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Trey Reely | October 2013


    In yet another blow to the reputation of professional musicians everywhere, famed orchestral conductor Alexander Sachsdriguez (A-Sax) of the Generica Symphonia de New York and six other conductors were suspended for the 2014-15 concert season by the North American Orchestral Association for using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).  Rumors have circulated for months that conductors with connections to Musiogenesis, a shady biotech firm in Singapore, could receive landmark suspensions. While it is indeed one of the most shocking scandals in the history of the classical music world, the revelation simply confirmed suspicions many have whispered about for years and was what many musical observers have considered the proverbial “elephant in the orchestra.”
    “It was rather obvious that something has been going on,” says Juliani Panerabread, music critic for New York Beacon. “There has been a recent surge in the number of conductors capable of conducting Wagner’s ‘Ring Cycle.’ A look at orchestral programming over the last several years reveals the greater length of programs, an average of twenty minutes more per performance. Also, there have been many conductors with little reputation who are coming out of nowhere to conduct Mahler’s Third Symphony without even breaking a sweat.”
    Many orchestral members agree, but for different reasons. Dre Martini, principal trumpet under A-Sax, says he’s not one to judge, but he felt like while A-Sax’s endurance was indeed suspicious, his conducting of accents became “more like sforzandos” over the last several years. “PEDs would explain that,” he says. Principal flutist Joann Fipple, speaking on the condition of anonymity, says that A-Sax “seemed to be buying a new tuxedo every other week” and it was “obviously to make room for more muscles.” She does admit, however, that he began to look rather buff in his turtleneck shirts.
    Principal tubist Sam Podiafram says that PEDs could explain why A-Sax’s tempos were consistently getting faster over the last few years. “He kept saying I was dragging, but frankly I’d never played some of those pieces so fast. Even his adagios were basically a sprint to the finish.” Other members say A-Sax became enraged more often than usual, leading many to believe he had some type of Toscanini complex. Now the more plausible reason is some type of “roid” rage. “He went ballistic once and threw his baton with such velocity it stuck into the mute I had in my trombone. That mute saved my life,” says principal trombonist Jacques Teagardeniere.
    Luigi Parmeson, conductor of the Royale Conservatore de Padua in Hoboken, says he conducts clean and believes that the steroid revelations will have many dire long-term consequences. “I’m sure it will affect programming. Conductors will avoid longer works to avoid suspicion. It’s not worth it. Things have gotten to the point where if I conduct a work like Mahler’s Third, everyone says I’m juicing. On the positive side, minimalism might make a comeback.”
    “It’s a shame that we have the Renaissance, Baroque, Classical and Romantic eras and such, but ours will probably be labeled the Steroid era,” says Heimlich Selich, former maestro and current president of the ROID Institute, administrators of the one-year-old drug-testing program for the NAOA. “Many of the recordings of this era should come with footnotes on the cover.”
    As for concertgoers, many season ticket holders are disillusioned and unsure of what the future holds. “It just won’t be the same,” says long-time season ticket holder Monique Flask. “No matter how beautiful the music, there will be the sense that it is being enhanced chemically. A kind of Anton-Bruckner-on-Steroids kind of thing.”
    As for A-Sax, in his first public statement given through his publicist, he linked failed drug tests to vitamin supplements he purchased from his daughter’s school choir during their spring fundraiser. However, leaked documents from Musiogenesis revealed a much more disturbing and extensive use by A-Sax and other conductors than was previously believed. Faced with news of their disclosure, A-Sax has been more forthcoming. Flanked by his make-up-smudged wife of five years, mezzo-soprano Carmelita Locostaco, a tearful A-Sax responded at his hastily arranged press conference:
    “I would like to apologize to all of my fans if I have disappointed them with my lack of judgment. If it is any consolation it was my love of music that led to this poor decision. I only wanted to give the end of the greatest masterpieces the same passion and energy that I was able to give at the beginning. Also, I was still feeling the effects of an old cello concerto injury and wanted to recover more quickly.” A-Sax did not take any questions from the reporter that was present.
    A-Sax’s future is still murky at this point, but many believe he can come back. He will have one year left on his contract with Generica Symphonia after the suspensions are lifted, and the orchestral community can be forgiving, particularly if he can “hit a homerun” with a stellar performance of a major work on his first concert back.