Glendale Youth Orchestra conductor Brad Keimach retires after 19 years

After leading the Glendale Youth Orchestra for 19 years, Juilliard-trained Brad Keimach would hang up his stick, but he would not sit down.

The young people he leads either.

For the last performance Keimach will conduct before retiring on May 19, the orchestra will perform the majority of the pieces, including Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and the overture to Mozart’s opera, “The Magic Flute”.

Having young musicians standing during performances has been so central to Keimach’s directing philosophy – because he thinks they play better that way – that he lost a job at CSU Northridge because of it.

Administrators had asked him to stop the practice while conducting a junior high-level orchestra there in the 1990s, but he refused.

So when he auditioned for the role with the Glendale Youth Orchestra soon after, he made sure to expose his practice to board members from the get-go.

“I said ‘Everyone stand up’ and they were really surprised – the kids and the board – how well the kids were playing when they got up,” Keimach said, recalling the audition that earned him the job.

At 65, Keimach can still perform an entire symphony.

While Keimach says he gives “100% of every fiber of my being” when conducting, and hopes it’s contagious, he doesn’t underestimate the efforts of young musicians.

Last November, the youth orchestra impressed him with a performance that included Beethoven’s “Overture from Coriolanus”, Mozart’s Symphony No. 35, Ravel’s “Tzigane” and Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony.

“It thrills me when the kids play better than they should,” Keimach said.

“These are really breathtaking moments, when they see what their effort is paying off, not just in terms of musical creation, but in terms of personal growth,” he added.

The orchestra’s next performance will be on March 10 at the Alex Theater. Local students performing solos will be Daron James Bedrossian, Cole Davis, Elaina Marriott and

Jaimie Yoon. The St. Cecilia Choir from Holy Family Church in Glendale will also perform during the concert.

Keimach, who originally entered Juilliard as a major saxophone, switched to conducting when he heard his first symphony. Since the saxophone is rarely a part of classical music, he realized that he could not participate in many symphonies if he did not change tracks.

Since then, classical music has been at the center of his concerns. During his career spanning more than three decades, he has conducted several professional and youth orchestras and taught at Kean College, Purchase Conservatory, CSU Northridge and Antioch University.

The decision to withdraw from the Glendale Youth Orchestra left Keimach with mixed feelings.

On the one hand, he enjoyed the constant company of musical giants like Bach and Handel.

On the other hand, there are so many things Keimach wants to do.

After selling his beach yoga business last year, Keimach wants to edit and publish several books, learn more about his family tree, immerse himself in Shakespeare and practice the qigong martial art, as well as walk around and do more volunteering.

“Now I will have time,” he said.

Tickets for the March 10 concert are $ 15 for general admission and can be purchased at the Alex Theater box office, 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale. Tickets for students, children and seniors cost $ 12.

For more information call (818) 243-2539 or visit alextheatre.org.

lila.seidman@latimes.com

Twitter: @lila_seidman

About Roy B. Westling

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