Richard Pittman

There was always singing in Richard Pittman’s home when he was growing up in Baltimore.  His father, Harding Pittman, once had a radio show under the name of the Irish Tenor, and later was a soloist in churches. His mother sang in the church choir. Pittman was a boy soprano, who spent a couple of months in a professional boy choir before going instrumental and taking up the trombone, which he later played for three years in the U.S. Army Field Band, and three more years in the National Symphony Orchestra. Yet even though he didn’t realize it at the time, his musical career had already begun going down another road. Pittman was the drum major in his high school marching band, so he would conduct them whenever a touchdown was scored. He was also student conductor of the high school band. When he later attended Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, with initial thoughts of becoming a music teacher, he took some conducting courses. Then came the army stint, where a trumpet-playing colleague suggested to Pittman that he had a talent for conducting. So when he got the National Symphony position, he played trombone but also studied conducting. A Fulbright Scholarship allowed him to continue studying conducting in Germany, and upon his return home he landed a position as instructor of conducting and opera at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. That’s when New England Conservatory President Gunther Schuller stepped in and hired him to teach conducting at the Boston institution in 1968, which he did for 16 years. These days, the longtime Newton, MA resident is busy guest conducting, but only when he’s not spending most of his time serving as music director for three local groups: Boston Musica Viva (which he founded in 1969), the Concord Orchestra, and the New England Philharmonic. In a recent conversation, Pittman spoke of the differences between them. “Boston Music Viva is a new music ensemble, a modern music group. The Concord Orchestra is mostly the traditional repertoire, with a sprinkling of new things and some pops concerts. The New England Philharmonic has an emphasis on new music, but I like to present it in the context of connecting it with older music.”
(by Ed Symkus)

Published on May 14, 2013