Jacques Singer

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Jacques Singer (né Jakob Singer; 9 May 1910 Przemyśl, Poland – 11 August 1980 Manhattan, New York) was an American conductor.[1][2][3][4]

Career highlights[edit]

Music education[edit]

Singer was born in Przemyśl, Poland, trained in the violin from an early age, and began to give concerts in Poland at age seven. In 1920, his family moved to the U.S, settling in Jersey City.[4] In 1925 Jacques made his American debut with a recital at The Town Hall, New York. He attended on a scholarship the Curtis Institute of Music in 1926, where he studied with Carl Flesch. He began attending the Juilliard School in 1927, studying with Leopold Auer, Paul Kochanski and Rubin Goldmark, and graduating in 1930. He became a naturalized citizen in 1931.

Philadelphia Orchestra[edit]

While at Juilliard, he became a violinist with the Philadelphia Orchestra at age eighteen, their youngest member at the time. Leopold Stokowski took an interest in him and requested he conduct a contemporary piece at one of the rehearsals in 1935. From watching Stokowski, he picked up several of the maestro’s practices: conducting without baton (or score at times), making instructional comments to an audience, and stopping performances during disturbances. These he employed as conductor of the orchestra’s youth orchestra in 1936.

Dallas Symphony[edit]

On a recommendation from Stokowski, Singer made his conducting debut with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra on February 1, 1938. He remained with that orchestra 1938-1942. Audience reaction to his style and personality was positive, and the symphony budget doubled and subscriptions tripled. While there he became engaged in a feud with critic John Rosenfield (né Max John Rosenfield, Jr.; 1900–1966) of The Dallas Morning News. Rosenfield lauded Singer early on, but soon turned against him. Singer became angry enough to print handbills and make speeches defending himself during concert intermissions.

World War II[edit]

By the 1942–43 season, most of the Dallas Symphony's musicians were enlisted in the armed services. During World War II Singer served as a private in the U.S. Army. He saw active service and received three battle stars for New Guinea, Bataan, and Corregidor. He also conducted army band concerts, including the first concert given after the liberation of Corregidor.

New Orleans Summer Concerts[edit]

In 1946, he conducted 28 concerts in eight weeks for the New Orleans Summer Concerts.

Vancouver Symphony[edit]

A guest conducting engagement with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra led to his appointment as a conductor of that orchestra in 1947–1951. Singer resigned from the symphony over a disagreement with the board over the $19,000 budget deficit (the board wanted a shortened season). Singer next organized a rival orchestra, the British Columbia Philharmonic. At the first concert, Victoria Symphony Orchestra’s conductor Hans Gruber called the orchestra unprepared and the chorus incompetent, referring to a performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9. The Vancouver Sun's music critic thought the same performance was “precise, glowing, alive”.

Broadway[edit]

On Broadway in 1952 he conducted performances of Shakespeare's Anthony and Cleopatra and Bernard Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra starring Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh.

Israel[edit]

In 1952 he guest conducted the Israel Philharmonic, the Jerusalem Radio Orchestra, and the Haifa Symphony. This included the first concert in Nazareth for the Haifa Symphony.

Corpus Christi Symphony and guest conducting[edit]

He led his first concert for the Corpus Christi Symphony Orchestra on October 18, 1954, and served as conductor there from 1955 to 1962. He worked with the Buenos Aires Philharmonic at this time, being called a “miracle worker” there for his reorganization of the orchestra. Singer also led his first concerts with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in 1962.

Oregon Symphony[edit]

Singer’s first performance (as a guest conductor) with his next regional orchestra, the Oregon Symphony (then the Portland Symphony Orchestra) in February 1962 was a success. "Never has the orchestra been more responsive to a baton” was the review in the Oregon Journal. Singer had signed on with Corpus Christi for an additional three years when he was hired as the permanent conductor and music director of the Oregon Symphony in April 1962. He served there 1962–1972. In his first season (1962–1963), the orchestra performed 47 weeks of concerts – the second most by an orchestra of its size in the United States. Jacques Singer changed the scope of the orchestra, and the name, from the Portland Symphony to the Oregon Symphony.

Early in his tenure, Singer requested the concertmaster’s violin to demonstrate a passage. Tubaist John Richards recounted the incident: "He tucked it under his chin and played four or five bars to show what he wanted. The rest of the string section sat openmouthed at how well he could play." Singer had been a violin soloist and also a violinist in the Philadelphia Orchestra at fourteen years old under Stokowski.

Singer proved to be a temperamental conductor there as recounted by a violinist in The Oregonian. In rehearsal one day, Singer told the tubaist John Richards, "I can't hear you". On the next run-through, Richards blasted the note louder. "Still can't hear you", said Singer. The next time, Richards blew the tuba with both lungs. "I still can't hear you" said Singer. Richards was getting angry by now, but Singer chose this moment to tie a white handkerchief onto his baton with which he waved a flag of surrender.

Singer ultimately left the orchestra he had built over a controversy that divided the organization. His attempt to bring in a new concertmaster led to a stand-off between the union and the artistic freedom of a conductor. The concert-master that Singer wanted replaced actually was dismissed the following year, and a new concertmaster was hired, but Singer also left the orchestra over this (board of directors, union versus artistic freedom) dispute. Singer believed in artistry over rules and regulations. Quality ruled his artistic domain.[citation needed]

American Symphony Orchestra[edit]

Singer moved to New York next, where he conducted the American Symphony Orchestra and conducted several of the Naumburg Orchestral Concerts in Central Park between 1974 and 1979.

