Taking the lead: Gustav Meier, world-renowned conductor comes to Westport
Classical music aficionados paid homage to a renowned conductor and teacher Maestro Gustav Meier at Steinway & Sons by celebrating the release of his recently published book, The Score, the Orchestra and the Conductor.
Applauding Meier's contributions to the international world of music, local audiences have had a unique opportunity to enjoy his stellar conducting and musical leadership on stage with the Greater Bridgeport Symphony orchestra for the past 38 seasons.
With great humility and humor, though, Meier described his career as a series of serendipitous experiences. Although he played piano and trumpet, Meier didn't feel that he could sustain a professional career as a performer. "I had fast fingers but I didn't work hard," he noted.
And, because he didn't want to be a teacher, Meier studied conducting. He is now considered to be one of the most revered conductors and conducting teachers in the world.
His book, The Score, the Orchestra and the Conductor, which he started to plan nearly 50 years ago, encompasses all of the insights he has gleaned throughout his career.
Embarking upon his 39th season at the helm of the Greater Bridgeport Symphony orchestra, Meier greeted more than 75 people -- including Greater Bridgeport Symphony orchestra board members, patrons and music enthusiasts -- gathered at the Westport piano gallery to congratulate Meier and purchase a signed copy of his magnum opus.
During his opening comments, Meier candidly admitted that the book's first draft, written about 40 years ago, was repeatedly rejected by publishers. He said that he "put it away" and moved forward with his career. In fact, shortly after setting aside his manuscript, Meier received the offer to direct the Greater Bridgeport Symphony orchestra.
Laughter ensued when he proceeded to recount how the job was rescinded as soon as Jose Iturbi, another accomplished conductor, agreed to step in.
Three years later, Meier was, again, asked to take over as Greater Bridgeport Symphony orchestra's music director.
All the while, Meier continued to add to the manuscript that would eventually become, The Score, the Orchestra and the Conductor.
Five years ago, a literary agent submitted it to publishers and, within two months, he said, two reputable publishers made offers.
Phyllis Boros, an arts writer for the Connecticut Post and Hearst Media, offered some introductory remarks Sunday afternoon. Referring to her good friend as a man who is "passionate for his craft, passionate for his conducting and passionate for his teaching."
Boros shared a personal anecdote about how he positively affected her own career choice.
"I met Gustav Meier when I was 23 and this man changed my life," she said.
While interviewing him at the Bridgeport Holiday Inn years ago, Boros realized that she needed to follow her own passions and dreams. "I thank you for that," she said from the podium Sunday afternoon. "I thank you for the passion you have conveyed to me and to all of those in this room."
Dr. John Michniewicz, director of Academic Music Programs at Sacred Heart University, has gotten to know Meier through his work on stage and also as a member of the Greater Bridgeport Symphony orchestra's music committee.
"He is a very interesting conductor," Michniewicz said. "We are fortunate to have such a world-recognized musician within our community."
Steinway & Sons Manager Barbara Bennett Oligino was pleased to host the book signing reception.
"It's an honor for us to be able to honor Gustav Meier," Oligino said. "I spoke to many people who had so many wonderful things to say about him. Maestro Meier is truly loved and respected, though, not only as a conductor and teacher but also as a human being and a friend."
"That was the beginning of my book," Meier said. "Each year I learned something new from my students. When you teach, you really have to know what you are doing."
Meier began studying the piano and trumpet as a child growing up in Switzerland.