Michael Palm: Much More Than A Theater In Telluride

Michael_d_palm Telluride may have been his second home, but our mountain hamlet was one of his great loves. The gravitational pull of the wandering planet called Michael D. Palm was irresistable. Michael was, by any measure, a remarkable man: gifted educator, musician, athlete, businessman, and philanthropist. Michael and another long-time, part-time Telluride local, Steven Gluckstern  (Steven first visited Telluride in 1976 and in 1980, became superintendent of school) founded reinsurance company Zurich Centre Group. Throughout their highly successful business association, Michael, Steven and Steven's wife Judy remained the best of friends. After Michael's death from complications from AIDS in Telluride in August 1998, Steven and Judy dedicated themselves to ensuring the causes Michael embraced in his lifetime would continue to receive his support.

Just as MIchael had done, the Glucksterns put their money where their hearts are. The couple named and endowed Telluride's new performing arts venue, the Michael D. Palm Theatre, in Michael's honor when the venue opened for business in 2005. (The funds related to the naming of the theatre ended June 30, 2009, and the Palm is challenged to carry on Michael's legacy through community support. More on that soon.)

One of MIchael Palm's homes away from Telluride was a penthouse 37 floors above Lincoln Center. It was there the passionate music lover hosted house concerts in support of Classical Action: Performing Arts Against AIDS, a 17-year-old organization that draws upon the talents, resources and generosity of the performing arts community to raise funds for AIDS-related services across the U.S. This week Clint and I were guests of the Glucksterns at one of the Michael Palm Series concerts, a evening that proved once again that despite what Copernicus said to the contrary, Planet Telluride is really and truly the center of the universe.

In addition to our hosts, Steven and Judy Gluckstern, Classical Action supporter and close friend of Michael's, Jim Johnson was on hand, with his partner, psychologist Paul Hokemeyer. Jim is another familiar Telluride name – or should be. Here's a clue: $1MM dedicated to preserving and protecting the Valley Floor. The stage at the Michael D. Palm Theatre is named in Jim's honor, a testimony to Jim's generous gift in honor of his dear departed friend. Jim donated the Robert Weatherford Room at the Telluride Museum. His foundation became a founding and sustaining donor of the Telluride Foundation and One to One. He his also a major supporter of the Telluride AIDS Benefit. Get the picture? JIm may not be a regular on Main Street – but the man has left plenty of bread crumbs.

Also on hand was Amy Slater. Amy is married to Garrett Gruener, founder of Ask.com and part-time Telluride resident. Amy and Garrett turned over their spread on Hastings Mesa to the Glucksterns, for the August wedding of their daughter Sarah.

Classical Action was founded by Charles Hamlen, who also co-founded IMG Artists, an agency representing primarily classical musicians. A class act himself, Charles provided most of the top tier entertainment for The Palm's gala opening. Charles was on hand at the concert, bemoaning the fact he had not made it back to Telluride for the Glucksterns' wedding. It was love at first sight five years ago – but that's an old story.

The evening in question, Classical Action concert featured cellist Alisa Weilerstein and pianist Inon Barnatan.The program included Beethoven's Cello Sonata in g minor, Op.5 and Rachmaninoff's Sonata for piano and cello in g minor, a meltingly beautiful piece we first heard performed by the Trio Solisti, the stars of the Telluride Musicfest. (Musicfest's 8th annual season is June 2010.) Michael Palm would have been applauding and stomping with the rest of us, mesmerized by the heartfelt, ecstatic performances by the two young bravura musicians.  

And if these connections don't convince you that Telluride is everywhere you want to be, consider this: Earlier in the day while browsing in the neighborhood Barnes & Noble, we saw a poster announcing a book signing by Roz Savage, a friend of Telluride, and solo ocean rower. Roz was a presenter at Telluride Mountainfilm 2007. We called Roz, left a message, and she called back that night just as we were going into the concert. Small world? Or just Telluride magic? More on this later…

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