Monday, October 24, 2011 Michael O'Daniel, former agent for Everett Lee, Confirms Racial Obstacles

[Michael O'Daniel identifies the people in the above photo from Jet Magazine as, from left: Jessye Norman, Everett Lee, Max Roach and Martina Arroyo]

Bob Shingleton of On An Overgrown Path tells AfriClassical:
"There is another valuable addition to the Everett Lee path today

Monday, October 24, 2011
We're just not ready yet for a black conductor

Contribution of Michael O'Daniel:
It is October 19 and I have just now seen your July 25 post re Everett Lee. I represented Everett for a couple of years while I was in the artist management business in New York and I ran into the same attitude as Arthur Judson's when I presented him for open music director positions with major symphony orchestras (including Oakland!!): "We're just not ready yet for a black conductor." Ironic because one of the catchwords of African American life, from the white perspective, was "You people just aren't ready yet..."

Anyway, I did manage to get Everett a couple of opera conducting gigs, and 2-3 guest engagements with major orchestras, but then I moved away from NYC and away from the artist management business. I believe he later went on to run an opera company in Philadelphia and perhaps also formed or at least led another orchestra in New York (possibly that is the St. Luke's Orchestra you refer to). Before I met Everett, I had actually met the late Sylvia Olden Lee first because she was my wife's vocal coach at Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and thereafter. (She was a pianist and vocal coach, BTW, not a singer.) I got to know their son Everett III and their daughter Eve as well. Quite an extraordinary family.

The common thread in the saga of Everett and Sylvia Olden Lee is Max Rudolf, who had (a) previously conducted in Goteborg Sweden, (b) was first a conductor and then artistic administrator at the Met from 1942-58 and (c) became music director of the Cincinnati Symphony in 1958 and was probably responsible for getting Sylvia her position at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. (When he left the Cincinnati in 1970 to head the opera department at Curtis, he took Sylvia with him.) I was assistant manager of the Cincinnati Symphony in 1965-66 and stayed in touch with Rudolf thereafter. He was very supportive of my and my wife's career undertakings as well. Rudolf was one of the few arts administrators in the USA who dared to advocate for and engage black performers, composers and conductors.

I was unaware for many years that the Louisville Orchestra had provided Everett with his first guest conducting engagement (shameful since Louisville is my home town and I grew up on young people's concerts by the Louisville Orchestra). I do know that Rudolf brought Everett in to conduct the Cincinnati Orchestra on at least 2 occasions, as he had previously done with Dean Dixon.

In answer to your question re: the photo ID from Jet Magazine [see above] – Jessye Norman, Max Roach (who I also once represented) and Martina Arroyo - I believe that is indeed Everett Lee second from left. I had never before seen him with glasses but the facial structure looks the same. Quite a spiffy getup, too.

Ironically, my wife Sylvia and I now live in El Cerrito CA, just north of Oakland, whose Symphony for many years has had a black music director named Michael Morgan, and prior to that had engaged the late Calvin Simmons as its music director. Also, I believe the first black music director of a major US orchestra was James DePreist in Portland, and Thomas Wilkins is now in Omaha as well as principal conductor at the Hollywood Bowl. By all means please update Everett's biographical information and submit it to Wikipedia as well.
Michael O'Daniel

Bob Shingleton:
That valuable addition to the Everett Lee path arrived a few days ago. Thankfully attitudes have changed since the days when Everett Lee, Philippa Schuyler, Rudolph Dunbar, Dean Dixon and other musicians of colour were struggling to build their careers. But echoes of that headline do still linger on.
* October is Black History Month in the UK.

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