|All interviews were taped and documented. They are available through the Reference Department of the Teaneck Public Library. The Library is not responsible for the accuracy of the statements nor does it necessarily endorse the opinions expressed.|
|DATE OF INTERVIEW:||August 23, 1984|
|TRANSCRIBER:||Jackie Kinney (7/1985)|
(I) The Gardners are writers. Are they both writers?
(N) Yes. He's a poet. John Kiper, Joan Stein, maybe one or two others. There has been substantial turnover. Now it has a couple of artists and dancers on it. Naomi Kramer also was involved from a crafts standpoint. Was Judy Dissler, I don't think so. You know Judy pops up in all these things.
(I) But this group would get together and what would they discuss?
(N) Well, you know, we spent an awful lot of time discussing what we should do and in the beginning I know there was a huge amount of discussion which you always find in groups like this of how you differentiate between professional and amateur and does it really make any difference. They wrangled with that for months and months. We did get a consultant in whom I've since gotten to know through other channels.
(I) Now who would pay for this?
(N) The town did pay for that. We had a small budget, a couple of hundred dollars from the town. He talked to us about things we could do and how we could go about organizing ourselves. My own feeling about that was I eventually came to feel that we would be in a stronger position as an independent non-profit organization rather than an arm of the town. That the constraints outweighed the benefits. And I can't get into specifics because I don't remember them anymore but I did feel that way at the time and it was one reason that I became, one of several reasons that I became less involved. I support it now, what's the word I am looking for, I support it as an entity but I don't actively have anything to do with it.
(I) So what is their real purpose? What do they achieve?
(N) I am not sure right now. I really don't know that they achieve very much. Other than the Folk Festivals. For a while at least they did help in terms of keeping local groups from conflicting with each other in terms of performance dates or on occasion, lobbying for something or other, having to do with the other. It is a group that, for example, could be active
(I) I know there was a time, and I am sure you were here, when they wanted to eliminate music teachers. Were they involved in that?
(N) No, they weren't formed yet when they wanted to do that. That was either just when we moved here, it was somewhere around, because I wasn't involved in that so it must have been just before we moved here because I did hear about it. That's an old, every school system I have ever been in has gone through that at one time or another.
(I) And so your part in it was just to show up at the meetings. What else did you do?
(N) I am trying to remember. Again, I always, for me the easiest thing to do is PR stuff. It is nothing for me to write a press release and publicity. .
(I) And where would you take them?
(N) Local newspapers, to The Record for example, the New Jersey supplement to the Times and so on.
(I) Did you find good cooperation. . they always published everything?
(N) Pretty much for the most part. I've had dealing with them through TAP and a few other things and it is always a hit or miss thing. You never know precisely if anything is going to get printed or it is going to be massacred before it is printed. But it wasn't any worse than for anybody else, I'll put it that way. My own feeling about the Advisory Board right now is that I don't know why it exists. It may know why it exists but I haven't been around there in a long time so I don't know.
(I) How did you get involved in TAP?
(N) Well, Robbie Wedeen dragged me into it and I wasn't initially awfully interested.
(I) Had you gone to the concerts?
(N) No but they had only been in existence for one year before I became involved in it.
(I) Do you remember what year you. .
(N) Around 1977. Around the same time as the Advisory Board. And Joan and Bill Kiper were very involved in it and of course the rest of its founding board, Robbie and Jim Gold and Joan Stein and Rudy Stevenson. So I really didn't know if I wanted to be involved in that. You know, we all tend to over-extend ourselves but Robbie convinced me I should come to a meeting and, you see, this was the time when I was thinking, am I going to change fields and become a concert producer and get into arts administration so it was a very logical move
(I) You said you went back to school for that?
(N) Yeah. N.Y.U. For five and a half years. I just finished. I finished in February.
(I) What did you take, one course a semester?
(N) Just about. And one year I was out. I had knee surgery so I was out for a year because of the commute, not because I couldn't go to school.
(I) So getting back to TAP, it was kind of, coordinated all this. .
