Reviewed by Lucy Manning
Maestros in America is a biographical collection of 107 living conductors either working or trained in the United States. Short biographical sketches are presented for each listing including the conductor’s birth, education, and commentaries based on secondary sources and observations. The authors limited the selections to the music directors of the top three tiers as published by The League of American Orchestras (LAO) as of January 2006. However the authors also selected American conductors with international appointments and international conductors serving as music directors in the United States. Some additional names were added to create a better gender balance as well as listing conductors of merit representing less wealthy orchestras.
The introduction includes a broad and informative narrative describing the career path of most conduc tors, the selection process of music directors, and the challenges facing music directors including: personnel, marketing, audience growth, programming, and financial issues. Each conductor’s entry ends with a helpful selected discography. Two quick-reference appendices are included: the first lists each con ductor’s date of birth and nationality, and the second lists the top three tier orchestras as identified by LAO with current (as of 2006) and past music directors.
When creating a book of lists, the main problem is deciding whom to include and exclude. Professionals in the field will question some of the names included or neglected in this list and the mercurial business of conductors deserving inclusion can change by the season. It might have been safer for the authors to just include the music directors of the orchestras listed by LAO.
This book will be of most interest to students considering conducting as a career as it provides a good overview of the job preparation, career path, and responsibilities involved once in that position. I also recommend this book to audience members interested in the behind-the-scenes activities of the orches tral and conductor’s world. They will be enlightened by the information provided and entertained by anecdotal commentaries within some of the biographies.
Lucy Manning is Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Orchestras at Old Dominion University.