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Leon Hirsh Guide

Conductor, Music Educator and Musician, Dies at 81.


by Shirl Lee Pitesky

December 12, 2002 | 7:00 pm

Leon Hirsh Guide, conductor, music educator and musician, died in early October. He was 81.

Guide was born Feb. 3, 1921, in Turkey to Clara and Joseph Guide, who had left Russia during the civil war. The family moved to Chicago when Guide was 2.

He studied cello while attending Marshall High School and won first prize at a contest by conducting Beethoven's "Egmont Overture." Deciding to make music his life's work, he went on to attend Berkeley, where he studied with Boris Binder, first cellist of the San Francisco Symphony, and at UCLA, where he so impressed composer Arnold Schoenberg that he was invited to take Schoenberg's class. Guide went on to obtain both a bachelor's and master's degree in music from Northwestern, where he studied with Dudley Powers, first cellist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, Guide took a post teaching music with the Chicago public schools. Eventually, he returned to California and taught in Bakersfield, then for 40 years with the Los Angeles Unified School District. During this time, he started his own dance band where he played string bass.

Returning to his first love, he established and conducted many orchestras, including ones for Wilshire Boulevard Temple, La Mirada, the Westside Jewish Community Center and University Synagogue. He also was a guest conductor in Europe and Asia.

He had the ability to attract some of the best amateur and professional musicians in the L.A. area. He never stopped learning, teaching and influencing hundreds of young musicians.

He is survived by his wife, Lillian; two stepdaughters; sister, Shirl Lee (Sheldon) Pitesky; nine nieces and nephews; and eight great-nieces and nephews.

A free memorial concert is being held in Guide's honor by the University Synagogue Orchestra on Dec. 22 at 3 p.m. at University Synagogue, 11960 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 472-1255.

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