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May 07, 2009 - Image 69

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2009-05-07

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Arts & Entertainment

Dor Lifflor

Music traverses the generations for conductor-pianist Lee Musiker,
who'll lead the DSO in concert with famed Broadway diva Barbara Cook.

P hoto by Den is e Winters

Suzanne Chessler
Special to the Jewish News


ee Musiker has quite a core career
as music director and pianist for
two legendary singing stars: Tony
Bennett and Barbara Cook.
The first brought him to Detroit some
weeks ago for rousing shows at the
Motor City Casino. The second is return-
ing him to Detroit for a more elaborate
performance with the Detroit Symphony
Musiker will be at the Orchestra Hall
podium and piano Saturday evening, May
9, as Cook dramatizes the Broadway hits
of Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein,
Richard Rodgers, Irving Berlin and the
Cook, enjoying more than 50 years as a
critically acclaimed musical theater artist,
won a Tony Award for playing Marian the
Librarian in the original Broadway cast of
The Music Man.
"One of my conducting heroes and good
friends is Leonard Slatkin so I'm espe-
cially glad to appear with the DSO know-
ing he's musical director," says Musiker,
52, who also led the orchestra with singer
Maureen McGovern as soloist in the 1990s.
"Barbara and I put this concert together
for the New York Philharmonic, and I did
a number of the orchestrations, including
the ones for 'Lucky to Be Me' and 'Smile!
The program also will feature 'It Might As
Well Be Spring,"Wonderful Guy, `Where Or
When,"Lost in His Arms' and 'No One Is
"Barbara is a world-class performer and
completely connects with the music. She's
not on stage simply singing. She's a great
actress. Whether the songs are of love lost
or love found, she's totally there.
"Besides delivering great, deep readings
of emotional musical material, she really
Musiker learned a lot about swinging
from his family. He descends from a long
line of klezmer musicians, starting in
Europe, where the family name derived
from the profession, and continuing in the
United States, where talents were brought
to stages, recording studios and class-
"My grandfather and his uncles were
town musicians in Russia," explains
Musiker, who defines his religious obser-
vance as Conservative and reveals that his

Barbara Cook will perform the songs of many of
Broadway's most beloved Jewish composers.

Lee Musiker on Barbara Cook: "Besides delivering great, deep
readings of emotional musical material, she really swings."

daughter, Rachel, was a yeshiva student
through ninth grade.
"My father, Ray, is a klezmer clarinetist
and a retired high-school music teacher.
My dad's late brother, Sam, also was a
klezmer clarinetist, who played in the
Gene Krupa Band. Sam's father-in-law was
Dave Tarras, another clarinetist. All three
are featured on the album Tanz (Dance).
"In addition to all that, my mother, Julie,
is a musician, vocalist and retired music
Ray Musiker, also a pianist, was Lee's
first teacher.
"I graduated from the Manhattan
School of Music with a bachelor's degree
in music theory, and then I graduated
from the Eastman School of Music with a
master's in jazz composition and perfor-
mance," says the Steinway artist, whose
professional attention reaches from the
classics, moves through Broadway shows
and film music and winds into standards
and jazz.
"I did further studies at Juilliard and

worked with the Buddy Rich Band and
Mel Torme. I connected to Jerry Lewis
through Maureen McGovern and have
done the conducting for the muscular
dystrophy telethon since 1999. When I see
all the challenged children, it opens up my
heart, makes me more human and empa-
thetic and allows me to practice gratitude."
Musiker has conducted some 50
symphony orchestras, including the
Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the
National Symphony Orchestra. As pianist,
he has performed with the New York
Philharmonic, the New York City Ballet
and the American Ballet Theatre.
An Emmy Award winner as co-com-
poser of music for the TV series The
Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, Musiker
has worked on many TV specials, such
as Great Performers: Live at Lincoln
Center and Ira Gershwin at 100 from
Carnegie Hall. His instrumental talents
can be heard on soundtracks of the hit
films Sleepless in Seattle, Crimes and
Misdemeanors and The Juror.

Besides performing in the orchestras
of many Broadway shows (Beauty and the
Beast, Cats, Chicago and Crazy for You),
he has discography credits that offer cast
recordings of City of Angels, The Goodbye
Girl and The Civil War.
Musiker, happy to enjoy his favorite eth-
nic food (chocolate-covered egg matzah)
during the recent Passover holiday, looks
for quiet time, healing arts studies and
travel when he takes some leisure days.
An important new project is writing an
arrangement for violinist Joshua Bell and
singer-actress Kristin Chenoweth for an
upcoming recording.
"There never was a point that I thought
of doing anything else but working in the
field of music': Musiker says. "I believe a
gift was given to me genetically and envi-
ronmentally; and at every point, I feel I
must be responsible to that gift.
"When Barbara and I perform with the
symphony, we will include many beautiful
orchestrations. We like to highlight orches-
tras to support the arts in the area and
each other. Supporting the arts, orchestras
and music education is crucial to keep the
culture going."

Lee Musiker conducts the Detroit
Symphony Orchestra and plays
piano for Barbara Cook 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 9, at the Max M.
Fisher Music Center in Detroit. $25-
$75. (313) 576-5111.

May 7 m 2009


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