Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Day 58° Partly Cloudy
News >  Features

Ex-symphony conductor Thulean dies at 84

Donald Thulean, who served as music director and conductor for the Spokane Symphony for more than 20 years, died Thursday in Seattle.

Thulean, who was with the symphony from 1962 to 1984, died at Virginia Mason Hospital and Medical Center after suffering a stroke on Tuesday, said Sandra McWalter Payton, a family friend and former violinist with the Spokane Symphony. He was 84.

He left Spokane after helping establish the symphony as one of Spokane’s most enduring and successful arts institutions. He went on to hold conducting positions with several groups, including the Seattle and Oregon symphony orchestras. He became vice president of the League of American Orchestras before retiring in 1999.

He returned to Spokane on occasion, most recently to conduct the Spokane Youth Symphony. In 2007, he participated in the gala concert to open the restored Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox. He took to the podium to conduct the orchestra in “Fanfare for the Fox,” a work by Hans-Peter Preu commissioned for the event.

Verne Windham, program director at KPBX, first met Thulean as a high school student. When Windham joined the symphony full time in 1971, Thulean was already a veteran conductor.

Windham credits Thulean with guiding the symphony in its transition from community orchestra to professional organization.

“He was the artistic conscience and voice of Spokane,” Windham said. “And remained that even after he left.”

Windham added, “The strongest thing was that sense of depth and conscience with him. He understood the place of art, and he tried to speak to the whole agenda, not just playing the notes right. Being the person who could speak eloquently on behalf of art and humanity.”

Thulean is survived by his wife, Meryl, and their three children.

Lisitsa still on the bill

Ukraine-born pianist Valentina Lisitsa had two concerts with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra canceled this past week after a furor erupted over her Twitter account, @ValLisitsa. Despite the controversy, she is set to perform this coming weekend with the Spokane Symphony.

Lisitsa, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Kiev, has been speaking out about the politics of her native country since late 2013, when Ukraine erupted in political crisis. She aligns herself with the Russian-speaking separatists, and has been unafraid of criticizing the Ukrainian government in Kiev.

According to the New York Times, one of the tweets cited by the leadership of the Toronto Symphony compared teachers dressed in traditional Ukrainian garb to African tribesmen. The symphony president told the Times that her tweets has crossed a line into “intolerance.” In response, Lisitsa wrote on her Facebook page that her aim is to highlight “the plight of my people” in their fight against the Ukrainian government. She claims the Toronto Symphony has violated her free speech rights.

Lisitsa is aware of the power of social media. As a young pianist struggling to make a living, she turned to YouTube to get her music out. She became an Internet sensation, garnering more than 62 million views on the popular video site.

Symphony spokeswoman Audrey Overstreet on Friday confirmed that Lisitsa will be coming to Spokane. During concerts Saturday and Sunday, Lisitsa is scheduled to perform Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. She’s also scheduled to hold a master class on Friday. For details, visit www.spokane symphony.org.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox

Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.