(N) So Joan was the only person on that board who was not a performer and so putting the pieces together all fell to her and I can tell you, that's a terrible position to be in and so I came along who could relieve her of some of that burden and so then there was one year where the two of us were working very closely and then after she did had done it for four years, she gave it up and she really thought it was going to sink into the sea and we resurrected it so I managed it for three years, probably 80, 81 and 82 in there and of course now Claudia Beal does.
(I) What does the manager do?
(N) Well when I started, the manager did virtually everything except writing the publicity. Took care of most of the books, an awful lot, helped an awful lot with ticket sales, there were of course volunteers but they for the most part played very minor roles. They'd sit and take the tickets the night of the concert or the day of the concert.
(I) Were they associated with the musicians and is it a tight family like that. .
(N) Not necessarily.
(I) They might come from anywhere.
(N) Right. And when I got involved, the first thing I did was enlarge the board so we had more people to divide the work among and with any organization, the biggest problem is fund raising and it still is. I mean we are going through a fund raising crisis right now.
(I) Do you pay your musicians?
(N) We pay our musicians. We used to pay, it started out they took money if there was money. Then they were getting like $25 a concert or $50 a concert. I raised that to $100. That was the first thing I wanted to do which is not exactly wealth but it is a little bit more respectable. I mean at least if you have five musicians, you're paying $500 which is
(I) A lot of money
(N) Yes for a group like that it is a lot of money and it is not really something to be ashamed of. There are an awful lot of groups around that pay like that.
(I) Do you usually have to pay for the hall or the place where you. .
(N) Yeah. See when we were in the Presbyterian Church, we only paid like $30 hall rental. It started because they bought a piano and asked Joan Kiper to start a concert series and so . .
(I) I am glad you thought of that. Do you remember who they were at that time?
(N) No. Joan would know but I really don't know because I wasn't involved in it. And they were supposed to sort of .. .
(I) What kind of piano did they buy?
(N) A gigantic grand, I am trying to think if it was a Steinway, I don't think so but it was an unmaneuverable piano, not a rewarding piano to play. It looked beautiful. But then they decided that TAP was really going places and so they raised the rent to $90 and for $90 the hall wasn't nice enough so we moved to the Woman's Club. Well the Woman's Club hall rental for us, which is with a slight discount, is $180 which sounds like such a little bit but it took such a chunk out of everything. But we've stayed for the most part sometimes by the skin of our teeth, we've stayed in the black. .
(I) Is this a non-profit organization?
(N) Oh yeah. Musicians have turned back their checks. I've done it. I mean we've all done it on occasion. We don't as a' rule but it has happened.
(I) Because you are talking about all Teaneck people.
(N) No, there are Teaneck people in every concert but it is not necessarily exclusively Teaneck people because if you know a fabulous violist who lives in Leonia, you are not going to do without the fabulous violist just because they live four miles away.
(I) What are the highlights, the concerts that you would highlight as your years as manager?
(N) Well never mind ill my years as manager. Over the years there was one, there was a group that named itself for the purpose of the concert The Bergen Chamber Players which was people from Teaneck and Leonia. Peter Rosenfelt, Joan Stein, Marvin Topolski, there were others. Maybe Alan Schiller, I don't remember. Which was a beautiful chamber music concert. A number of the jazz concerts which used to be better attended than they are now for whatever reasons but a number of those have been just an absolute gas.
(1) And who would be giving those mainly?
(N) Initially it was Rudy Stevenson. When Rudy moved, we picked Wally Richardson on the board and so Wally was putting those together. Rudy did a thing where he brought in children, in fact my kids were involved in it, which was just marvelous, so much fun, and a great experience for the kids. Last year we did, John Grandy produced the medium, you know Mostly Opera stopped or went to sleep, we don't like to say it stopped, so I thought well here's John with this wonderful capability, maybe we can provide a forum for him and so he did this thing with Alan Monk and friends and he had this great think he wanted to do which was the medium and we said, John's ideas are much more grandiose being an opera person, than the rest of ours and he scares the wits out of the whole committee. On the other hand, he pulls together terrific things so for the medium, I wrote a proposal and we got $1,000 from Cultural and Heritage Commission.
