SLSO artistic adviser Tim Page has come a long way since his film debut at age 12

"I love to share enthusiasms," says Tim Page, former music critic for the New York Times and Washington Post; 1997 Pulitzer Prize winner for music criticism; biographer of novelist Dawn Powell (neglected novelist Dawn Powell, until Page brought critical light to her achievements); editor of Glenn Gould's writings; champion of the early minimalist compositions of Steve Reich and Philip Glass ("Everything [Glass] wrote I would play on my radio program" on WNYC); former BMG Catalyst executive producer and consultant, shepherding such recordings as Spiked, an album of Spike Jones music with liner notes by Thomas Pynchon; and currently professor of music at UM-St. Louis and artistic advisor and creative chair of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.

On this day, the scheduled RFT interview interrupts his work on an article for the Washington Post on '60s avant-garde rock trickster Captain Beefheart, which follows another appreciation piece he did for the Post on one of his current "enthusiasms," the English pop band the High Llamas. According to Page, the High Llamas are "evolving a musical sensibility that ranges from the austere minimalism of Steve Reich to the airy fluff of Herb Alpert and Burt Bacharach."

While he goes to turn off the Captain Beefheart, there's time to take note of the books on his shelf: Pynchon, Racine, Mann, Lorrie Moore, V.S. Pritchett, Plato's Republic. On the coffee table are CDs of Procol Harum and composer Alan Pettersson.

SLSO artistic adviser Tim Page: "I love to share enthusiasms."
Jennifer Silverberg
SLSO artistic adviser Tim Page: "I love to share enthusiasms."

"If I were really saying what I basically did with my life," Page continues, seated on his sofa, "it was sharing enthusiasms and explaining enthusiasms: to myself, first of all, because often you don't know why something moves you that profoundly, and then explaining them to other people."

Page first appeared in the role of enthusiast as an open-faced, engaging, precocious, supersmart kid in the documentary short "A Day with Timmy Page," made when he was 12, chronicling his life as an 8mm silent-movie director with his neighbors and relatives in Storrs, Conn., as cast and crew. The film shows the young aesthete speaking with great confidence about filmmakers who have influenced him: Griffith, Keaton, Hitchcock.

That boy can still be seen in the man Page has become -- open-faced, engaging, more ebullient than precocious, supersmart: "Going back to childhood with the silent film, I was completely fascinated by silent films, and I wanted to share that enthusiasm by making my own film. Later on I was into all these obscure rock groups and tried to play my own version of them or talk about them." Page played keyboards and composed music for a rock band called Dover Beach in the early '70s, which performed (according to his resumé) "a 45-minute rock symphony, "Prometheus Unbound.'"

Page got into radio work and music criticism, first for the Soho Weekly News, then eventually for the Times, Newsday and the Post. After some 20 years of writing classical-music criticism, the Pulitzer came, but Page found his interest waning. "I felt that sort of cold breath saying, "You've done this an awfully long time.' I often found in my reviews "I sound a little crabby there.' I did not want to become one of the all-too-many middle-aged or older music critics who seemed to suddenly take a perverse glee in trampling on an art they got into because they loved it.

"I was worried about that. There's also this thing where I've turned 45." Page lets out a theatrical gasp: "My life! I'm going to be 50 in five years."

So when the SLSO and executive director Don Roth came a-courting, they found a man in the middle of life's journey ready for a change. And they came with a position ideal for what Page himself describes as "my own particular restless sort of temperament."

Page's job description, he says, "changes daily. It includes everything from meeting with the board and going on the radio with Charlie Brennan and Ron Klemm at KFUO, to meeting with Hans Vonk and saying, "This is a really good artist -- you ought to take a listen. This is a piece I think we should be doing.'

"I'm also trying to plot strategies for doing some commercial recordings instead of just Arch Media recordings, where we'd actually get paid something and do stuff that is a little different from the Arch Media stuff." Arch Media is the SLSO's nonprofit recording company, which has produced four CDs of Beethoven, Schubert and Mahler, all within the staple of the classical repertoire.

"Also, I'm trying to think up festivals, trying to think up ideas that will hold things together. Every day it will be different. Today, in addition to finishing this piece, I've got to write a speech. Tonight I have to host a special concert for community partnerships, where I'll be talking and being the emcee. It's a little bit of everything. There's some public relations. There's some purely pie-in-the-sky idealism. There are trips to hear important artists and conductors, composers. It's a blast."

Page arrived in town just this summer, so he, Vonk and Roth are still forging a discourse. Page says of Vonk, "I like him enormously. He's a very searching conductor. He's made me feel very welcome. He listens.

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