Bravissima, Ms. Deutsch!

Final bows on the stage of Golden Hall of the Musikverein in Vienna in 2012/photo courtesy of Summa Cum Laude Festival

by Ron Oshima

What else can one say about Margery Deutsch, after 34 years of leading MYSO’s flagship Senior Symphony as Music Director? She is retiring at the end of this season and has been named Music Director Laureate of MYSO. It’s mind-boggling to succinctly summarize 34 years of service to MYSO, but let’s try:

  • Over 2,000 young
    musicians trained
  • Over 5,000 hours in rehearsals and performances
  • 13 tours, 10 of them international
  • A dozen countries toured, spanning 4 continents

Ms. Deutsch influenced several quantum leaps in those 34 years. When she started, MYSO tour performances took place in outdoor venues and churches, and then gradually transitioned to some of the finest music halls in the world. On the Spain and Italy tour of 1997, the orchestra performed in an outdoor amphitheater at 11:00 pm, which qualified as an after-dinner concert since dining traditionally takes place after 9:00 pm in Spain. In Italy, they played in the town square in Nettuno, which was an absolutely epic experience, as she remembers it. Contrast that with recent tour performances in Vienna’s Musikverein or Prague’s Dvořák Hall, both prestigious concert venues, steeped in tradition, in some of Europe’s finest cities.

Ms. Deutsch reminisces about another cultural difference–the European tradition of applauding to show appreciation. “At Dvořák Hall, they applaud as the musicians are coming out, and they applaud until the last musician leaves. We did not know that in the Czech Republic the first time we went there. We had to learn to get the orchestra on and off quickly so that people would not keel over from exhaustion in clapping!”

What have been some of your greatest joys in conducting Senior Symphony?

I was on the podium the other day, and there are these moments when everything just comes together. Often, when you’re starting on a new piece, it feels as if you’re trying to haul a school bus over your shoulder, with the transmission gone. Then suddenly, you’re sitting there with one pinky on the steering wheel. You’ve just done it. The musicians are in the zone, they get it, they remember it, and they’re listening. It’s magic in those moments, whether you’re in concerts or rehearsals. It’s extremely gratifying to watch those little light bulbs go off over their heads.

I am at that point in my career where I am just in it for the kids falling in love with the music. Last week, I arrived early for rehearsal one day, sat down next to one of them, and asked, ‘What do you think of the Hindemith (a very difficult piece)?’ He said, ‘I love the Hindemith!’ ‘Seriously?’ I replied. ‘ Isn’t it too intellectual?’ ‘No, we’re just having this truly deep conversation about spirituality and meditation.’ He’s 17 years old! These kids blow my mind constantly.

What have you learned from your students?

I learned that the students are way more than their instruments, and it took me a while to accept that.

I am all in with music. If you cut me, I would bleed music. But I’ve learned to be careful and respectful of the students’ other interests and schedules. I firmly believe that the kids should be exploring a variety of interests at this stage in their lives.

What has brought you unexpected delights?

I have run into MYSO alums all over the world. I could be in the ladies’ room in London, or it can be in any city or country. I’ll hear ‘Miss Deutsch, Miss Deutsch’ and I’ll know it’s a MYSO alum because at UW-Milwaukee, they’d call me Professor Deutsch. I’m always looking at rosters of an orchestra anywhere I go, because chances are, I’m going to find someone I know from either MYSO or my university. Our MYSO alums have done well.

Carter Simmons, Artistic Director of MYSO, reflected thoughtfully on Ms. Deutsch’s time at MYSO.

“MYSO has been most fortunate with Margery as the Music Director of the Senior Symphony. Her excellence and understanding of how to bring young people into an environment where they can create great music and experience the best of the art form has been enduringly consistent. That enables the entire organization to align itself with, and to, great music-making. What she has in her imagination and creative space is a concept of sound, phrasing, and musicality that’s coupled with the knowledge of how to take young people from where they are to where they need to be. The significance of her tenure here can’t be overstated.”

Bravissima, Miss Deutsch!

If you would like to commemorate Ms. Deutsch’s 34 years of leadership and service to MYSO, please consider making a donation in her honor.

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