Oestreich stepping down as New York Times classical music editor
For quite a few of us in the ever-threatened business, Jim has been a great influence and inspiration. Count me among his ardent admirers.
I am biased, of course, especially since ...
I also got a kick out of the fact that Jim, notorious for taking his sweet time answering a phone call or email, used to get back to me promptly when I contacted him (usually about Music Critics Association of North America business -- we did some projects together in the past). That gave me some pretty valuable street cred for a while.
And how can I ever thank him enough for teaching me the comfort and joy of a gin and tonic?
Being at the Times, where he did occasional reviews as well as editing, made him a magnet for a lot of negative stuff. It's a very tough, sure-to-displease-someone job.
Someone was always miffed at an article, or lack of one. Someone always assumed he was manipulating this or that, accused him of favoring or disfavoring one writer or another.
But none of that nonsense has ever dented Jim, one of the most authentic souls I've met in the classical music world. He's not just knowledgeable, but passionate, about music and truly moved by it. (That should be a given, but I guarantee you that there are folks in this business who have never shed a tear of felt a shudder hearing music; they are much too busy calculating something.)
Jim has kept the classical music pages of the Times lively and informative (not sure if he had a hand in moving those pages a little closer to the front of the Sunday Arts and Leisure section in recent months, but, heck, I'll credit him with that welcome development, too).
He has contributed his own distinctive voice to the paper's music coverage as a reviewer. And he has helped a lot of young critics over the years.
Others can write a lot more meaningfully about the man and the imprint he has left -- thanks to a Tweet by Steve Smith, I was led to this excellent post on the Seated Ovation blog -- but I just wanted to add my voice and (at the moment, figuratively) raise my glass of G&T to salute Jim and his many contributions to classical music.