Determination In The Face Of Adversity

As the Utah Symphony & Opera begins their European tour, they’ll be traveling without one of their long time members; violinist Misha Boguslavsky.  Mr. Boguslavsky passed away last month from complications due to diabetes and heart disease.

Mr. Boguslavsky was one of the handful of musicians who came to the U.S. from the former Soviet Union during the days of the Cold War.  I remember growing up in latter half of that era and it was always a unique experience being able to meet a musician who left the Soviet Union, which during that time was a Herculean task in and of itself.

In this day and age it isn’t unusual to meet a professional musician from one of the countries which used to reside on the other side of the “iron curtain”.  After the fall of the Soviet Union, thousands of professional musicians used the newly relaxed immigration laws to move to Western Europe, Canada, and the U.S.  As such, there was a fundamental increase in the average quantity of orchestras in each of those areas throughout the western world.

In addition to their level of musicianship, these former Soviet musicians brought with them their inherent sense of determination and the ability to see potential, something this business can always use more of.  Shortly after Mr. Boguslavsky passing, Utah Symphony & Opera principal flutist, Erich Graf, touched on this idea and more in a tribute about Mr. Boguslavsky he delivered prior to their concert on Tuesday, March 29th, 2005.

I am Erich Graf, principal flutist of the Utah Symphony, and President of Local 104, American Federation of Musicians, Salt Lake City. I am not a string player, but have been a great friend and admirer of the Boguslavsy family for many years.

My memory is rich with recollections of wonderful times spent with Misha, Nina, and their son Yuri. The first social event Misha and Nina attended after arriving in Salt Lake City was at my home. Mary Dickson refreshed my memory that the occasion was a Halloween party, and that Nina, in her endearing inquisitive way, asked, “What is the significance of the or-ange ve-ge-table”? It was a joyous evening in which they had the opportunity to meet many individuals in our journalistic and musical community.
Misha was a superb colleague in the Utah Symphony. The definition of “professionalism” in our industry is “global”. During his brilliant career, both in Russia and the United States, he represented the admirable traits of perseverance, artistic integrity, and respect for his colleagues traits all musicians embrace and continuously attempt to achieve.

During my 40-year career, I have sought professional advice and tapped the wisdom of very few individuals my mentor, Julius Baker, former principal flutist of the New York Philharmonic, Ralph Gochnour, my colleague in the Utah Symphony flute section for 23 years, Kenneth Kuchler, long-time violinist with the Utah Symphony, and Misha Boguslavsky. Misha’s advice to me on several occasions was always infallible.

My experience with Russians in the USA has proven several very important points to me. These individuals have been clearly perseverant in the face of adversity.  They are passionate souls who speak only “from the heart”. I have enthusiastically welcomed this type of honesty into my life experience.

Misha and Nina have always been paragons of hospitality. They have opened their home countless times after concerts to hungry musicians (we’re always hungry–and Nina is the world’s greatest chef). The repartee at these events, while sometimes “peppery”, was always highly engaging and spiced by Misha’s unrelenting sense of humor. His common response to his colleagues’ greetings at early morning school concerts was “I am not here”. 

We have all read of his accomplishments during his brilliant musical career, but additionally, I will profoundly miss Mischa Boguslavsky, not only as a musical “giant” but as a friend to me. He will always be in my heart as I play my flute. Thank you.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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