Spotlight Columns

Thank you, Maestro, for bringing your gifts to our community

By From page B2 | February 26, 2014

Scripture teaches that there is a time and a season for everything.

For the last decade, we in the tri-county area surrounding Folsom Lake enjoyed seeing the genesis and growth of a remarkable community symphony orchestra. It is composed largely of musician volunteers and is a thriving entity.

Established first as the Folsom Lake Symphony Orchestra, and known today as the Folsom Symphony, this organization is due in enormous part to the hard work and devotion of a dedicated board and of two men in particular: Symphony President Bruce Woodbury, who handles so much of the “business side,” and Maestro Michael Neumann, conductor and musical director.

The sweetness — and the sadness — of working in the arts is the realization that so much of it is transitory. A musical note vibrates in the air for a few moments and then it is gone. One must savor the beauty of the present moment.

It is the same with people. All of us are in our respective careers for a brief amount of time, cosmically speaking. We even change careers. Move on. Try new things. And, life has a way of throwing curve balls. Events happen. One must reassess life. Prioritize. Take a step back. Focus on taking care of the things that need taking care of. Retire.

For a variety of personal reasons, Maestro Michael Neumann will step down from his post with the Folsom Symphony during this season. His final performance as conductor will be on March 29.

Peter Jaffe, conductor for the Stockton and Auburn symphonies, will take up the Folsom Symphony baton beginning with the 2014-15 season. Jaffe also will guest conduct this season’s final program.

Maestro Neumann plans to continue his work as artistic director of the Sacramento Youth Symphony. And he will continue as “music director emeritus” at the Folsom Symphony.

Our community is truly blessed to have had a man of this caliber in our midst. He could have easily had a remarkable career nationally and on an international scale, had he chosen that path.

Neumann was born in South Africa in 1948 to German parents who fled the Nazi Holocaust. It was from them he developed his love of classical music. He studied violin under Maria Neuss, the great-great granddaughter of the famous Czech composer Antonín Dvorák.

The Neumann family immigrated to America in the early 1960s, eventually settling in San Francisco. Neumann studied music at San Francisco State College, eventually winning a full-ride musical scholarship to the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music for violin performance. After graduating, he went on to earn a master’s degree in orchestral conducting.

With both of his degrees from Cincinnati in hand, young Michael’s first job was with the Birmingham Symphony in Alabama. He also conducted the Birmingham Youth Symphony.

In 1978, he came to Sacramento to serve as the assistant conductor of the now-defunct Sacramento Symphony. In 1979, he became conductor of the Sacramento Youth Symphony. In 2003, he took on the role as conductor and musical director of the fledgling Folsom Lake Symphony Orchestra.

Years ago, when I asked the maestro why he hadn’t gone on to “greener pastures,” he told me that he chose to see what he could do with the talent he saw in this region — to make his mark in this area, while raising a family here.

Neumann’s dedication to developing the talent of the region’s youth is legendary in the local musical community. So is his dedication to giving talented artists a venue to practice their craft in the Sacramento region.

Maestro, you succeeded beyond your wildest imaginings. Thank you for the moment. Thank you for sharing your gifts with us. Thank you for the young people you’ve inspired and helped. Thank you for leaving such a beautiful legacy.

May we, the patrons of the arts, continue to support those who carry your work into the future. And may you find health, happiness and satisfaction in the future. Godspeed! 

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Susan Laird


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