A Sad Day: Andrew Patner Has Died

Chicago, indeed the entire field of classical music, lost one of its most devoted servants when music critic and broadcaster Andrew Patner unexpectedly passed away on the morning of February 3, 2015 at the age of 55. Always affable, easy to talk with, and refreshingly candid, he was the human Wikipedia for all things related to Chicago arts and culture.

Andrew was a friend and colleague, he was among one of the first new faces welcoming me to Chicago nearly a decade ago. If you have always wanted to be the type of person who is just as interested as he is interesting, is never at a loss for words, and moves seamlessly from one topic to the next, you wanted to be Andrew.

In all of the time I knew Andrew I don’t think there was ever an occasion where he didn’t have something genuinely fascinating to discuss; in fact, he was a perpetual motion machine when it came to lively and challenging conversation. At the same time, he was an equally earnest listener who genuinely internalized and considered what those around him had to say.

He was one of the very few people I trusted enough to communicate with openly and with complete candor; given the breadth of his connections, I have no doubt many others felt the same way.

News of Andrew’s passing came from his partner, the equally brilliant Tom Bachtell, who wrote what is perhaps the most touching and fitting description of Andrew’s character.

[Andrew] was an utterly brilliant, funny man with a huge heart who never stopped connecting and conversing with and writing about the world, making the world think and laugh, leavening the world with culture and wit. He had a strong sense of justice. He had strong opinions. He was a knower of people, as all of his friends all over the world can attest.

In one of those ironic twists in life, my wife and I had the pleasure of hosting a small dinner with friends barely two weeks ago that included Andrew and it would be the last time we were to enjoy his company. In hindsight, our fortune at enjoying his friendship and camaraderie seems hard to believe.

There is so much more to share about Andrew but ultimately, written words can feel so empty at a time like this. Having said that, it would be unforgivable not to take the time to mention that it was a genuine honor to have known Andrew. Crossing his path left me a better person and the Chicago arts community, not to mention the field as a whole, are better thanks to having him serve as a caretaker. His presence and contributions will be deeply missed.

Andrew Patner
Andrew Patner And Riccardo Muti, 2008 Salzburg Festival
Andrew Patner at Dinner
There’s Andrew, tucked away at the far corner of the table entertaining everyone with one of his enduring anecdotes. Photo: Matt Hoffman

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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