Frank Zappa in Concert and Players Programs

By Jean-Louis LeRoux

Interview conducted by Caroline Crawford

Conductor With A Contemporary Music Mission, University of California, Berkeley, California, 2004

[excerpt from page 54]

Zappa and LeRouxCrawford: In 1983 there was a benefit concert of Varèse and Webern with Frank Zappa. Talk about that. How was that put together?

LeRoux: I had heard that Zappa had conducted some pieces in New York. He had a tremendous admiration for Varèse, so I think I called him on the phone and said, "I would like to organize a concert. That would be the 100th anniversary of Varèse and Webern, and how about sharing the conducting – you conduct the Varèse pieces and I take care of Webern?" He said yes almost immediately. And he said, "My only problem is that I need a little bit of instruction, how to conduct, to handle these pieces." I said fine.

So I went to Los Angeles. I spent an entire day with him in his house, talking about music, and we talked about what to do and what to watch out for, and I told him it would be so well received and the Players would be so happy to see him and to be working with him, and he would not have any problems.

And he came with only one request, to be in a hotel where they have twenty-four-hour service, so he could eat anything at any time. [laughter]

Crawford: And you rented and nearly filled the opera house!

LeRoux: We had more than 2,000 people. I still have a hole in my stomach about the risk we were taking. [laughter] No, I don't know how much it cost. It's a lot of money to rent the opera house, a lot of money.

Crawford: You don't remember how much?

LeRoux: No. There were stagehands and everything that goes with it. It was a lot of money.

Crawford: But the board agreed. It was a great accomplishment.

LeRoux: We did it, and we made quite a bit of money, too. Several thousand.

Crawford: Grace Slick was the mistress of ceremonies. How did that happen?

LeRoux: I think that was Frank's idea to ask her, said she would do it, and she did, and she did a wonderful job.

Players = San Francisco Contemporary Music Players. The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players is an ensemble of classically trained instrumentalists that commissions, performs, and records innovative new music, including music that integrates electronic and acoustic sounds. Jean-Louis LeRoux was Players' principal conductor and music director 1975-1988. (wikipedia)

Concert program: Varèse and Webern: One Hundredth Anniversary Celebration

Concert review: Opera Crowd Whoops for Zappa

Read by OCR software. If you spot errors, let me know afka (at)