David Katz was a young man when he encountered Charles Bruck.

His life was never the same.

Bruck, who died in 1995, lorded over the Pierre Monteux School for Conductors and Orchestra Musicians in Hancock in Down East Maine for 26 years. During that time, he mentored hundreds of conductors who now lead orchestras and opera companies all over the world.

One of them was Katz, who attended the camp from 1984 to 1989.

His one-man play, “Muse of Fire,” is a result of his experience with Bruck. Katz will present his play Tuesday at the St. Lawrence Arts Center in Portland. It’s an encore performance; he presented it last year to rave reviews.

The teacher was demanding — brutal at times. But he had a way of becoming a part of his students’ lives in significant ways.

“When he died, we had a conductors’ wake. There were 20 or 25 conductors and 40 or 45 orchestra members,” Katz said. “We all met in the auditorium up there telling Bruck stories. I realized at that time the effect he had on these people. I had to do something with it.”

The play dramatizes Katz’s experiences under Bruck at the conducting school. It captures the crazed energy of the teacher and the dedication of the pupil.

He created the play in 2005, and has been performing it across Maine and from Chicago to Halifax, from Baltimore to Boston. An off-Broadway production is in negotiation, Katz said.

“People who love classical music and know about classical music are intrigued by this behind-the-scenes, backstage story about how conductors learn their craft, especially when the teacher is demanding, volatile, brutally honest and sarcastically funny. They find Bruck compelling,” the actor said.

“For people who are not classically oriented, a lot come to the play and say, ‘I had a coach like that,’ or ‘I had a teacher like that,’ or ‘I had someone in the military who treated me that way.’ There is a kind of universal quality to this kind of uncompromising education.”

Katz, who lives in Connecticut, is a composer, conductor, writer and actor. He formed Hat City Music Theater in Connecticut in 2002 and the Candlewood Symphony in 2004. He serves both as artistic director.

In 2006, Katz marked his 20th season as founding music director of the Chicago Bar Association Symphony Orchestra with a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at Navy Pier.

He performs “Muse of Fire” a dozen or more times a year. The famous Broadway director Charles Nelson Reilly directed Katz in this show. The two men knew each for 30 years, thanks to a mutual connection in the music business.

“Muse of Fire” was the last play Reilly directed before his death in 2007.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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