Celebrating 51 Years with Dick Pittman

The Concord Orchestra would like to recognize our music director Dick Pittman, for his dedication and commitment to the orchestra during the past 51 years. This past March Dick suffered a stroke and we are currently unsure if he will be able to return to conduct the orchestra. Dick’s artistic leadership has provided tremendous growth for the orchestra and his high standards have continuously raised the level of our performances. Since 1969, Dick has programmed and conducted nearly 250 different programs involving over 700 compositions and 19 world premiers.

Dick’s energy, enthusiasm and attention to detail gave him the ability to bring out the best in the Concord Orchestra. He has motivated and inspired many of us over the years to become better musicians and performers. Below, orchestra members and friends of the orchestra share some of their favorite photos, stories, memories, quotes and things they’ve learned from Dick during the many years he has been part of our lives.

We wish Dick all the best during his recovery.

While viewing photos and reading stories, please enjoy a video of Bernie Hoffer’s Fanfare for Dick performed on October 15, 2020 by members of the Concord Orchestra brass and percussion sections with Eric Culver conducting.

Bernie Hoffer Composer

In 1958, just out of college, I joined the U. S. Army Field Band as arranger stationed in Fort Meade Maryland. Dick Pittman was a trombone player in that band. It didn’t take long for us to discover that we were both deeply interested in 20th century music. This was the special traveling band of the army, touring the country and the world. After a while I was able to travel with the band as a member of the chorus and pianist/conductor of the recently established show band. On tour Dick and I roomed together. We were the odd couple (Dick was the neat one). We toured throughout the U.S and in each city we searched the music stores for recordings of modern music some of which were out of print. We often walked miles to find out of the way shops. In Alexandria, Louisiana, we found an appliance store that sold refrigerators, boats, etc., but had a bin of LPs. There was a ten-inch LP of Stravinsky’s Orpheus. This was a rare find as it was out of print and at that time the only available one of that piece.

Dick already was organizing musical events and concerts and conducting. We played a concert in Annapolis of a large piece by a composer friend of his, Alan Stout. It had improvisatory sections and was a revelation for me. We listened to a lot of new music together.

We have been close friends ever since and have both been important influences on each other throughout our careers.

Be well, Dick.

Barbara Marden - Violinist, Concord Orchestra member for over 60 years

I remember when Attilio Poto resigned from the orchestra in the late 60s strongly advising to be sure to pick a conductor with a good downbeat. I think we ended up with one who had a good downbeat --and more.

I remember our early rehearsals in the high school band room and his patience with the bad acoustics and the not so great quality of the players.  He had a lot of "building" to do and the improving started there.

Even though there was disapproval in the ranks about the serious quality of the pops concerts, some of his selections, and his not lifting his baton until the audience was completely quiet, I liked his approach. For some years we always played at least one Strauss Waltz and I loved playing it with his conducting. To me he seemed to let himself go and had a real Austrian flair! A few times I remember him smiling at me.

I always enjoyed coming to rehearsals and in later years seeing him warming up with tai chi or consulting with some player over a solo part. I have had five students play in the orchestra for a year or two and I noticed how warm and kind he was with them.

I can still hear his laugh in the hall or in receptions after the concerts. Listening to some of his stories in those receptions was always a pleasure.

Certainly there is no comparison with the quality of the orchestra when he first arrived and how he helped it improve, especially after our tour in 1998. There was quite a period when some members thought we should be worked less hard, maybe have easier music and have more fun, but I think his approach resulted in attracting better players. I think we had a wonderful last twenty years or so. He was a great gift to our orchestra.

Grant and Betsy Anderson - Clarinet and Piano, Concord Orchestra members for 49 years

When we moved from Maryland to Massachusetts in 1969 we rented an apartment in Newton Highlands for our first year here, while we sought a town to settle in and a house to buy. One of our Newton neighbors put us in touch with Mary Margolius, who praised the Concord Orchestra to us and convinced us to purchase in Concord. And Mary told us that we were then renting only several blocks from the C.O. conductor, Dick Pittman.

