Tag Archives: Lynn Oakley

two deaths

Whenever there are two deaths, I always seem to hear people say these things happen in threes, who will be next. I don’t buy that. Things happen. Period. Humans being the supreme rationalizers that they (we) are, look for patterns in everything. Most of the time we find them. Are they really there? No comment.

The brother of a friend was found dead a couple of days ago. My friend asked that I not tell anyone just yet so I am camouflaging his identity. I’m also pretty sure that no one who might know them reads this blog. Anyway, the death was not related to Covid-19, as far as I know. I think alcohol was the main culprit but I may be rationalizing.

Both deaths were men in their 70s. I could argue that they both had lived decent lives and thus neither death is a tragedy. When my friend called me with the news he was pretty upset. I told him that even when we can see something coming, it can still be a shock when it actually happens.

Bud Oakley had had some serious health problems over the past few years. I hadn’t been as close to him as I had been in the ’90s and early 2000s. That’s when Sarah and Zach were most active in Villa Sinfonia, the violin studio he ran with his wife, Lynn. Over the years, there were rehearsals and concerts and trips to Europe. For a while I created the concert programs for them. I never went on any of the tours but I did go to the summer workshop at Zephyr Point, Lake Tahoe several times.

View from conference center

Other times Bud and Lynn let us stay in their house in South Lake Tahoe for weekend getaways. I’m sure we weren’t the only ones they were so generous to.

It is a clich√© that an organization is like a family. I heard a lot of this rhetoric from Symphony leadership this past three months. I was not convinced. Bud and Lynn’s organization was like a family. They did a lot of smart things from a business perspective but it was all grounded in a love for music and teaching. I always felt that the growth of the studio was due not to some hard nosed business plan but from the organic needs of the people they served.

Bud was a demanding leader but he gave of himself without reserve.

This picture is from a Christmas concert at Ghirardelli Square in 1995. It was a regular thing for a few years. Bud was surely thinking about the music that they were about to play but there were probably kids not yet there he was thinking about. A good man. He will be missed.

Sarah’s quartet

I went to Sarahs’ quartet concert last Friday night. I had spoken to her a couple of times about it beforehand but hadn’t made any big promises about coming. She indicated the program was daunting and implied they weren’t ready for performance.

None of that really registered to me. I go to her concerts when I can and don’t worry about what’s on the program. In my mind it’s not about what they are playing, I’m just supporting my daughter.

It’s not that I expect it to be terrible, just the opposite. I know Sarah has the highest standards and the people in her quartet are all quality players. (Actually I don’t know if it fair to refer to it as ‘her’ quartet. She plays first violin but I believe it is a cooperative venture.)

So the program was all about David Ryther’s transcription of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring for string quartet. ‘The Sound and the Fury’ The first piece was a Debussy quartet that was nice but rather dark. I remember thinking that with the Stravinsky on the second half, it was already a pretty heavy program.

At intermission, David and Omid brought out some percussion stuff including a kick drum! Oddly, although I had heard the Rite of Spring a couple of times live and had at least one recording of it, I didn’t feel like I had familiarity with it.

In fact, it was like hearing it for the first time. And in the back of my head, I must have retained the feeling I got from Sarah that they were not completely secure with it. The combination had me on the edge of my seat and they ripped it up. Just grabbed it by the throat and ran with it. It was awesome! Omid on the kick drum! David on the tam tam!

For all that, my main reaction was not to the music per se. I kept thinking about how all the people in the quartet were friends with Zach. My feeling of pride in Sarah got all tied up with that and I choked up a couple of times. It wasn’t until afterwards when I saw Lynn Oakley that I really lost it. Lynn was Sarah’s first teacher back when Sarah was 4 years old. She taught Zach too, for many years.

Not many know, outside the Villa circle, that Zach was a really good violinist. He started, like Sarah, at a very young age. He played with Villa Sinfonia many times and went on at least one tour with them. I believe he had perfect pitch. I also believe that the violin came to symbolize his mother and he refused to play any more after he was about 14. I always hoped he would come back to it later in life.

Afterward the concert I held Sarah and said, somewhat hopefully, into her ear. ‘Didn’t I cry at your concerts before?’ She said, ‘Not as much.’