Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra: making great music personal



fishing in the 3rd stream

an interview with david shostac, part 1

May 06, 2009

David Shostac has been principal flute with LACO since 1975, and his understated excellence has become so much a part of the celebrated LACO sound that it is easy to take him for granted. Sometimes it does us good to take a step back and realize just what treasures we have in our Orchestra, and to recognize in just what esteem throughout the country our principals are held. Two aphorisms come to mind, one profound and one humorous:

“But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house.” (Matthew 13:57)

“An expert is someone from somewhere else, with slides…” (anon.)

David is well known for his performances throughout North America; critics in major cities have been unanimous in their praise. Terms such as “extraordinary”; “superb”; “sheer excellence”; “dazzling”; “staggering virtuosity”; “absolutely fabulous”; “finest in the country”; “world-class”; “a musician of the highest order” have been used to describe his playing. He has made solo appearances in the Hollywood Bowl, at Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival, the Casals Festival of Puerto Rico, the Aspen Music Festival, Ojai Festival, Stratford (Ontario) Festival, Carmel Bach Festival, and four National Flute Conventions, to name a few; he has collaborated as a featured artist with conductors such as Sir Neville Marriner, Jean-Paul Rampal, Iona Brown, Christopher Hogwood, Cristof Perick, Gerard Schwartz, Claudio Scimone, Karl Richter, Helmut Rilling, Jorge Mester, and Henryk Szeryng; and his solo recordings include Masterpieces from the French Repertoire and Masterpieces Rediscovered on Resort Classic; Love Letters on Crystal Records; and The Romantic Flute on Excelsior, which, by 1998, had become one of the best-selling classical flute recordings in the U.S, and which prompted Excelsior’s subsequent release of Romantic Flute: Volume 2 . This latter CD is currently discontinued, but both Romantic Flute CDs will soon be re-released, with a few alterations.

There is another area of David’s accomplishments with which you may be less familiar. He has appeared in recital with Roberta Peters and Victoria de Los Angeles, and he has worked extensively in the studios; he can be heard on sound tracks of major motion pictures, recordings, and television shows. He has had a long-standing interest in jazz music and was a member of the faculty of the Henry Mancini Institute during its 10-year existence.

We recently had an opportunity to sit down with David for a delightful interview, which I’m pleased to share with you:

Bob: Thanks so much for taking the time to share with us here in The Stream, David.

David: I’m delighted to have the opportunity, Bob. When I heard about what you’ve been doing, I was hoping that I’d get my chance!

Bob: That’s my fault; sorry! I should have gotten in touch with you long before this… But, let’s start at the beginning of your musical story. Where did your interest in music first come from? Do you come from a musical family?

David: My parents were both musicians. My father was a violinist who studied with Yseye and was Concert Master in Prague, Dresden, Kansas City, and was a member of the Chicago Symphony; he also performed in string quartets all over Europe, and started the first chamber music series in Chicago. Later he played in the studios in L.A. My mother, a pianist, studied at USC and UCLA and was a private piano teacher to the Barrymore kids, Otto Krueger kids, and others.

My dad had string quartets at the house every week, and he also practiced with me. When I got advanced enough, we played duets (Mozart and Kuhlau), and he let me sit in with the string players for Mozart flute quartets and the Bach Suite in B Minor. I was very lucky to have these opportunities, and besides, my mother would accompany me on solo pieces as well.

Bob: Wow; I certainly understand where your interest in classical music came from! Did you have the opportunity to hear other kinds of music as well?

David: I spent a lot of time at my best friend’s house, and the lady who worked for the family always had on the Rhythm & Blues station. I developed an instant attraction to that music, as well as the classical music from my house.

Bob: When did you begin taking music lessons? Did you begin on the flute, or did you start on another instrument?

David: My mother tried to teach me piano from the age of four, but that didn’t work out for too long. I started pulling the ivories off the keys, and they had to be glued back on, leaving those particular keys a not-too-pleasant shade of gray! Unfortunately, my parents didn’t think to send me to an outside teacher. Who knows whether that might have worked out better…

Actually, the very first instrument I tried was a quarter-sized violin placed on a peg like a cello. I must have been very young, but I still remember starting right away to play something. They took it away immediately, as I think my dad realized he might have another violinist on his hands, and they didn’t want their son to go through the trials and tribulations of a professional musician. (Oh, well; you can’t control destiny!). Anyway, I could play tunes on any little whistle as well, from an early age, so it was going to happen anyway, I guess.

Bob: So, it sounds like your musical talent was obvious very early. Do you have any siblings? Were they musical, also?

David: No, I was an only child.

Bob: When, then, did you start on the flute?

David: I started the flute at 8 years of age, after my parents stalled long enough to keep me from getting one of the two trombones that were offered at school when I was in second grade. (Of my two friends who got them, one became a Beverly Hills doctor, and the other became a fireman). My parents went into a room with the orchestra teacher at school, and when they came out, they told me I was going to play the flute. I didn’t even know what a flute was! Ironically, my first flute teacher was a trombonist!

We also had an old C-melody saxophone in the house, with which I was always fooling around. It turned out that the fingerings had much in common with those of the flute. More on that later.

Bob: So, it sounds almost like you became a flute player by default; the trombones had run out! I prick up my ears at that, since I was a trombone player myself. I had an aunt who played the flute, and I remember her teaching me fingerings at an early age. But, it didn’t stick…

David: Now, that’s a coincidence; we could have ended up on opposite instruments!

Bob: But seriously, were there any positive reasons that your parents tended to lean toward the flute?

David: Probably one of the reasons was that my father was friends with a fine flutist, Anthony Linden, who performed with him in Chicago, and later was a well-known flutist in Los Angeles. (I believe he played in the L.A. Philharmonic at one time.)

Another reason was that the flute was not a loud instrument, and I wouldn’t drive my folks crazy blasting it.

Our conversation with David Shostac continues next time.

2 comments

Who was David's father? I love the CSO.

  • —Anonymous, May 11, 2009 08:15 am

My father's name was Henri Shostac, and he played under Frederick
Stock in CSO. He contracted typhoid fever at some time during that
period (before penicillin), which resulted in osteomyelitis in his
bowing arm. He finally got over it by moving to Los Angeles, where
he played in the studios, mostly viola. He once played string
quartets with Albert Einstein in L.A. ("...a lousy second
violinist")! Einstein couldn't count!!

  • —David Shostac, May 11, 2009 08:50 pm

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