It is my pleasure to present this interview with Gabe Katz. Gabe and I have had so many commonalities in our career trajectory, and we have both ended up finding a really satisfying musical niche in the world of secondary school orchestral conducting. Now, by the time you’re listening to this, I will have moved on from this career, but of the past seven years this is what I did, and this is what Gabe has also started doing these last couple of years.
Prior to his current job teaching orchestra at the high school level in suburban Houston, Gabe held two overseas jobs: one in Durbin, South Africa, and one in Guangzhou Orchestra in China. He also worked in Singapore and in Macao. He ended up meeting up with Hal Robinson while in China and ultimately moving back to the US to study in Hal’s private studio and take auditions.
We cover the thought process that took him from the performance world into the education world, going back to school at Duquesne in Pittsburgh and his experience taking music education courses at an older age, and the unexpected joys and satisfactions of teaching in the public schools.
- started college at Oberlin with Scott Haigh
- transferred in undergrad to SUNY Purchase and studied with Tim Cobb
- MM Carnegie Mellon with Jeff Turner
- Summer Festivals:
- principal bass of NRO
- Music Academy of the West
- Manhattan School of Music for Performers Diploma – worked with Tim Cobb again
- driving all over the place doing freelance gigs, making it to semi-finals for some auditions, but started scouring the Internet for overseas opportunities
- got an orchestra job in Durbin, South Africa
- got a job as principal bass of the Guangzhou Orchestra in China
- also worked in Singapore and Macao
- meeting up with Hal Robinson while in China and ultimately coming back to the United States to study privately with him
- was thinking about going back to school – deciding between doctorate or getting certified to teach – postbox programs
- ended up doing a post baccalaureate program at Duquesne with Steve Benham, who is President-Elect of the American String Teachers Association
- Gabe’s goal was to get a high school orchestra teaching job
- Gabe ended up getting a high school orchestra director job in suburban Houston – a plum gig for sure!
- the high level of high school students in this area – comparable to an undergrad population at many music schools
- getting into conducting – the high level of satisfaction that results from studying scores, planning rehearsals, picking repertoire
- Gabe knows that he’s changing lives every day in this new gig – there’s a positivity and excitement to it which he’s feeling that you’ll pick up on as you listen
- his 20-year-old self would have thought that he was a “sellout”
- Orin O’Brein: “You’re never done learning.” – music is a journey, a lifelong learning path
- conducting is a culmination of everything you’ve ever learned (Gabe says this and I totally feel that as well!)
- how Duquesne keeps its music education program elite
- The University of Michigan string teaching legacy – Steve Culver, Bob Gillespie, Bob Phillips, Steve Benham
- most Bachelors of Music programs train you to:
- A: Work at Starbucks
- B: Win an orchestra job
- Hal: “You’re offering yourself as a product.”