Temple Symphony concert to feature tribute
Guest percussionist Angela Zator Nelson will honor her mentor, professor Alan Abel
Her career didn’t exactly turn on a cup of tea. But it made a difference.
“I remember coming to Philadelphia to audition for Temple’s graduate music program at the urging of my teacher at Northwestern, James Ross, a percussionist with the Chicago Symphony,” Angela Zator Nelson recalled. “He told me if there was one school I absolutely had to audition for it was Temple University and the opportunity to study with Alan Abel.”
At her audition, which took place at his home in the basement studio where he teaches, Abel and his wife offered her a cup of tea. “It’s one of the first things they asked me, and it was so welcoming!” she said.
But she is quick to point out that it was the musical experience and the prospect of studying with the outstanding percussionist and revered teacher that drove her decision.
“I had auditioned in Boston and New York, but I knew at my audition, that if I was accepted at Temple’s Boyer College of Music, I would come here.”
On Monday evening, March 21, Zator Nelson — now a percussionist with the Philadelphia Orchestra — will be the featured marimba soloist at a concert honoring her former teacher and mentor, who retired from his 38-year career with the orchestra in 1997.
Under the direction of Luis Biava, the Temple University Symphony Orchestra and Combined Choirs will present a program that includes Bach-Stokowski’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor; Mendelssohn’s Psalm 42, Op. 42; Creston’s Concertino for Marimba and Orchestra, and Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite.
“I feel so honored to be performing at this concert,” said Zator Nelson, who has not only followed in her mentor’s footsteps to the Philadelphia Orchestra’s percussion section, but also is an adjunct faculty member at the Boyer College of Music and Dance. “On top of his unparalleled playing, Alan Abel has made such an impact on his students’ lives. I continue to learn from him.
“I will never forget his support, generosity and kindness in the weeks leading up to my first performance with the Philadelphia Orchestra. He allowed me full rein of the studio in his basement to study and practice, and he’d come down every so often and offer me priceless insight into the great orchestra he was a part of for so many years.”
Zator Nelson is somewhat of a percussion pioneer — just the second female percussionist to perform in one the “top five” symphony orchestras in the country: Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Boston.
As a teacher, Abel’s influence continues to resonate through his former students, many of whom, like Zator Nelson, currently perform with the great orchestras of the world, including Boston, Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, the New York Metropolitan Opera, Barcelona (Spain) and Melbourne (Australia).
Abel began teaching at Temple in 1972 and during that decade compiled and edited two books of orchestral studies for timpani and percussion that have become standard textbooks in many percussionists’ libraries. Before coming to Philadelphia and to Temple, Abel taught at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma City University while performing as a member of the Oklahoma City Symphony. He earned a performance degree from the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester (N.Y.).
Also at the March 21 concert, Boyer Dean Robert Stroker will present a tribute award to Gov. Edward G. Rendell in recognition of his support and advocacy of the arts in Philadelphia and throughout the state of Pennsylvania.
For more information on the March 21 concert, call the Boyer information line at 215-204-7600, or log on to www.temple.edu/boyer.
By Harriet Goodheart