Michael "Mickey" Bookspan, the Philadelphia Orchestra's
principal percussionist and a member of that orchestra for 49 years, died suddenly Sept. 12 following emergency heart surgery.He
died in Florida, just a few weeks after he
performed throughout the orchestra's annual summer residency at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.Bookspan
had performed at SPAC since its founding 37 years ago, and was a well-known figure to local audiences.
Tall, white-haired and graceful, he
moved with ease through the myriad instruments at the back of the orchestra, occasionally coming to front stage for solos, such as the magnificent snare drum part in Ravel's "Bolero."Bookspan
joined the Philadelphia Orchestra
in 1953, the year he
graduated from the Juilliard School
, when Eugene Ormandy was conductor.I didn't know Bookspan personally, but in the past weeks I've pieced together a portrait of an amazing person: a husband, father, friend, mentor and teacher who marked his time and space with a passionate energy, as well as with the rhythms of his sticks and mallets, cymbals and keyboards.
On the afternoon of his
last performance at SPAC this past summer, Bookspan
took the time to attend the final student concert of the New York Summer School of Orchestral Studies
, watching and listening carefully as the teenage percussionists he
had coached for several weeks displayed the techniques he
had taught them.
Seen together nightly during orchestra intermissions, they appeared inseparable, leaving arm-in arm after Bookspan's
Together, each morning, they swam across the river by his
summer home in Luzerne, where he
proposed to Shirley 12 years ago.The summer residence was an idyllic retreat he
had built with his
son from a previous marriage, Adam.
Adam's mother, Raquel, died shortly after Adam's birth in 1966.Bookspan
also is survived by a daughter, Jolie, from a first marriage.
But it is apparent that Bookspan
also found joy in his
daily life, and particularly in his
..."Going back to work (after his death) was a nightmare," said Tony Orlando, who began studying with Bookspan at the age of 18 at the Philadelphia Music Academy, and joined the orchestra's percussion section himself 30 years ago.
...As a teacher, Bookspan adapted to the individual student, Orlando said.
also taught since 1980 at the Curtis Institute of Music
percussion students perform in orchestras in Pittsburgh, Toronto, Naples, Baltimore, Charlotte, Jacksonville, and in the New World Symphony, the Nexus Percussion Ensemble, the West Point Band, the Maggio Musicale (Italy) and in France and Spain.
...One former student, Steve Weiss of Willow Grove, Pa., has established scholarships in memory of Michael Bookspan at both Juilliard and Curtis.
Owner of the best-known percussion supply business in the country, Weiss studied privately with Bookspan
beginning in 1957.
widow has received condolences from throughout the world, including one from Maestro Ricardo Muti, referring to Bookspan
as "a consummate musician and humanist."The Philadelphia Orchestra's associate concertmaster, violinist Michael Ludwig, was named after Bookspan.