More About the Author
As a kid growing up on Long Island, my dream was to play first base with the New York Yankees. For some reason, I never did receive a call from the Yankee brass, perhaps because I didn't hit for power. Instead, I have had a career spanning over three decades and five continents as a concert violinist. More recently, I've indulged myself in another of my childhood passions, reading mysteries, and have becoming an award-winning author of murder mysteries that take place in the classical music world. As they say in New York, "Who'da thunk it?"
Though I still have not given up on my major league hopes, it became necessary in the meantime to make a living, so the age of eight I started playing the violin, studying with an excellent Juilliard-trained teacher, Amadeo William Liva, who, with his family, became lifelong friends until his recent passing. In 1966 I began four years of lessons with Ivan Galamian (Mr. Liva accompanied me to all my lessons in Manhattan, stopping for doughnuts on 71st Street) until graduating Westbury High in 1970. While in public school I was concertmaster of the Long Island Youth Orchestra, conducted by Martin Dreiwitz. Not only was it a terrific orchestra, Mr. Dreiwitz, a professional travel agent, schlepped the orchestra on international tours every summer. What an experience to perform the Saint Saens "Havanaise" in St. Thomas, Bruch "Scottish Fantasy" in Australia, and Mozart "Symphony Concertante" in Aalborg, Denmark as a teenager! This no doubt accounts for my lifetime wanderlust. In 1969 I attended the Boston University Tanglewood Institute, beginning a relationship with Tanglewood that has lasted to this day. In the same year I was selected to participate in the very first New York String Orchestra Seminar, led by the inimitable Alexander Schneider. With soloists Isaac Stern and Jean Pierre Rampal, and with the quartet coaching of Mischa Schneider, this experience opened my eyes to a lofty new world of ensemble playing. This was the first and perhaps most memorable of the dozens of times I've performed at Carnegie Hall.
After two wonderful years at the Oberlin College Conservatory, where my teachers were David Cerone and Christopher Kimber, I transferred to Yale to study with then concertmaster of the Boston Symphony, Joseph Silverstein. During my college days I attended Norfolk Chamber Music Festival where I was coached by members of the Guarneri String Quartet and Claude Frank, the Sarasota Music Festival, and the Tanglewood Music Festival. I received a Bachelor of Arts degree (cum laude) from Yale College simultaneously with a Master of Music from the Yale University School of Music in 1975.
Still not having heard from Mr. Steinbrenner, I auditioned for and won a position with the Boston Symphony, joining that august ensemble at the age of twenty-three, and remained a member of the violin section for thirteen years. While there I also had the opportunity to perform as soloist with the Boston Pops under Arthur Fiedler and John Williams, was a member of the renowned Elias/Lefkowitz Violin Duo (or, as my partner recalls it, the Lefkowitz/Elias Violin Duo), and of the Andover Trio. I also had the honor to represent the BSO musicians in collective bargaining negotiations, forming long-standing relationships with members of management which have lasted to this day, a side benefit to achieving industry leading contracts.
In 1986-87, I took a sabbatical leave from the BSO and divided the year between Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, where I performed, taught, and conducted. My wife, Cecily, and I took our two children, Kate and Jacob, who were 28 months and 8 months old when we departed, and provided them with an early world view. Some of Jake's first solid food, in fact, was ground up sushi. Another part of the adventure was being called upon to conduct a fully staged performance of La Traviata at the Innisfail (Australia) Opera Festival on short notice. During one rehearsal, Kate, a three-year old, said to Cecily, "Oy oy oy, he can't conduct!" What can you expect from kids nowadays?
It was westward ho for my family in 1988, after I won the audition for Associate Concertmaster of the Utah Symphony. This was considered a bold and daring move by my BSO colleagues, as the Utah Symphony, though touting a highly respected artistic reputation, had a budget which palled in comparison to Boston's. Even my parents and siblings scratched their heads, but then again they had always tended to do that no matter what I did. When the orchestra went on strike the day after I arrived in Salt Lake City, I started scratching, too. On the other hand, my situation did have a few things going for it. The Music Director, Joseph Silverstein, one of the world's finest musicians, had been my teacher at Yale and colleague in the BSO, and my stand partner, Ralph Matson, had been my longtime friend ever since we had met and had been roommates and orchestra stand partners at both Oberlin and Yale!
As it turned out, the move to Utah was providential, offering performance, teaching, and eventually conducting opportunities that I wouldn't have had in Boston. I performed solos with the orchestra regularly, was invited to the faculty of the University of Utah in 1989, founded the Abramyan String Quartet in 1993, had several of my compositions receive their first performances, and became music director of the Vivaldi By Candlelight chamber music series in 2004. Many other positive things came my way as well, one of which was a re-connection with the BSO, where I now regularly play with the orchestra during the summer at Tanglewood. Another development has been the establishment of an ongoing relationship with music-making in South America. Since 2005 I've had the pleasure of conducting, performing, and teaching in Peru and Ecuador, and, with the help of a Fulbright grant in 2008, I was a guest professor of the National Conservatory in Lima.
In 1997 I took a second sabbatical leave, this one from the Utah Symphony, again with the whole family, this time to Italy. Kate and Jake were in their teens, and Cecily and I, advocates of the sink or swim philosophy of life, threw them into the local public school. They swam(!) ending the year speaking Italian fluently, though I'm not sure if they'll ever totally forgive us. Nevertheless, it was a great year of eating, drinking, and exploring the Umbrian countryside. But it wasn't all fun and games. I did a lot of composing, and significantly, I wrote my first book, Devil's Trill, named after the Tartini sonata with the same title. The ensuing years brought innumerable rewrites to Devil's Trill, but eventually I found an agent in Simon Lipskar at Writer's House and then my current agent, Josh Getzler now at the Hannikan Salky Getzler Agency in New York, and they ultimately found me a publisher, St. Martin's Press. Devil's Trill, a murder mystery which takes place in the classical music world (go figure!) was released in August, 2009, and was selected by Barnes and Noble for their Discover: Great New Writers catalog. It was followed a year later by Danse Macabre, that was named one of the top five mysteries of 2010 by Library Journal, and then Death and the Maiden in 2011. Stay tuned or Death and Transfiguration in 2012, and enjoy!