Thanks for the memories

It’s been a privilege. I can truthfully say I have loved every minute of writing about the arts in Cincinnati for the Cincinnati Enquirer. I am thankful to you, the readers of both print and digital, the people who have called me, written letters, followed me on social media, come up to me at Music Hall to say hello or to talk about music, and who have taken my OLLI class, “Behind the Scenes in the Arts.”

It has been a wonderful, totally unexpected ride that became 26 years almost overnight.

From the first day that I walked into the newsroom, never having taken a journalism course, I was starstruck by the people who worked there. What talent and creativity! In those days, I filed a review right after the symphony concert on Friday nights, which meant I raced to my car behind Music Hall, tore Downtown to the Enquirer building while forming the opening lines in my head, and wrote on a deadline of 45 minutes with a copy desk editor barking, “Where’s that review?” Loved those late-night editors, who would fix my typos and write the headlines. The best one described a pianist, to be nameless here, who slogged through a bizarre performance of Rach 2: “(Pianist) phones it in — From Mars.” I was usually home by 2 a.m. and the review was in the morning paper.

With James Conlon and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and May Festival Chorus at Carnegie Hall, May 2014; photo provided by Spring for Music, Steve Sherman

But besides the reviews, I have loved writing stories about people. Sometimes I think that the whole artistic world has passed through Cincinnati. I’ve interviewed and met opera stars, violin legends, conductors, composers, crooners, rockers and movie stars. I couldn’t believe going backstage at the Met to interview Cincinnati’s own James Levine, who had pictures of his childhood home behind his desk. He knew everything happening in the Queen City. His mother, Helen, it turned out, had been sending him all of my clippings.

Then there was Rosemary Clooney. Driving down to Augusta, Kentucky, with photographer Craig Ruttle to spend time in her home was unforgettable. Later, John Kiesewetter, Jim Knippenberg and I covered her funeral. Yes, there were Hollywood stars. But more touching were the folks of Maysville who came out to bring their “girl singer” back home.

With rocker Peter Frampton in his studio at his Indian Hill home talking about his gig with the Pops.
With Rosemary Clooney and her husband, Dante DiPaolo

When Erich Kunzel died in 2009, I was proud that Reds announcer Marty Brennaman mentioned during the game the next day that The Enquirer had done a nice job on his obituary.  Early that morning, I was interviewed on NPR about the Cincinnati Pops maestro, and the force of nature that he was. And about a week later, I was on tour in Japan with the CSO.  On a day off at the mountainous shrine of Nikko, a man in my tour group said as we ate lunch, “Cincinnati. I heard you just lost a conductor there.” He’d heard my interview, 6,000 miles away.Read More »


Play of the day: Finding common ground in music and the NFL

Concert pianist Emanuel Ax with Bengals Assistant Head Coach Paul Alexander.
Concert pianist Emanuel Ax with Bengals Assistant Head Coach Paul Alexander.

I love this photo. Here is Emanuel “Manny” Ax, one of the great pianists of the world, who just performed Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (and played it like a god) standing with Cincinnati Bengals assistant head coach Paul Alexander, right after the Bengals’ win against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium today.

I bumped into Coach at the CSO concert in Cincy on Thursday. I’m not surprised he was there. Besides the Bengals (where he’s also offensive line coach) he’s a dedicated student of classical piano. That’s right. He has even performed in public and written a book: “Perform,” comparing lessons he has learned at the piano with motivation and skill on the field.

As  I wrote in my review, it was a joy to hear Ax “perform” so beautifully in the “Emperor.” I was also able to catch him last week for a few minutes for a brief conversation after he arrived in Cincinnati, and was surprised to learn that he gets nervous, just like the rest of us.

I would venture to say, after watching today’s Bengals win and that amazing US Open Final, that sports and music have more in common than meets the eye.