The Classical Gabfest

86: Michael Jinbo, Teacher

April 20, 2022 The Classical Gabfest
The Classical Gabfest
86: Michael Jinbo, Teacher
Show Notes

Hi there Classical Gabfest Listeners, this is Will, and I’m afraid we don’t have a regular episode for you this week. Longtime listeners to the show will know that Tiffany and Kensho and I all met at the Pierre Monteux School, which is a summer music institute focused on orchestral conducting and playing. Unfortunately, earlier this week, the school’s director, Michael Jinbo, died suddenly, and as Michael was a beloved teacher, mentor, and friend to all three of us, we decided not to produce an episode this week.

As a brief tribute, I wanted to say a few words about our teacher:

Maestro Jinbo was only the third-ever music director of the Monteux School in its 79-year history, succeeding his own teacher, Charles Bruck, and before him, Pierre Monteux himself, whom some of you may know was the conductor of the world premieres of The Rite of Spring and Daphnis and Chloé, and who performed Brahms’ string quartets for Brahms himself, among many other accomplishments.

Maestro Jinbo was proud of the school’s tradition, but he was very much his own musician and a great musician at that. Maestro Jinbo was not a famous conductor, but he was famous among conductors. We marveled at his crystal-clear technique and his deeply felt, uncomplicated musicality, and I know for a fact that videos of his conducting (which he would never allow to be released) circulated privately among his admirers. In rehearsal, he was totally unfussy and to-the-point. He always preferred to show and rather than to tell, but whenever he did say something about the music, it was invariably insightful, witty, and inspiring.

Of course, my co-hosts and I, and many, many others of his students will remember Michael for his abilities as a teacher. He combined uncompromising honesty with a deep care for each of his students as a human being, and he taught to each student individually. He didn’t waste time and he went immediately for your weaknesses, not to demean you, but to strengthen you.

Above all, Michael Jinbo taught us to be our true selves, both on and off the podium. He never tried to mold us in his own image, rather he helped us to strip away our excess baggage and taught us to honor the essential core that remained. And that’s just about the greatest gift that any teacher can give you.

It’s hard to find recordings of Michael’s work, but I did find a beautiful one on YouTube, in which Michael is leading the Nittany Valley Symphony of Pennsylvania, of which he was also music director for several decades. This is a recording of the “Meditation” from Jules Massenet’s opera Thaïs, featuring violinist Max Zorin, which I offer as this week’s mixtape suggestion. 

Rest in Peace, Michael.


Massenet, Thaïs: “Meditation”
Nittany Valley Symphony Orchestra
Max Zorin, violin
Michael Jinbo, conductor