From University of North Texas In House – http://inhouse.unt.edu/conducting-recovery-mission
College of Music professor and conductor of the UNT Symphony Orchestra, David Itkin, spent more than two years writing his book “Conducting Concerti,” but its publication took the help of a restaurant manager, the Texarkana police department and a data recovery expert.
Itkin, above, was inspired to write the book, right, which was published in August, based on his own experiences in conducting and in teaching conducting students. When conducting a symphony orchestra concert, all of the attention is given to the large ensemble, Itkin said, but conducting a concerto is different because a soloist is involved. A conductor has to be flexible in that situation, said Itkin, making conducting adjustments that address the needs of the soloist and translating those adjustments for the larger ensemble.
He spent about a year and a half writing the first draft, then put it down for a while, picking it up to revise it for a final draft last summer.
But on a trip to Little Rock, Ark., that publication of the book seemed to come to a dead stop.
In Texarkana, Itkin stopped to eat lunch – then left, forgetting to take both his laptop with the revised and final copy of his book, and the back-up drive that held the only other copy of the book.
“About two hours after I left the restaurant I realized I’d left my laptop,” Itkin recalled. “It took me another two minutes to realize that the book was gone.”
It was a heartbreaking realization that years of work had simply vanished. When he called the restaurant, his bag was gone. And, with it went Itkin’s hope; he wasn’t sure if he could face having to start the book again.
“By an astonishing stroke of luck, the Texarkana police, working with the restaurant manager, were able to recover the laptop in the following days,” said Itkin, who was able to complete the book after receiving support from a Research and Creativity Enhancement grant in summer 2013.
There was yet one more hurdle, though – the laptop’s hard drive had been wiped clean – but, Itkin was able to find a data recovery expert in Dallas who was able to piece together the book.
Although the book isn’t intended for a mainstream audience, it’s an important work for conductors.
“When I started teaching graduate students for the first time, here at UNT, I had a number of students who did well with symphonic conducting but who couldn’t conduct as well with concerti,” said Itkin, who has taught at UNT for seven years. “That’s when I started thinking about this book. There are very fine conductors who are all thumbs during a concerto. You have to learn to accommodate the soloist while working with the orchestra.”
His book teaches those skills, based on the lessons Itkin has learned in his own career. As a young conductor, he realized that conducting an ensemble differed from conducting both an ensemble and soloist during a concerto.
Itkin said he feels the tips he offers in the book will be invaluable to conductors. He is currently working with the Conductors Guild to organize a workshop for professional conductors that he will lead at UNT in February.
Audiences can experience Itkin’s artistry on Sept. 26 when he directs the UNT Symphony Orchestra concert. Harp professor Jaymee Haefner will be the guest artist on Ginastera’s Harp Concerto, one of the concerti featured in Itkin’s book. Also on the program is Rimsky-Korsakov’sScheherazade, an orchestral work based on the tales in Arabian Nights.
Prior to the concert, there will be a meet the author event featuring Itkin and a viewing of three harps recently donated by alumnus David Williams to the harp program at the College of Music.
The meet the author event and harp viewing start at 7:15 p.m.; the concert starts at 8 p.m. in Winspear Hall in the Murchison Performing Arts Center. The concert will also be streamed online.
—Margarita Venegas, news promotions
Photos by Ahna Hubnik / URCM