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KSO Maestro at Town Hall

On first take, you’d think the son of a Hollywood actor and a world respected conductor/music director — and a hand-picked choice by world renowned conductor Leonard Bernstein — would have little tolerance for a public address malfunction in Farragut Town Hall.

Nonsense. Maestro Lucas Richman, music director and conductor of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and recent Farragut area resident, simply flashed a big smile and with quick wit said, “I just became an alien,” after the PA system distorted his voice.

Richman — one of only four young conductors worldwide chosen by Bernstein to share the famous maestro’s podium as a conducting fellow for London and Moscow concerts — spoke about his life and future with KSO during a 75-minute address to about 40 Farragut residents and town officials Sunday afternoon.

Most recently the assistant conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra from 1998 to 2002, “the past year I’ve commuted between here and Pittsburgh,” said the Hollywood film score conductor, former cover conductor of the New York Philharmonic, guest conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic among others, and former principal conductor for the Pasadena POPS Orchestra. “I look forward to being fully immersed into this community.

“Now we have settled here, and we are Tennessee residents,” Richman added to loud applause.

Moments after the PA problem, Richman said there’s an underlying truth to life, whether it be conducting on the grand stages of the world or having a PA malfunction in Farragut: “It’s OK to make mistakes.”

Mistakes or not, Richman apparently comes from a talented gene pool. His father, actor Peter Mark Richman, had recurring roles in such television shows as ABC’s nighttime soap opera hit “Dynasty” and 1970s ABC hit comedy “Three’s Company” along with character roles in dozens of other popular TV shows such as “Bonanza,” “Gunsmoke,” “Matlock,” and “Dallas.”

Actor and son will team up tomorrow night, Sept. 17, during KSO’s “Masterworks” Season Opening Gala, “An American Salute” in the Knoxville Civic Auditorium.

Peter Mark Richman will narrate Copland’s A Lincoln Portrait, “that pays homage to some of the greatest words ever spoken about liberty and freedom,” according to the KSO 2004-2005 season brochure. The gala begins at 7 p.m.

Growing up in the San Fernando Valley near Los Angeles, Richman said inviting movie star company into the family home “was no big deal,” adding that “a number of actors and directors would come over for dinner.”

However, Richman, 40, said some members of the Hollywood crowd often thumbed their noses at San Fernando Valley and the Richman’s less-than-Beverly Hills lifestyle, asking “‘do they have plumbing there?’”

But as a 6-year-old violinist whose letter to famous New York conductor Aaron Copland was answered, Richman said that was quite a big deal. When Copland answered, “‘good luck in your composing,’” according to Richman, the KSO conductor reflected on the importance of that reply: “To take that time and reach out to a six-year-old boy from the San Fernando Valley was pretty tremendous.”

Richman stressed the importance of singing lullabies to young children, something the conductor said sparked his early musical interest, as a way to spark an early-life enthusiasm for music — as opposed to “blaring stereo” or “rock concerts.”

“With love and music in the same breathe, music becomes that child’s life,” said Richman, who founded and directed the Stephen Wise Music Academy in Los Angeles from 1994 to 1998, and who served as principal conductor for the Disney Young Musicians Symphony Orchestra in 1999.

Richman said that while playing the violin at an early age, “it was thrilling to make music with people.”

Completing his “first real composition at age 12” according to a KSO biographical sketch, Richman made his conducting debut just four years later at the prestigious summer festival at Tanglewood.

His interest in the violin grew through middle school and high school to where Richman, only 16, became a violin major at UCLA.

Employment soon followed. When young Lucas called home and asked his famous actor father what Lucas’ social security number was, his father wanted to know why he needed it. “‘I’ve got a job at UCLA,’” Richman recalled answering.

First meeting Leonard Bernstein at age 16, Richman said he turned more toward conducting as he was being coached by the world renown conductor by age 18. He worked with Bernstein and Michael Tilson Thomas at the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute.

After receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree in music/violin from UCLA in 1984, Richman received his Masters of Music degree in orchestral conducting from the University of Southern California in 1987.

Richman was the film score conductor for the movie “Se7en” starring Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kevin Spacey, perhaps the most noteworthy of approximately six film scores he’s conducted. “Music is the last thing that goes into a film,” Richman said. “It costs forty-thousand to fifty-thousand dollars a day to have musicians there.”

Saying the piece was “six-and-a-half-minutes,” Richman added, “I felt like I was collaborating with the movie, there was Brad, there was Morgan.”

Richman emphasized his frustration with how music has largely become “background music” people play while focusing on other activities as opposed to being focused on the music itself. “It’s not part of our natural focus,” he said, adding that he’s “distracted by background music.”

Richman’s wife, Debbie, is an orchestra manager and flutist. Their son, Max, is a first-grader at Bluegrass Elementary School.


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