When we called Dick to ask about the Concord Orchestra, he invited us to his home to celebrate New Year’s Eve and to meet him, his wife Lore, and their young son Robert. We were somewhat surprised that we were the Pittman’s only guests that New Year’s Eve, but that gave us much time to get to know the Pittman family. Lore cooked all sorts of goodies for the celebration, we met Robert before his bedtime, and we sang Christmas carols after midnight (S, A, T, and Dick on Bass).

So began a series of New Year’s Eve celebrations, every year until Boston Musica Viva started playing at First Night in Boston.

Since moving to Concord and joining the Orchestra, we have visited back and forth with the Pittman family many times over, including a 50th birthday party for Dick, with many balloons, in his back yard. In addition, I (Grant) served for many years as board member and treasurer of Boston Musica Viva, at Dick’s request.

We were grieved when Lore recently passed away and further grieved when Dick had his stroke. We’ve been trying to support Robert---as Dick slowly recovers---through telephone calls, text messages, and picnic lunches in Concord. Our hearts go out to Dick, Robert, the Concord Orchestra Board, and everyone who grieves for Dick.

We are honored to have rehearsed and performed in the Concord Orchestra, under Dick’s baton, for forty-nine years.

Eric Culver - Conductor

I only learned later that Dick Pittman and I were treading the same halls already in 1966, when we were both at Eastman: he teaching conducting and founding the Eastman Musica Nova, and I taking classes and piano lessons in the Prep Department. My parents were in the Rochester Philharmonic and I was in the building more than just Saturdays.

Further Kismet included a close encounter with Gunther Schuller when he led the first performances of Ives' Fourth Symphony with the RPO in 1967, my mother insisting that I witness the rehearsals; and after the family spent the following summer at Tanglewood I had my sights set on New England Conservatory. Dick started there about the same time I did, and as soon as I was able (in 1970) I asked to take his graduate conducting class. NEC was not anxious to let me in the class as an undergrad Composition major, but I did well and by my Senior year three of us were effectively double-majors. On more than one occasion I assisted in a Musica Viva concert at the Busch-Reisinger museum, dipping gongs in tubs of water and turning pages under the baleful gaze of Max Beckmann's self-portrait. Dick's adventurous programming extended to the Repertory Orchestra, and my "Senior recital" was a performance of Sibelius' En Saga.

After a couple of years' "gap" I returned to NEC as Dick's graduate assistant, playing keyboard in the Rep Orchestra, making up the rehearsal schedules and teaching my own set of conducting students in the Prep Department. The only time I graduated with honors was after studying with Dick.

In the late 80s I was very fortunate to be his assistant in a Philip Glass premiere at ART, (Fall of the House of Usher) a production of Bernstein's Candide at the Huntington Theatre in Boston and an off-Broadway workshop and run of Herschel Garfein's Sueños in New York. I have had the great pleasure of "shadowing" him with Musica Viva, New England Philharmonic and the Concord Orchestra.

So as Dick and I celebrate our 50th year of study, example and collaboration, I extend my most heartfelt gratitude and healthy wishes from a distance, and look forward to a face-to-face tea.

Carol Sohn - Violist, Concord Orchestra member for 18 years and past Board President

In October of 2002, I attended my first open rehearsal of The Concord Orchestra.  Much of the rehearsal was devoted to reading Charles Ives’ complex and polytonal Robert Browning Overture.  After struggling to read through that piece, I almost decided not to show up for a second rehearsal, but Meredith Kirkpatrick and Anne Wanzer persuaded me to come back the next week.

Dick seemed demanding and gruff, but he took the time to learn the name of a lowly viola player, and he greeted each orchestra member after concerts and said thank you.  Occasionally, he would take the time to tell an entertaining anecdote about his past during a rehearsal.  We played some real gems that season including Hansel and Gretel with soloists and chorus. At the end of the season, I concluded that there was something special about this incredibly loyal and hardworking group and its Music Director, and I would give it a try for a second season.

I have played in the viola section ever since.  I was a member of the orchestra board of directors for many years, so I appreciate what happens behind the scenes to make it all possible.  Dick was an active participant in meetings, making time in his busy schedule to be part of the board’s planning and decision making.  I am very grateful to have the experience of playing in the orchestra and learned so much from Dick.   Recover well, Dick.