Renowned musicians and conductors offer their impressions of departing Seattle Symphony music director Gerard Schwarz.

Share story

Musicians and conductors offer their thoughts about departing Seattle Symphony music director Gerard Schwarz:

• Leonard Slatkin, conductor:

“During Jerry’s years at Juilliard, none of us had any idea that he harbored even a passing interest in conducting. He was always meant to be the principal trumpet of the New York Philharmonic. Sure enough, that is where he was when I made my debut conducting the orchestra. At that time, the orchestra had a reputation for being very rough on conductors. They tested me at the first rehearsal and I had no idea what was going on. At intermission, Jerry came up to the dressing room and said that I had passed. When I asked him why they did this, he said, ‘We do it to everyone. Most don’t do as well as you.’ “

• Dmitry Sitkovetsky, violinist and conductor:

This week, save 90% on digital access.

“I met Jerry in September 1977 just a few weeks after I arrived in New York as an émigré from Soviet Russia. We became instant friends and I performed with him countless times everywhere he’d become a music director …

“We have many funny stories together, but perhaps Jerry’s favorite is this one: In October 1978, I went to the office of Jacques Leiser, very successful artists’ manager of the ’70 and ’80s. Just as I was coming in, I saw Jerry coming out from a meeting with Leiser, who just played him a live recording by a Russian pianist. Jerry asked me: ‘Do you know this Russian pianist? She just emigrated and is on her way to the U.S. in a couple of months, and Jacques asked me to give her a New York orchestral debut; she sounds PHENOMENAL, but I have never heard her name before: Bella Davidovich, do you know her?’ I answered: ‘Do I know her? She is my mother!’

“Jerry laughed, didn’t believe me for a second and walked out thinking that I was joking as usual. The next day he saw me at Juilliard and asked again — and my answer was the same: She is a great pianist — but she is also my mother. It went on like this for a couple of weeks until I finally said: Jerry, read my lips — she IS my mother!

“He did engage Bella Davidovich for her New York orchestral debut, and they became dear friends ever since she arrived in New York in December 1978.

“In my opinion, Jerry’s incredible loyalty and devotion to his artist-friends is absolutely extraordinary, and his infectious enthusiasm for music and incredible energy makes me look forward to the next chapter of his life.”

• Pinchas Zukerman, violist, violinist and conductor:

“Jerry and I first met as teenagers at Juilliard, where we played in the orchestra together, and took an instant liking to one another. Over the years our musical lives have intersected many times, at the New York Philharmonic, Mostly Mozart Festival and most recently at the Seattle Symphony. I congratulate him on his tenure there and wish him the best of luck as one chapter ends and another begins.”

• Itzhak Perlman, violinist:

“Making music with Jerry has always brought me great joy from the time that he first started conducting in New York and throughout his tenure in Seattle. Making music with someone you respect is always great, but when that person happens to be a good friend it is even more pleasurable. I wish him the best for the future and I am looking forward to many more musical experiences together.”

• Vladimir Feltsman, pianist:

“I have worked with Jerry Schwarz for 24 years and counting — he was the very first American conductor I played with in 1987. Since that time we’ve played together often, and every time it is a pleasure and a treat. His energy and enthusiasm for music is contagious and his outstanding skills as a partner help any given soloist to feel safe and taken care of. He always was a great colleague and a friend to so many of us and I am grateful to Jerry for many years of music-making and friendship. His impact on the musical life of Seattle is monumental and can’t be overestimated. Without him, Seattle Symphony and the city of Seattle simply would not be what it is today. Dear Jerry, I am looking forward to many more years of working with you and wish you and your wonderful family good health, success and cheerful spirits. Bravo, Maestro, well done!”

Compiled by Seattle Symphony

Custom-curated news highlights, delivered weekday mornings.