I’m in Manhattan for the NY premiere of Still Point tonight – concert info here. Last night I saw Jane Fonda playing a musicologist (ain’t typecasting grand?) at the Eugene O’Neill Theater in the opening preview of Moises Kaufman’s Thirty-three Variations. But now I’m writing about the second leg in my trip last weekend – part one was here.

Part two was Houston, where I spent twelve hours, half of them asleep. I visited an old friend, Bob Yekovich, and he was able to give me a quick, after-hours tour of his baby, the Shepherd School of Music.

Shepherd – need I say it? – has quickly become one of the top music schools in the country in just thirty years of existence. As part of Rice University, it is extremely well-funded. The facilities are second to none — Ida Kavafian had warned me that Curtis could fit in the Shepherd lobby. We ducked our heads into Duncan Recital Hall (below), catching the last movement of a Prokofiev violin sonata, eavesdropped on a few Opera Scenes in the Wortham Opera Theater, and strolled through the empty Stude Concert Hall, the orchestral venue – all without leaving the enormous Alice Pratt Brown building.

Duncan Recital Hall

Bob took over Shepherd in 2003, after a dozen years of running the North Carolina School of the Arts. When he left UNCSA, I became Interim Dean for one year, and quickly learned what a preposterously difficult job it is to dean a school. Every day featured urgent requests from students, parents, alumni, faculty, staff, other administrators, legislators, donors and members of the community. Prioritizing them was an impossible task, since all of these people felt like their needs warranted immediate response – as, indeed, they did.

So let’s put it this way: before 2003 I disdained people who were in charge, figuring they were just big egos lording it over the rest of us. Now I really sympathize with them. It’s enough of a challenge to be in charge of the things I have to do, without having to answer to so many other people’s needs.

All of these thoughts came to mind as Bob described some of the blessings and curses of his position. He loves what he does, and I admire him for how much he has accomplished.

So here’s a pitch for the Shepherd School. Anyone out there with $50 million to spend, send them a check – they need to build a new opera house.

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