On January 22 the Seattle Symphony announced and celebrated the Dr. Robert Wallace Clarinet Chair and the installation of Laura DeLuca as its first recipient. During the ceremony Dr. Wallace spoke about his love of classical music and the motivation behind his generous gift.
Do you remember the first time you experienced a live symphony orchestra?
Dr. Wallace: I grew up in Miami in the 1950s and 1960s. My first encounter with a major symphony orchestra was during my high school years when the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein gave a concert in the Miami Beach Convention Center. They performed Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. I still vividly remember the overwhelming sound of a full orchestra led by an enthusiastic conductor. It was an event that got my full attention.
What performances or performers do you remember most fondly?
DW: Pierre Boulez, who sadly passed away earlier this year, was one of the towering musical figures of our time. I was fortunate enough to see and hear him conduct on two occasions: in Royce Hall with the Los Angeles Philharmonic when he conducted Debussy’s La mer, producing gorgeous sounds and an evocative atmosphere; and an even more exciting concert honoring his 80th birthday when he conducted Ravel’s complete Daphnis et Chloé ballet with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Boulez emphasized clarity, structure and attention to detail but was still able to produce a radiant performance that was perfectly balanced and rigorously intellectual. How he produced this alchemy, I cannot explain.
After retiring to Seattle in 1999, you became a regular at the Seattle Symphony. What are your thoughts about your adopted orchestra?
DW: I was greatly relieved when I first heard the Seattle Symphony and delighted to know it was a high quality orchestra. Under the strong leadership of Maestro Ludovic Morlot, Leslie Chihuly [Board Chair] and Simon Woods [President & CEO] the past several years have provided much needed calmness and stability.
What inspired your decision to endow the clarinet chair?
DW: Sustaining performing arts organizations is crucial in a society where institutional organizations are struggling to maintain relevance. Performing arts have a learned vocabulary and syntax that connect at a core level and have the capacity to change who we are, and can become, since they tap directly into the creative minds of the past.
I strongly believe that we must strive to encourage the younger generations to fully appreciate what prior generations have given us and value them as treasured gifts; for in the end they help structure our souls and our emotional lives. This is why I decided to offer a legacy gift to the Symphony with both the hope and optimism that it will deeply touch, in the most profound ways, many people in many future generations.
The Seattle Symphony thanks Dr. Robert Wallace for his generous, visionary support of the orchestra, and for helping to ensure that the Symphony continues to bring joy and inspiration to our community for generations to come.
For information on how you can support the Seattle Symphony, visit us online or call 206.215.4832.
By Martin K. Johansson
Posted on May 31, 2016READ MORE BEYOND THE STAGE