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Obituary - Bill Grossman

Bill Grossman, 62, a highly regarded musician, a Broadway conductor and music editor, died at his family home in Roslyn on Oct. 16, 2010. The cause was brain cancer.

The oldest son of Irwin and the late Sylvia Grossman of Roslyn Estates, he attended Roslyn High School where he excelled in math and music. A certificate from those years attests to his innate perfect pitch. As a teenager, he helped form and played with his brother Ed in the Long Island Stage Band that cut a record and performed at the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing.

He served as associate conductor for Sugar Babies and Cats on Broadway and the west coast premier of Pacific Overtures. He was assistant to the Broadway conductor of Pacific Overtures, On the Twentieth Century and Sweeney Todd, for which he taught Angela Lansbury her part.

An uncanny ear for musical nuances and meticulous attention to detail caught the attention of conductors and musicians across the country. Friends and colleagues recall his note-perfect piano renditions of music he had just heard for the first time.

As a music copyist, he assisted prominent musical theater composers Harvey Schmidt (The Fantasticks, the longest running musical) and Galt MacDermott (Hair), among others, to turn their compositions into publishable, playable scores. Although terminally ill, he edited the definitive, 60th anniversary edition of The Fantasticks, published several months ago. Schmidt called him “my right hand man in all matters musical. As my primary copyist, his patience, sensitivity and tough dedication to accuracy were impeccable,” he said. “Plus, he laughed easily.”

Grossman also composed, arranged and transcribed music. The New York Saxophone Quartet played his arrangement for saxophone of Aaron Copland’s Piano Blues for the composer Billy Kerr, a member of the quartet, recounts that, “Copland remarked that the piece ‘sounded like it was written for saxophones.’”

Grossman also participated in training the next generation of orchestral conductors, playing his special piano arrangements to accompany conductors-in-training at the American Symphony Orchestra League’s annual conducting seminars. “His dedication to seeing young musicians grow is something I’ll carry with me my whole life,’ Brian Stone, director of orchestral activities at the University of Delaware said.

He assisted the distinguished conductor and teacher, Gustav Meier, in preparing his recently published textbook on conducting. “Without Bill Grossman’s dedication, painstaking proof of reading, countless hours of work and collaboration…this book could not have been finished, “ Meier wrote in the acknowledgements. “Bill added new material and charts and put the final touches on the book.”

Although Grossman displayed a passion for music early in life, his initial college training was not in music He earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1971 and worked in computer science for several years in the Boston area. But friends recall that, above all, he really desired a career in music. And, so, Grossman went to music school (The Manhattan School of Music and the New England Conservatory) and returned to New York to devote the rest of his life to that first love.

In addition to his father, he is survived by brothers, Edward (Bethesda, MD) and Richard (Albertson), nephew David (Washington, DC), cousins, Laurie Gioia (New York City), John (Roslyn Heights) and Robert Grossman (Northport) and Vicki Wyman (Miami, FL). A musical tribute to honor Grossman’s memory is planned for the spring. Donations in his memory may be made to your favorite charity.