George Benedict (“Dick” or “Dickie”) Zukerman, was born February 22, 1927, in London, England. He died February 1, 2023, in British Columbia, three weeks shy of his 96th birthday. He and his longtime partner, violinist Erika Bennedik made their home in White Rock, South Surrey, British Columbia. Erika was with George at the very end, as he slipped peacefully away into the great beyond.
George (affectionately known as “Dick” or “Dickie” to his many relatives on the Zeltzer side), and his older brother the musicologist Joseph Kerman (born Zukerman), were the children of Frieda Zeltzer and the great progressive journalist William Zukerman, growing up in Golders Green, London. His middle name Benedict honored the great philosopher Benedict Baruch Spinoza, greatly admired by his father (although as a child I was convinced that the Londoner “Dick” was really named for Dick Whittington, legendary Lord Mayor of London).
Six weeks after the outbreak of World War II, Frieda and the boys arrived from England in New York on 19 October 1939 on the SS Washington (painted with a large US flag, Dick recalled, to discourage attacks by German U-boats). Their father William, covering the war in England, arrived in New York on 13 July 1940. The family settled in together at 260 Convent Avenue, close by other Zeltzer-descended cousins.
In October 1939, Dr. Jacob (Bi) Auslander and Dick’s first cousin Paul Resika (son of Sonya Zeltzer, Frieda’s sister) were famously on hand to greet Frieda and the boys on the pier. It remains a matter still debated by historians as to whether Paul or Dicki was the one to introduce the other to the delights and vice of poker dice— but the young people were off and running, and the newly introduced cousins —Joseph Zukerman (later Kerman), Dick, Joe Auslander, Judy Auslander Saks, and Paul Resika were deep, life long friends across many decades, joined by Pearl “Cookie” Canick, Joanie Shapiro Uchitelle, Alice Shapiro Swersey, and Vicky Margulies, among many others. The cousins spent many memorable summers together in Shrub Oak Park, in northern Westchester County. Many young family members participated in a performance of Stephen Vincent Benet’s anti-fascist play, They Burned the Books, in which Dick played the role of the narrator.
Dick was introduced to the bassoon at Music and Art High School and in time became a globally recognized master of the instrument, touring widely and serving as a worldwide ambassador of classical music and the arts. (I have known many South African and Malawians who recall his electrifying musical performances and presentations on musical history.) Through his musical travels to the Soviet Union and Israel, he served as a living bridge connecting far flung cousins, even in the depths of the Cold War.
Dick received many recognitions, including being made an Officer of the Order of Canada, and an awardee of the Order of British Columbia. An impresario, he organized many significant concerts and musical events, and led extraordinary musical tours on board boat through European rivers, in which many family members participated. He was deeply devoted to the peoples of northern Canada, and brought many significant musical events into isolated northern communities.
His niece Lucy Kerman writes,
“Among Dick’s many accomplishments, one of my favorites was his invention of the subscription concert series. He went to small and mid-size towns throughout Canada helping to organize live classical music concert series: towns would pay ahead of time — subscribe — for a series of concerts, and Dick would organize and deliver them. He’d find musicians and put together programs with soloists, duets, quartets, and the towns would have their concerts. The magic of live performance was key for him, and he had what sounded like extraordinary and often hilarious adventures as he fulfilled the subscriptions (like, towns where the only piano was not in the school auditorium where the concert was scheduled, but down a dusty street and in the backroom of a bar, from which it had to be transported … somehow). But the innovation was that the residents would pay ahead of time and he would provide whatever scale series they could afford. No risk, no loss. It was a beautiful idea.”
One of his favorite activities, he often recalled, was helping swear in new Canadian citizens, many of them former refugees and asylum seekers. A proud Canadian, he was also a true citizen of the world.
There is a lovely video, created by Sherri Goldstein (a cousin on the Zukerman side) on how George and Erika met.
Dickie was a hilarious, gifted raconteur. For many of us, his rich, deep, cultured Anglo-Atlantic voice evoked, like that of his brother Joseph Kerman, a long-lost era of civility and cosmopolitanism. He was a living archives of extended Zeltzer-Weinstein and Zukerman family histories, and a spellbinding eyewitness to many significant events in 20th century musical and cultural history. He remained curious, intellectually active, and funny up until the end. We all hope that his memoirs are published in the near future.
George is survived by Erika Bennedik, his partner of 40 years, his niece Lucy Kerman and nephew Peter Kerman, grand- and great grand- nieces and nephews, and a worldwide circle of cousins on the Zeltzer and Zukerman sides, all of whom cherish his memory.
He will be honored by a memorial concert in Spring 2023.
-Mark Auslander (1st cousin once removed)
On line Resources
George Zukerman’s professional website, “Bassoon as you are ready”: https://www.bassoonasyouareready.ca/
Marvelous 2020 interview with George (Dick) Zukerman by Julia Lockhart, principal bassoonist, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra: https://councilofcanadianbassoonists.ca/project/conversation-with-george-zukerman-and-julia-lockhart/
See tribute to George Zukerman by Leila Getz:
2019 Profile, by John Thomson:
Page of Condolences, at:
For more information on Zeltzer family history please see the first half of https://joeauslander90.blogspot.com/2020/09/joes-family-history-zeltzers-and.html
On line musical recordings of Dick playing the bassoon, include:
1. Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto in B-Flat Major, K. 191 (bassoon enters at 01:11)
2. Weber’s Bassoon Concerto in F Major (the bassoon comes in at around 01:30)
3l Carl Stamitz’s Bassoon Concerto in F: I. Allegro Maestoso (bassoon comes in at 1:20)
- Johann Christian Bach – Bassoon Concerto in E-flat major, W C82 (bassoon enters at 1:07)
Full discography at https://www.discogs.com/artist/1733208-George-Zukerman
Other Memories by Family and Friends
Dickie’s first cousin, Vicky Margulies writes, “[my mother] Runya simply adored her Zukerman nephews and admittedly had a sweet spot for Dick who was only about 4 years old when she met him in London (c. 1931). She regaled me with stories of how he constantly teased her correcting her accent, which was obviously Americanized and not spoken in what her little British nephew thought to be proper English. I worked in the classical music business over many years, and fortunately I’d come across Canadian colleagues from time to time, who knew, admired and always spoke lovingly of bassoonist and impresario George Zukerman. I’m sad and sorry that cousin Dickie is no longer with us and may Erika find some comfort in their many friendships and the music world’s warm embrace. “
2011 Zeltzer Cousin Reunion (Shadowbrook Farm)
In 2011, the Zeltzer cousins (Dick’s relatives on the side of his mother Frieda) gathered at Shadowbrook Farm (the home of Alice and Burt Swersey), in Steventown NY for a reunion. Bill Swersey photo-documented the gathering;
Dick and his first cousin Paul Resika were lifelong friends, from the time of their meeting in October 1939, on the New York pier where Dick, Joseph and his mother Frieda arrived: