Remembering Conductor Karen Pinoci

Conducting colleague and fellow Monteux alum, Karen Pinoci, has died, prompting a heartfelt remembrance in a guest editorial in the New York Times this week by one of the musicians in her orchestra: The Perfect Soundtrack for My Grief.

I knew Karen well at the Pierre Monteux School in Maine in the 1980s, where we (and so many others) were forged in the crucible of the great conducting mentor, Charles Bruck. He rode us hard, always insisting on getting everything we could give, emotionally and musically. He was not easy on anyone.

Karen never became “famous,” except to her local constituency, and although she and I lost touch over the years, it is clear from this heartfelt tribute that she had absorbed the essence of Bruck’s lessons. She had learned that music was about so much more than just notes and rhythms—that its emotional power to heal, and comfort, and touch, and teach was possible to share without achieving technical perfection from her ensemble. (If that were not true, there would be no amateur orchestras, choruses or bands anywhere, instead of everywhere.) Karen had obviously honed her ability to project music’s power to players and audiences in ways that were keenly felt and well remembered.

Conducting always appears to be someone waving arms in front of players, to keep them together, but the art goes far beyond that—only real conductors (and probably only some of them) actually understand what it is they do. Audiences and performers respond to far more than mere gesture, and in ways they often don’t realize and can’t articulate, but only feel.

Karen had the gift. It made her special, and now mourned, and already missed.


David Katz, chief judge
The American Prize National Nonprofit Competitions in the Performing Arts

actor and playwright,
“MUSE of FIRE: Charles Bruck and the Art of Conducting”