The Maestro's Farewell

By: Denny Trease
By: Denny Trease

George Zack's home has cabinets overflowing with albums, tapes, and mementoes of his career, but it doesn't seem possible to the white-haired conductor of the Lexington Philharmonic that he's been delighting audiences here for nearly 37 years.

Zack says, “No, not at all. Time does fly when you're having fun. I've spent more than half of my life in this job with this orchestra, but each year is different. When I look back, I look at almost continuous variation. So you keep reinventing yourself for the audience of that day."

Born in Arkansas, to Greek parents, George seemed an unlikely fit in Lexington.

He says, "My wife was very much afraid of her reaction to the South, being from Massachusetts, and I was as well. I had spent a lot of time teaching away from Arkansas. I told her we were going to Lexington for three years, and she said that anybody can do anything for three years. Now you can't drag her out of here. She has fallen in love with the city, the way I have."

Generations of musicians have fallen in love with him. Zack has devoted countless hours to working with young musicians.

He says, "That's the future of everything, because parent involvement is very big in the primary grades. Then the kids start going to junior high, and you think they're really set, but they're not."

The unflappable conductor got very emotional recounting some of the letters of thanks he's received from former youth orchestra members, so just how emotional will his farewell performance get Friday night? Zach takes a long, deep breath before answering that question.

"I still have a very physical approach to conducting, as an art form, but I'm pretty controlled. However, this concert is unique. My children, my friends, my in-laws, my brother and sister will be here. I know it's going to be different."

A teardrop might just hit the floor of the stage when the maestro makes his final bow. George Zack says that's something he really doesn't want to think about.


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