PORTRAIT OF A NEIGHBOR: LEONARD HINDELL

Editor’s Note: As part of a regular West Side Rag series, artist Michelle Hill interviews and draws Upper West Siders. This is the fourteenth installment in our Portrait of a Neighbor series.

lennyLeonard Hindell was born in 1943 at Brookdale Hospital in Brooklyn.

Where did you grow up?

I am a native New Yorker. We moved to Queens after Brooklyn, about middle school years. In high school, I commuted an hour and a half each way to go to the Music and Art High School on 135th and Convent Avenue.  On the weekends I studied at the Henry Street Settlement on a music scholarship.

After, I attended Manhattan School of Music, which at the time was on 105th between 2nd and 3rd Avenues.

When did you move to the Upper West Side?

I first moved here in 1965, when I was 23, into Lincoln Towers. Prior to that I lived on 23rd and 9th. It was a short walk to the Metropolitan Opera House, which was on 4oth and Broadway. Lincoln Center wasn’t built yet. Between 1968-76 I lived downtown, on 22nd and 2nd Avenue.

In 1976, I returned to the Upper West Side with my wife and infant son. We rented a place on 73rd and West End Avenue. Then my daughter was born a few years later, both growing up at that address. My wife and I still live there.

How did you end up working at the Opera?

I was lucky to have won the audition for the position of Bassoon and Contra Bassoon in 1964. I was 21 years old and they called me the J.D., Juvenile Delinquent. I performed with them until 1972, until I joined the Philharmonic. I retired in 2005. I had 41 great years of playing.

I was happy to live on the West side, which allowed me to take my kids to school, be one of the few dads to go on class trips, spend Mondays (usually a day off) with my son Ben and daughter Anna. Not having to commute allowed me to rest in between rehearsals and performances.

How did you choose your instrument?

Originally I studied the clarinet. I had such a wonderful teacher, Abram Klotzman. I took up the bassoon in my second year in high school.

I was able to study the bassoon with Stephan Maxym at the Henry Street Settlement. I continued to study with him at the Manhattan School of Music.

Ultimately, I choose the bassoon.

What would you suggest the new mayor to focus on?

Music and art education as part of the regular school curriculum in all schools, at all levels. Music teaches discipline, you must practice pieces over and over to progress. It defies immediate gratification; it takes years to get better, like anything worthwhile. This year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner in Science, Thomas Sudhof, when asked who was his most influential teacher, he answered his bassoon teacher, because it was while studying music he learned how to learn.

What do you miss about the old Upper West Side?

Éclair comes first to mind. They had waiters neatly dressed in black and white, tablecloths, and they knew you. They had pastries for the afternoon SWEET SNACK too.

There was also Famous, the dairy restaurant, they had 4 types of hot cereal; cream of wheat, oatmeal, and grits.  I would often see Mayor Koch in there.

Other memorable places include: the Scared Cow, the Copper Hatch and the All State, their hamburgers were so good.

The Royale Bakery was wonderful! Sadly there are very few real bakeries left. We had unique, individual, affordable restaurants. And the movie theaters on 73rd and 68th and Broadway, the small-mom and pop book stores. Those are all gone to chain stores now.

ART, COLUMNS | 3 comments | permalink
    1. Sally R. Sacks says:

      I’m always thrilled to read about Music & Art graduates who have become prominent in their profession. I graduated much earlier, in June, 1945, but I think all of us feel a common bond. It was such a wonderful school. I lived on West 86th Street in those days (who knew from the “Upper West Side?”). There were four of us going to Music & Art in my building alone, and a whole slew of us who used to take the bus together up to 135th Street. I’m still close to some of my classmates.
      If I were asked what I miss most about the old neighborhood, it would have to be TipToe Inn!
      Thanks for this feature — I look forward to reading more.

    2. Jean says:

      I too, went to M&A. Graduated in 1973.

    3. Bruce Bernstein says:

      a great interview. it saddens me that professional artists like this can no longer afford to move into the Upper West Side. My building is full of artists: musicians, actors, a comedian, a professional clown. but almost to a person they are the old rent stabilized tenants, and there will be no more apts of this type rented out in the building, since it went condo 7 years back. the new condo owners are for the most part in Wall Street companies or perhaps tech, or many are absentee landlords with short term renters.

      it was people like Mr. Hindell who made the UWS such a great place to live.