Shoot the Conductor: Too Close to Monteux, Szell, and Ormandy

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

One of the pure joys in life is music - listening, playing...and conducting? Yes! As you have seen, experienced (who doesn't conduct in the car?), and loved (at your local symphony orchestra), music gets into your blood, and you can't help but let it out.

However much I've conducted at home, it's nothing compared to real conductors, of course. I'm in awe every time I hear great music, live. And I have to tell you, I have recently discovered the BEST book about conducting. It taught me, through memoir, so much about music, conducting, and living your dream. Shoot the Conductor: Too close to Monteux, Szell, and Ormandy, written by conductor, concertmaster, and music educator Anshel Brusilow with Robin Underdahl, is the single most important book about music you can read.

Shoot the Conductor - an interview with Anshel Brusilow to learn the backstory of his book, inspiration, music education, and more


Because not only does it share important musical history, but it teaches about music - deeply, feelingly, to the soul. As a casual musician, I thought I knew a lot. Now I realize that there's a whole different level to music understanding and appreciation, and so much more going on behind the scenes. This book is also a call, in an oblique way, to support music, musicians, and groups with your attendance, listening, and teaching your kids to listen. 

I love this book, I love reading of his life, and I loved learning about such an important' man's life in music.

Highly recommended!

We were lucky enough to catch up with Anshel Brusilow to learn the backstory of his book, inspiration, music education, and more. Here's what he had to say... 

An interview with Anshel Brusilow to learn the backstory of his book, inspiration, music education, and more

Please tell us about your book, Shoot the Conductor...

This is my memoir. It is my life as I remember it. Most importantly, it is my close relationships with those three illustrious conductors among many other world class musicians and orchestras. I have been wanting to write this book for the longest time. It was not until one of my dearest former students introduced me to Robin Underdahl that I felt I had my coauthor. 

What inspired you to write this book?

There is no doubt that I have had a very interesting life, and I thought it might be worth while putting it to the page. Little did I know, the book would garner so much interest that it is now in its second printing.

You've been a concertmaster, conductor, and educator in your long musical career - what was your favorite (or favorite parts of each)?

I loved every moment in my career as concert violinist, concertmaster, and conductor. It is explained rather succinctly in my book and to some extent in the title of the book. I said some things that I felt needed to be said but I said them to the wrong people. I spoke freely to my students about this. You learn from experience!

When you moved into music education, what were the most important things outside of the classroom you could teach students?

When I became a full time professor, I wanted all my students to understand that the conductor is a teacher. Hence the title Maestro or Maitre in French. It requires not only great patience but respect from all the players in the orchestra. I taught my students what it takes to handle a board of directors as well as to help raise money. And to make programs that the audience would like and appreciate. Those are but a few of the things that can be explained to young conductors.

With all the cuts to music education in K-12, what can musicians, conductors, and symphonies/orchestras do to educate the public about classical music? What is the educator's role in this?

I believe that parents must take a special part in educating their children to love and enjoy classical music. This is the greatest music ever written. Play the classics in the home as much as possible, take them to orchestra concerts, and let them take lessons with an instrument of their choosing. For me, I plan to move on and enjoy my retirement. 



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All photos courtesy and copyright Anshel Brusilow


Note: We received a review copy of this book from the publisher, University of North Texas Press. Thank you!