Nobody did it better than PSO Pops’ Marvin Hamlisch

Nobody did it better than PSO Pops’ Marvin Hamlisch

Marvin Hamlisch
Marvin Hamlisch

Marvin Hamlisch, the principal pops conductor for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and the composer of numerous award-winning scores for movies and stage, died in Los Angeles Monday, Aug. 6. He was 68.

Hamlisch died following a brief illness, according to a family spokesman as reported by the Associated Press.

Known for his versatility as a composer, Hamlisch won three Oscars, four Grammys, four Emmys, a Tony and three Golden Globe awards. He wrote the music for the Broadway sensation “A Chorus Line,” as well as the score for the film “The Way Were” and the adaptation of Scott Joplin’s music for “The Sting.”

Hamlisch was born in New York City, the son of Jewish refugees from Austria, who fled the Nazi invasion in the late 1930s. His father, Max, was a bandleader.

Hamlisch came to the PSO in 1994 as its principal pops conductor, and “has been here ever since,” said Michael E. Bielski, senior vice president and COO of the PSO.

Although Hamlisch also served as principal pops director for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Pasadena Symphony and Pops, the Seattle Symphony and San Diego Symphony, Bielski said that Hamlisch was particularly devoted to the PSO because of the excellence of its musicians.

“I think Marvin really enjoyed conducting this orchestra, and being in Pittsburgh,” Bielski said. “Our musicians are quick to learn, and Marvin does have a unique style. There are not too many orchestras that can move as quickly as Marvin can move, and I think he saw that.”

Hamlisch graduated from the Juilliard School of Music and Queens College. He believed in the power of music to bring people together, according to his biography on the PSO’s website.

The range of his career accomplishments is evidence of his drive to connect people through music.  He was nominated 12 times for Academy Awards for his work on films as diverse as “The Spy Who Loved Me” and “Sophie’s Choice.” As recently as last month, he was still at work on a musical adaptation of the Jerry Lewis film comedy “The Nutty Professor,” for which he wrote the score.

Hamlisch also served as the distinguished master artist in residence at Point Park University this year.

“I am deeply saddened to learn of Marvin’s passing,” said Paul Hennigan, president of Point Park, in a prepared statement. “He had a tremendous impact on Point Park’s community as the distinguished master artist in residence. His passion for music and the arts animated the spirits of our students, faculty and staff. He is a legend and he will be missed.”

Hamlisch was scheduled to conduct four concerts for the PSO’s “PNC Pops!” 2012-13 season, slated to begin Sept. 29 and 30, and to run periodically through June 2013. The concerts will go on as scheduled, with the help of Hamlisch’s staff, Bielski said, and will be conducted by whomever takes over Hamlisch’s position.

“But you can’t replace Marvin,” said Bielski. “He’s one of a kind. As his song says, ‘Nobody does it better.’ ”


(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at



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