Oakland violinist Gil Gleason, giving back to community for 50 years

Posted on: May 15, 2014

In Monday’s (5/12) San Jose Mercury News (California), Lou Fancher profiles violinist Gil Gleason, who this month marked “his half-century as conductor of the Oakland Community Orchestra. The 81-year-old violinist, who retired from the Oakland East Bay Symphony in 1999 after 33 years, has taught violin and led the community orchestra for five decades…. Every Friday, he stands on the podium, rehearsing the 46-member community orchestra he helped build from an unlikely group of six musicians. Funded by the Oakland Department of Parks and Recreation, the nonprofessional group plays primarily at retirement centers and Oakland elementary schools. ‘The rehearsal space has changed several times, but not the conductor,’ says concert mistress Priscilla Magee. At 90, she’s been with the orchestra for long enough to call Gleason ‘Maestro.’ … Gleason says he’s watched for 50 years as many city-supported arts programs in Oakland have suffered cuts, and as the Oakland Community Orchestra has remained pretty much unscathed. He’s fought to preserve the orchestra, promoting its service to seniors, adding performances to underserved schools and fighting suggestions to become self-supporting by charging membership dues. ‘Some of our members can’t afford a membership. If the city doesn’t support it, it won’t happen,’ he says.”

Posted May 15, 2014