I literally grew up with the Houston Symphony. My father, Irving Wadler, was a first violinist with the orchestra, and he played continually from 1933 until his retirement in 1980. So a large and wonderful part of my childhood and adolescence was spent going to all sorts of concerts, meeting great artists, and getting a terrific musical education.
I have so many memories that I could fill book writing about my many experiences. It was a special joy to meet some of the past conductors – Leopold Stokowsi was fascinated by the “poodle skirt” I wore to a party for the children of symphony musicians in the 1950’s. I remember how exciting it was to visit Sir John Barbarolli in his dressing room after a concert in London. I had been studying there during college, and when I went to the stage door and told them my dad played in the Houston Symphony, he ushered me right in and was so happy to talk about the Houston Symphony and what a good orchestra it was. I also was privileged to join my parents at a White House reception given by Lady Bird Johnson to honor the symphony during their concert tour to Washington, D.C.
The most fun experience happened when I was about 8 years old and was invited to actually conduct the orchestra at an outdoor summer concert at Miller Theatre. That venue was nothing more than a simple band shell in those days and the audience sat on the lawn very close to the stage. Our good friend, Andor Toth who was the associate concertmaster and conductor during the summer, thought it would be a cute idea to talk to the children and explain to them that conducting was not really all that hard once you learned to keep the beat. He then said he would call up a child from the audience to prove that almost anyone could learn to conduct in waltz time. He picked me, and of course, it looked like he just chose me at random. But we had arranged this all ahead of time, and I even came to rehearsal that morning to practice. It was pretty exciting for me to be standing on the podium in front of the musicians, but when I looked directly to my left, there was longtime friend, concertmaster Ray Fliegel, and my father, and that made everything more relaxed.
It is a wonderful thing to be a part of the Houston Symphony in my adult years, and to be able to give back to the organization that played such a pivotal role in my life.
-Bobbie Newman, donor and subscriber