(I) Where is that?
(N) In Bergen County. In Hackensack. Which was the first time we ever got a quantity of money like that. We were just very excited. Some proposal, a giant proposal. He got patrons and that thing alone exceeded any of our annual budgets before and since.
(I) Can you tell me about the musicians in that?
(N) Yeah, well what disturbed us about the meeting was that none of the singers were from Teaneck except Amy Burton had grown up in Teaneck so that was something. Many of the instrumentalists, however, were, I was very honored. I played in it. I was totally intimidated at first. but that didn't last. Bert Beal played, Bill Kiper, Buster Bailey and it went beautifully. I mean we had a videotape of it which I saw a while ago and I just
(I) How many performances was it?
(N) Only one. That's the trouble with anything like that is that you only have one performance of it.
(I) And how many rehearsals?
(N) We only had two rehearsals but the singers rehearsed for ages and ages and John really pulled that together almost single-handedly. He was doing props, he was getting patrons, he was doing this, he is amazing that way. He did lots of things all by himself but. .
(I) He directed it?
(N) He brought in a director.
(I) Who was the director? -
(N) A guy from New York, a young guy. I don't know his name. I've forgotten his name. John, I think, felt he couldn't on top of everything else direct it. His concept is slightly different you see from the rest of the organization's because we want to import less. We want to show everybody what talent we have here and there is plenty of it. The Glenpointe concert last year, the combined, the first combined thing with Leonia Chamber Players was a dream I had three years ago and I know some of the Leonia people through my other work, my real work, and one night over dinner, I said hey wouldn't it be fabulous if we could get the two groups together because we are always kind of like rivals and I like to get rivals together. And it actually, we pulled it off, you know.
(I) Where did you perform?
(N) At Glenpointe. It was part of their opening a year ago in the ballroom of the hotel which they gave us. They didn't want to give us but they. .
(I) Who was representatives of Teaneck?
(N) Musicians? Joan Stein, Bert Beal, Alan Schiller, I think Bill Kiper, Eleanor Schiller, Tony Thompson on viola, Sandy Appleman, maybe Jerry as well, I am not sure of Jerry Appleman.
(I) What music did they perform because we've never discussed the music that has been performed in these concerts. Do you remember?
(N) I hate to be asked that question. You know, we have programs around.
(I) I mean, we are talking about classical music?
(N) Yes, there was a Copeland piece, possibly a Chopin piece, I honestly don't remember. Bob Rogers conducted which was a nice touch and he loved it.
(I) Can you tell us who Bob Rogers is?
(N) Bob Rogers was, until recently, the conductor of Chorus Line.
(I) Now what do you think the future of TAP will be?
(N) I am very enthusiastic about it and a year from now is our tenth anniversary. Not if you count from performances but if you count from when the group first got together which is what we are doing. And I don't know what we are going to do. We want to do some fabulous things but we have to get through this year which is giving us a lot of trouble.
(I) Are these concerts well attended?
(N) They vary. It used to be that we struggled for a chamber music audience and had a huge jazz audience and it switched around. Right now chamber music is the best draw. Opera has been doing very well thanks to John. He has his own audience, you know. The thing at Glenpointe we had over 300 people for in the pouring rain but I think the hotel was one of the factors. We are having trouble. I said to my husband this morning that I think one reason that organizations put together a five year plan is that every four or five years, you seem to need to retrench and we did that the year I started managing TAP and I think we have to do it again this year. I don't, we have some concerts planned but an awful lot is up in the air and as far as I am concerned, if we do just one or two and spend the rest of the year fund raising and pulling ourselves together for next year, that will be sufficient.
(END OF TAPE I - SIDE 2 - BEGIN TAPE 2)
(I) Let's get back to Teaneck and what religious organizations or church, synagogues you belong to.
(N) Okay. We are members of Temple Emeth. When we first moved to Teaneck, we automatically joined the Teaneck Jewish Center because we had belonged to a conservative synagogue in Riverdale and so we just naturally went to one here but it was a little heavy on the orthodox for us and it just wasn't for us and so we went to about two services and never darkened their door again. So after that, we went shopping which is what we should have done in the first place and ended up, largely due to Rabbi Siegle, at Emeth where we have been very happy.
