Sports music

By Marc Katz

If you read Dayton City Paper regularly, you probably know of Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg. If you only read this column, you don’t know anything about her at all.

Neal Gittleman introduced us, though it’s a story. It’s like one of those Donald Trump stories – I know her well, except, I never really met her.

Salerno-Sonnenberg is this violinist and, I’m told, a Yankees fan.

I asked Gittleman at a recent lunch if anyone else in the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, of which he is the conductor, is a sports fan. Gittleman and I are friends – yeah, I know, you didn’t see that one coming (I’m the low brow side of a low brow-high brow friendship) – and I know he can talk sports.

I just thought he was an outlier in his profession. He knows sports, but no one else in his orchestra can tell the difference between a fiddle and a baseball bat. This is Gittleman’s story, and I’m sticking to it.

This might also be a good place to point out I have a nearly full-size poster of our maestro in my collection of cardboard giants which includes Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan, John McEnroe, and Dave Parker. That’s a story within itself I may relate at a future date.

Back to Salerno-Sonnenberg, who soloed with the Dayton Philharmonic for two nights in September 1999. On one of those nights (either Sept. 15 or 16), she was a little late getting to the stage.

“We played the overture,” Gittleman says. “It was time to play the concerto, and she’s not coming out.”

For most of the people I know, overture and concerto are not everyday terms, but for this publication, I’m going to let it go.

So Gittleman knows, or finds out, Salerno-Sonnenberg is a Yankees fan (so was he growing up) and there is one television backstage at the Schuster and the Yanks are on.

“She didn’t want to come out until the inning was over,” Gittleman says. “I thought it was during the playoffs, but I looked it up and it was just a regular season game.” I’m told Salerno-Sonnenberg played very well both nights.

Then, there’s the story of Sheridan Currie, the DP’s principal violist. She’s from Maryland and a Baltimore Ravens fan, so she was watching the Ravens and Broncos playoff game backstage on Jan. 12, 2013. Call your sports friends. They’ll remember.

The Ravens were trailing by a touchdown from the 30 with 31 seconds left in regulation and no time outs. Somewhere around there, Currie had to take the stage and warm up. She was downcast.

Gittleman was interested in the game as well. “I’m the last one out,” Gittleman says, “so I stood by the television and watched the rest of the game.”

He saw the Ravens pull it out, 38-35, in double overtime. Then, Gittleman walked out, took his bows, and mounted his podium. The violas were right in front of him, a little to the left. He catches Currie’s eye, smiles, and wraps his index finger and thumb in an “O” for OK.

Currie smiled, relieved, and played very well that night, I’m told. “More importantly,” Gittleman says, “Weber, Oberon overture, Meira Warshauer: Tekeeyah (concerto for Trombone/Shofar), Copland: Symphony No. 3.”

OK, too much information.

Then, there’s Aaron Brant, the principal horn of the DP. He must be a frustrated Clevelander. A few weeks ago, Gittleman talked to him about something and Brant’s call back seemed to be coming from a car.

“I took my son up to the parade,” Brant told Gittleman. “We’re on the way back.”

That was the parade for the NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers. I’m telling you, these philharmonic folks are sports fanatics.

At one point in his past, Gittleman thought he was going into sports and not music. As an 11-year-old, he pulled off an unassisted infield triple play at camp. “I thought, ‘Yeah, I can do that,’” Gittleman says. Well, he couldn’t.

He was a Yankees fan, then a Mets fan when they were born in New York in 1962, then a Boston fan when he was there, then a Syracuse University fan during a stint as an associate conductor of the Syracuse symphony.

It was during that time the symphony had a play date in nearby Ithaca, New York, on the same night Syracuse played Indiana for the national NCAA basketball title.

“We had busses to take us back,” Gittleman says. “On one of the busses, nobody wanted to know the final score. That’s the bus I took, but I didn’t know how I was going to get to my home without knowing.”

It was eerily quiet when his bus arrived in Syracuse and he found his car. He heard about Indiana’s Keith Smart at the end of his tape-delayed broadcast.

As you might imagine, Gittleman does get out to exercise a bit, playing golf and squash, although a recent rotator cuff operation may cut into that.

He’ll probably spend the extra time he has discussing with his wife, Lisa Fry, the recent retirement of Alex Rodriguez from the Yankees. Maybe not. Love Lisa, but not sure she knows much about the Yankees.

The views and opinions expressed in On Your Marc are the views and/or opinions of the author and do not reflect the views and/or opinions of the Dayton City Paper or Dayton City Media and are published strictly for entertainment purposes.

Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at

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Marc Katz
Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at

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