have bought a house in Eagle Rock. So right now we are living out of suitcases. All of our stuff is in moving vans.

This week we're at the Aspen Music Festival, where I am conducting concerts. Then we go to Saratoga [in upstate New York] for more concerts.

Q. So you are doing a lot of e-mailing on the iBook?

It's essential in my line of work. I'm always working on the logistics of putting together concerts, programs and rehearsals, and of course travel too. For instance, on any given program with the Master Chorale, we have to figure out how many players we need for the orchestra and specifically what instruments are needed. Also, how many voices and how to fit rehearsals around the needs for the Philharmonic and Opera that share the same space. It gets very complicated. Whenever there are changes, we can communicate quickly by e-mail to make decisions.

Q. Why not just pick up the telephone?

That's so old-fashioned! Actually, the combination of e-mail and phone is powerful.

I also e-mail friends I've made around the world. Before I got into computers, I was a pretty crummy correspondent. It would take a lot for me to sit down with pen and paper and then a lot more for me to actually put it in an envelope and get it to the mailbox. It was really just awful.

HAND-HELD: I have a Handspring Visor that I bought a year ago when my laptop was on the fritz. I needed something and it's nice, but I don't use it all that much anymore. Just mostly for my address book.

BOOKMARKED SITES: When I am on the road I check the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times every day to keep abreast of the music scene. I sometimes also look at the London Times and the Guardian.

Q. No specific music sites?

I like to investigate what other classical music organizations are doing with their sites. At the Master Chorale, we are about to launch a new version of our Web site [http://www.lamc.org] with music clips and extensive program guides so that people can read about the music we will be performing before they come to a concert.

Q. Have you found sites that you think are particularly good?

The San Francisco Symphony has a very good site, very interactive.

FAVORITE TECH TOY: We have a digital video camera, and it's just great to be able to shoot video of our daughter and transfer it to the iBook. Now instead of just showing snapshots of my kid, I can show movies everywhere. It has made me a very obnoxious father.

HOME STEREO: It's a good system, but not a sky's-the-limit system. We have a nice set of KEF speakers. Of course, what we mostly listen to, now, through them is the life work of Burl Ives.

--As told to DAVID COLKER

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