(I) When you say you went shopping, did you actually go to several. .
(N) We went to services at a couple of synagogues. A couple, actually we went to Beth Am and we went to Emeth. I think we had decided at that point to switch to reformed because my husband had always preferred that anyway and so I said, oh, all right, why not? I haven't regretted it.
(I) Are you active?
(N) Yeah, fairly. More than I used to be. Our original, our active life there tended to be limited to the fact that I sang in the choir there. I sing in the choir there. Sometimes it is a good choir. Actually for an amateur church or temple choir, it is not bad.
(I) How many voices?
(N) Up to 22. Sometimes down to 8. You know, it depends on the time of the year.
(I) And who is your director?
(N) Lenore Thorns, a very, very talented young woman.
(I) Is she a Teaneck person?
(N) No. She was from Riverdale and actually she came there through me. Her predecessor, Janet Montgomery, was from Glen Rock and is now a Teaneck person. Janet moved and that's how we got Lenore and Janet's now back. What's nice is that Janet will sometimes come in and sub or help out. There hasn't been any rivalry. It has been a nice kind of continuity, very pleasant association. Lenore is tremendously talented. She is a good organist, not a great one, and she doesn't pretend to be. She is really a pianist but a very fine conductor and first rate musician. She is all of about 26 and I have tremendous respect for her musically. She has done a lot for the choir. She has improved the sound greatly. What's nice about our choir is that we have more men than women which is a funny comment but it is so unusual to find that in any chorus.
(I) This is a funny question but what do you sing?
(N) What part or what kind of music?
(I) What kind of music?
(N) Jewish liturgical music which for the most part is awful. There isn't a Jewish choral tradition.
(I) What would you compare it to then?
(N) Well actually in the reformed synagogue, we sing some hymns that because the reformed movement in the United States really was very much one of assimilation, we're just picked up and dropped from the church into the synagogue and some of those we sing and I always giggle my way through them because (inaudible) but there has been very beautiful music, for example, by Ernst Brock. Services have been written so that you extract a portion of, a piece from a complete service and we will sing it at different spots throughout.
(I) Do you give a concert?
(N) We do give a concert but it is not necessarily Jewish or liturgical or anything. This past year, last May, we did Israel and Egypt with orchestra. Lenore is a very ambitious young. .
(I) That's an intreging . . what does it mean?
(N) Israel and Egypt? It's a Handl Oratorio. And you know, it is one of the things we could get away with because of the Passover story. We are very limited, you know, we can't do Messiah. We can't do most things. We are limited to either the creation or you know, we can't do the Brahms Requiem. We can do Judas Macobeas which is another Handl Oratorial but not one of the great ones. Elijah we could do. But sometimes we sing things, we've sung in the past we did an evening of Gilbert and Sullivan because it is nice for the choir because with some exceptions, Jewish liturgical music is not awfully exciting. It is hard to find good stuff. And some of the good stuff is very difficult and the choir either isn't up to it or is afraid of it. Really some people in the choir are very nice but scary cats and very negative and they spend the first four rehearsals whining about how hard the music is. They get past that but for relief, for lack of a better word, we'll do other things as well. Non-liturgical things.
(I) Do you do anything else at the temple?
(N) Yeah. Well there is this. .
(I) Were your boys Bar Mitzvahed there?
(N) Yeah. Both boys. What was interesting is that friends of ours came to the Bar Mitzvah who either were not Jewish or, in more cases were Jewish but had disassociated themselves completely from the religion, said if I had had a rabbi like that, I never would have left Judaism. And I know exactly how they felt and why they felt that way.
(I) How would you describe Rabbi Seigel?
(N) Well he is brilliant but he is not pompous and like all rabbis, he likes to be the center of attention but he is such a wonderful teacher and warm and funny and always interesting. You just learn so much from him. Edward went past Bar Mitzvah, through Confirmation and then post-confirmation and will be subbing as a teacher in the Hebrew school this year.