The late Maestro William Kushner. (Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Friday, September 21, 2012 6:53 PM
When the music wafts tonight from the Lake Charles Symphony, it will be accompanied with a mixture of gratitude and sadness.
The concert, which begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Lake Charles Civic Center’s Rosa Hart Theatre, will be dedicated to the memory of Maestro William Kushner, who directed the local symphony for 30 years.
Kushner’s name is part of Lake Charles’ arts tapestry, ranking alongside legends like Rosa Hart, Francis Bulber, Ralph Squires, Ida Winter Clarke, Sarah Quinn Jones, Lady Leah Hathaway, Lamar Robertson, Nellie Lutcher, Eddie Shuler, BooZoo Chavis, Queen Ida Guillory, Tony Kushner and Paul Groves.
William Kushner was the patriarch of one of the most remarkable arts families in local history —- Kushner, with his own leadership at the Symphony; his late wife, Sylvia, for her performance and teaching of the bassoon; his Pulitzer Prize-winning son Tony, one of the preeminent playwrights of our time; daughter Lesley, a New York painter; son Eric, the Vienna Symphony’s principal French hornist for two decades; and second wife Marsha, who has been active in music, theatre and writing circles.
The Lake Charles Symphony was one of William Kushner’s great opuses, and the symphony would not be the success that it is today without his handiwork.
‘‘He wore all the hats,’’ said Jan Scott, the symphony’s long-time principal clarinetist. ‘‘He got the players, he talked to the Houston (musician’s) union, he was the symphony’s librarian. He did what it takes three to four people to do. He did it all and he didn’t miss a beat.’’
Scott said one of Kushner’s strengths as a conductor was always making the soloist sound better.
‘‘He was very musical,’’ she said. ‘‘He always went for the musical line. He wasn’t hacking through it. He was about making music.’’
She said Kushner, who died earlier this year, also had a knack of inviting young artists to perform as guest soloists, many of whom have gone on to enviable careers.
Dr. Michael Buckles, who as the symphony’s concertmaster worked closely with Kushner, said Kushner always thought of the orchestra’s players first.
‘‘He was a wonderful human being and a brilliant musician,’’ said Buckles. ‘‘... I felt like he had a little bit of everything. He was a conductor first and foremost and as such was a teacher. Players are looking for direction and inspiration and he certainly gave that.
‘‘What made him so successful was that he was good with so many pieces of the puzzle. He was good with the audience, personable with the people who supported the symphony. He could relate on so many levels — to the musicians and to the audience.’’
For decades, the Lake Charles Symphony has been one of the great assets of our community.
The baton has now been passed to the capable hands of Bohuslav Rattay, but Maestro William Kushner’s legacy lives on in every note the Lake Charles Symphony plays.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Dennis Spears, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.