Northern Illinois University[edit]

Singer became an artist in residence at Northern Illinois University 1977–1980 and he conducted the Northern Illinois Philharmonic (his wife, Leslie, an accomplished pianist, joined the piano faculty). He also guest-conducted the Cosmopolitan Symphony, and he enjoyed encouraging young artists, and delighted in conducting a rehearsal or concert of the New York conservatories (Juilliard and Manhattan) students as well as some very talented high school musicians including his daughter Lori. Singer died in Manhattan, United States, aged 70.[5]

Family[edit]

Jacques Singer was one of three children born to Meyer Singer (né Mark Eli Singer; 1877–1922) and Rachella Rose Bach (maiden; 1881–1937). Meyer, Rachella, and their three children immigrated to the United States, arriving in the Port of New York November 4, 1920.

On January 28, 1946, Jacques married Leslie Wright (née Leslie Tom Wright; born 1924). Wright is a piano virtuoso and pedagogue who, in the early 1940s, studied at the University of North Texas College of Music with Silvio Scionti and in the latter 1940s, in New York with Sidney Foster (1917–1977). Foster was a friend of Jacques who, in 1939, married Jacques' sister, Bessie (née Bronja Singer; born 1918), also a pianist, and later, longtime music professor at Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music.[6]

Jacques and Leslie had four children: Claude, Marc, Lori, and Gregory. Lori and Gregory are twins. Marc is an actor, Lori is an actress — best known as Julie Miller, the cellist in the television series Fame. Claude is a brand strategist in New York City. Gregory — a Juilliard graduate — is a prolific violinist, conductor, and pedagogue. Gregory is the music director of the Manhattan Symphonie, which he founded in 2005. He also owns a fine violin shop on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Jacques Singer's nephew once removed, Bryan, is a film producer/director. His paternal grandfather, Solomon Singer (1892–1970), Jacques' uncle, was a concert violinist. Jacques and Leslie had a fifth child, a son, who died at birth in Dallas, April 1, 1950.

Awards[edit]

Cultural offices
Preceded by
Paul van Katwijk
Music Director, Dallas Symphony Orchestra
1937–1942
Succeeded by
Antal Doráti
Preceded by
Allard de Ridder
Music Director, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
1947–1951
Succeeded by
Irwin Hoffman
Preceded by
C. Burdette Wolfe
Corpus Christi Symphony Orchestra
1954–1962
Succeeded by
Maurice Peress
Preceded by
Piero Bellugi
Music Director, Oregon Symphony Orchestra
1962–1972
Succeeded by
Lawrence Leighton Smith



References[edit]

General references: books

General references: articles

  • "The Press: Mr. Culture", Time, December 4, 1950
  • "U.S. Conductor Praised", New York Times, June 24, 1958
  • "Singer All the Way in Monday Concert", by Martin Clark, Oregon Journal, February 20, 1962
  • "Singer Gets Unconditional Release from Texas Symphony to Assume Portland Position", The Oregonian, April 13, 1962, pg. 21
  • Portland Symphony Program, February 28, 1966; OCLC 29204931
  • "Symphony Conductor Singer Fired", Oregon Journal, December 17, 1971, pg. 1
  • "Sour Note", by Herbert Lundy, The Oregonian, October 30, 1971
  • "Parting Notes", David Stabler, The Oregonian, June 9, 1999 page C1.
  • "Making 'Good Music': The Oregon Symphony and Music Director Jacques Singer, 1962-1971," by Genevieve J. Long (born 1970), Oregon Historical Quarterly, Vol. 109, No. 1 (Spring 2008) (includes numerous photographs); ISSN 0030-4727
  • Social Security Death Index (as a reference for DOB)

Inline citations

  1. ^ Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Macmillan; Schirmer
       7th ed, Slonimsky (ed.) (1984); OCLC 10574930
  2. ^ Biography Index, H.W. Wilson Co.; ISSN 0006-3053
       Vol. 1: Jan. 1946–Jul. 1949 (1949)
       Vol. 2: Aug. 1949–Aug. 1952 (1953)
       Vol. 4: Sep. 1955–Aug. 1958 (1960)
       Vol. 6: Sep. 1961–Aug. 1964 (1965)
       Vol. 12: Sep. 1979–Aug. 1982 (1983)
  3. ^ Who Was Who in America: 1967–1989 (Singer is in Vol. 7 of 10), Marquis Who's Who (1989); OCLC 768804327
       Note:  DOB given is 9 May 1917
  4. ^ a b Who's Who in America (Singer is in Vol. 2 of 2), Marquis Who's Who; ISSN 0083-9396
       38th ed., 1974–1975 (1974); OCLC 11885312
       39th ed., 1976–1977 (1976); OCLC 23953086
       40th ed., 1978–1979 (1978); OCLC 4199915
       41st ed., 1980–1981 (1980); OCLC 476716124
  5. ^ The New York Times Biographical Service, Vol. 11, Numbers 1–12, Ann Arbor: Arno Press (1980); ISSN 0161-2433
       "Jacques Singer Dies, Led Orchestras in the West" New York Times, August 12, 1980.
  6. ^ An Intimate Portrait of Sidney Foster: Pianist ... Mentor, by Imelda Delgado, Hamilton Books (2013), pg. 138; OCLC 795177888