Sunday morning I got up early to catch a 7:00 AM flight to Washington DC to attend the memorial event for Fred Zenone. As I had ample time between arrival and the beginning of the event, I decided to take the train, which got me to within a 25-minute walk of the church. After changing at Rosslyn station, I noticed a somberly-dressed gentlemen with a cello in my car. He got out at my stop, so I approached him and suggested we might be going to the same place. Indeed we were, so I had the pleasure of chatting to David Teie of the National Symphony during our walk.

The event was, as Bill Foster described it, “cello-centric.” Most of the NSO cellists were there with their celli to play David’s arrangement of the Sarabande from the sixth Bach suite, as well as an arrangement (I believe also by David) of Mark O’Connor’s Appalachian Waltz and Casals’ Song of the Birds.”

Interspersed amongst all the cello music were reminiscences of Fred. Bob Blatt, who had known Fred since he came to the National Symphony in 1969, spoke about Fred’s love of the cello and how Fred had actually begun his professional career on trumpet before switching to the cello in his 20s (he joined the NSO in his mid-thirties); a remarkable fact that I, for one, had not known. Larry Bocaner spoke of Fred’s long service to the NSO as a frequent chair of the orchestra committee.

Liza Medina spoke about getting to know Fred during his tenure as ICSOM chair, as well as re-connecting with him over this summer. Nick Webster told about trying to hire Fred to be his second-in-command at the New York Philharmonic, and read short tributes from Henry Fogel, Peter Pastreich, and Jesse Rosen as well.

Eric Zenone, Fred’s youngest son, gave a tribute to Fred from another of his sons, Brian, who couldn’t get out of work from his French orchestra to attend, and added his own remembrances; together they were both moving and very funny. Then Eric sang Shenandoah, accompanied by four celli in a very beautiful arrangement by David Teie, which really was the emotional center of the whole event. I shouldn’t have been in the least bit surprised that a musical family with the last name of “Zenone” (or “Zen One,” as Eric said his Buddhist monk mentors would insist) would spawn at least one beautiful voice.

Bill Foster spoke last. Unfortunately he cut his remarks short, I suspect because he was feeling some time pressure, as I would have liked to hear everything he had to say.

The event concluded with a lively performance of the first movement of the third Brandenburg concerto by ten of Fred’s former colleagues.

There were a number of people there who I knew, as well as many I didn’t. I finally got to meet two of Fred’s sons. And I noticed AFM President Emeritus Tom Lee sitting a few rows behind me as well; of course he must have worked closely with Fred during his time as an officer of the DC Local.

It was a lovely event, and it was good to be reminded forcefully that Fred was, first and foremost, a musician and a family man.

About the author

Robert Levine
Robert Levine

Robert Levine has been the Principal Violist of the Milwaukee Symphony since September 1987. Before coming to Milwaukee Mr. Levine had been a member of the Orford String Quartet, Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Toronto, with whom he toured extensively throughout Canada, the United States, and South America. Prior to joining the Orford Quartet, Mr. Levine had served as Principal Violist of The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra for six years. He has also performed with the San Francisco Symphony, the London Symphony of Canada, and the Oklahoma City Symphony, as well as serving as guest principal with the orchestras of Indianapolis and Hong Kong.

He has performed as soloist with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Oklahoma City Symphony, the London Symphony of Canada, the Midsummer Mozart Festival (San Francisco), and numerous community orchestras in Northern California and Minnesota. He has also been featured on American Public Radio's nationally broadcast show "St. Paul Sunday Morning" on several occasions.

Mr. Levine has been an active chamber musician, having performed at the Festival Rolandseck in Germany, the Grand Teton Music Festival, the Palm Beach Festival, the "Strings in the Mountains" Festival in Colorado, and numerous concerts in the Twin Cities and Milwaukee. He has also been active in the field of new music, having commissioned and premiered works for viola and orchestra from Minnesota composers Janika Vandervelde and Libby Larsen.

Mr. Levine was chairman of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians from 1996 to 2002 and currently serves as President of the Milwaukee Musicians Association, Local 8 of the American Federation of Musicians, and as a member of the Board of Directors of the League of American Orchestras. He has written extensively about issues concerning orchestra musicians for publications of ICSOM, the AFM, the Symphony Orchestra Institute, and the League of American Orchestras.

Mr. Levine attended Stanford University and the Institute for Advanced Musical Studies in Switzerland. His primary teachers were Aaron Sten and Pamela Goldsmith. He also studied with Paul Doctor, Walter Trampler, Bruno Giuranna, and David Abel.

He lives with his wife Emily and his son Sam in Glendale.

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