Meet a Member 2021-22
Ted Stern, LAB’s illustrious continuo player, has been with the organization since its inaugural concert in November 2016. Joan Lounsbery caught up with him during rehearsals for LAB's pop up concert, November 2021:
Ted, you are a true Renaissance man! I do know that about you. I would like to know more about your early musical influences and activities.
I was born in Philadelphia. When I was two years old my father was offered a job as professor of anthropology at the University of Oregon, so we moved to Eugene. My mother was a grade school teacher and a pianist. When I was six my parents enrolled me in the elementary school band playing flute. I played flute in orchestras right through high school and college.
I earned a bachelor’s degree in music at the University of Oregon, and then a master’s degree in composition at USC (by the way, my piano teacher at USC was Michael Tilson-Thomas!), and later a PhD in musicology at UCLA. During my college years I spent a year abroad in The Hague studying conducting, composition, piano, classical guitar, voice and theory. Following college I spent six years in the Army National Guard Band, conducting and playing flute.
During that time, I was doing film and tv orchestration, and then I began what would turn out to be a 30-year teaching career at Glendale Community College, conducting the orchestra there and teaching theory and history. I was Department Chair for eight of those years. By the way, my wife Ellen was the timpanist in that orchestra for all the years I conducted it, and she is among other things an amateur gamba player and has been by my side for many of my musical adventures. In all my time at Glendale I counted up that I conducted 400 pieces from the standard orchestral repertoire and it’s a strange background for one who now plays theorbo!
I know that you have a keen interest and play several wind instruments. What more can you tell me?
As part of my post-doctoral research, I designed a measuring system for original wind instruments. I went to Europe and shared this system of CAD drawings with museums so they could then provide more accurate measurements to instrument makers in order to make better reproductions of a host of original instruments found in those museums. I actually set up a shop in our home and started making a few instruments myself. This project was short-lived because I realized this was a full-time job and I already had a full-time job!
In 2001 I started teaching a music appreciation course in Montrose, which is still going strong. Over the years I conducted church choirs and madrigal groups, and along the way studied harp and Baroque oboe. Also at the same time, I started I started the Los Angeles Renaissance Consort, a group for hire.
Your primary instrument now, theorbo, is a source of great fascination for audience members, who often come up to you after performances and want to know more. How did you come to play this instrument?
Knowing that I was going to be retiring from Glendale I was missing playing and performing chamber music, and realized that continuo instruments were in great demand. I decided to order a theorbo from an instrument maker in London and started studying privately with Daniel Zuluaga. By late 2012 I was playing with friends in our living room, mostly playing grounds, and that continues to this day, although I’ve moved beyond grounds!
You’ve been a member of LAB since the very beginning. What has the experience meant to you?
Actually, the idea for LAB was started around our dining room table in 2016 in discussions with Lucy Jones, Lindsey Strand-Polyak and you! It means a great deal to me to be in LAB because Lindsey has a way of enthusiastically introducing us to a vast array of baroque repertoire and she challenges us, always. LAB is also a chance to meet other instrumentalists that I wouldn’t necessarily know otherwise. LAB members are a group of great people and great musicians and I’m so glad to be a part of it all.