In Memory of Teacher, Artist and Musician Daniel Lempert
A little over a year ago, I had the pleasure of writing a story about the father-in-law of a very good friend. At the time, Mr. Lempert, a longtime Brighton resident, was mourning the death of his beloved wife Ruth, an artist and writer in her own rite.
Now, Daniel has also passed on and was given a burial with a full military honor. I was so honored to have written down his story in his final year on this earth. May his memory be for a blessing.
This was published last November in the Democrat & Chronicle:
It is said that a picture paints one thousand words. When Daniel Lempert completes a painting, he wants its viewers to hear music as well.
“I paint what I feel. As a musician, I feel the rhythms and chords of music,” said Lempert in his Brighton home, which is adorned with paintings he started creating in his 40’s.
Now, at 87, the retired music teacher claims to have painted hundreds of works. The paintings above his mantelpiece are filled with intersecting multicolored lines to represent the textures of a jazz improvisation. Other abstract works include pieces of sheet music or actual workings of old instruments layered on top of brightly colored shapes.
Lempert also paints local landscapes such as the lakeshores of Mendon Ponds and Lake Ontario. He does not bring his oils or canvas out to the scene, but rather paints from his mind’s eye. His works are the stuff of memory. That way, his emotions shape the outcome and look of the final painting.
His beloved wife Ruth, who passed away on Oct. 1 at 81, inspired his artistry through their 58-year marriage. “Ruth really pushed me with my art. I had teachers back in grade school that said I was no good at it. If it weren’t for my wife, I never would have painted,” he said.
When he was a music teacher in the East Rochester school district, Lempert came home from work one day quite upset that the custodial staff had left his music room a cluttered jumble of desks and chairs in efforts to empty out another classroom.
“I told this to Ruth and she said, ‘Why don’t you paint it?’” So he did. The result is one of Lempert’s earliest works: a jumble of chairs and desks in an abstract composition, and painted between the furniture is a sousaphone. It remains one of Lempert’s favorite pieces.
It was Ruth who bought her husband his first set of oil paints in 1968. The University of Rochester alumna and author of the 2008 memoir “Fish, Faith and Family,”also encouraged her husband to take art lessons at this time at the Memorial Art Gallery, where he has been taking classes since 1976.
Like his paintings, the photographs in Lempert’s home also tell stories. One is a black-and-white snapshot of Lempert as a young man with a head of thick wavy black hair playing trumpet in front of a tent.
After high school, Lempert enlisted in the U.S. Army during WWII. He finished basic training in North Carolina and was about to get shipped overseas when opportunity came knocking. The army needed a stateside trumpet player. He auditioned before a group of officers. He still remembers playing the “Carnival of Venice,” a folk song that most known as the melody for “My Hat it has Three Corners.”
The complexity of the trumpet solos won the approval of his commanders. Instead of going off to battle, Lempert stayed in North Carolina for the war’s duration playing reverie in the morning and taps each evening.
“The trumpet saved my life,” he said.
Lempert’s son David recalls how his dad had three jobs when he was growing up: He was a school music teacher, a private tutor on Saturdays, and a big band player late at night. “He would teach during the day, head to a club around 10 in the evening, come home at 3 in the morning and then get up to teach. He was tired but he loved it,” said David Lempert.
The talent for the arts runs in the Lempert family gene pool. His late daughter Judith earned a degree in fine arts from RIT. Judith’s daughter Rebecca Zaretsky is now studying art at Wheelock College in Boston. Lempert still practices for up to two hours a day every day. The only time he stopped playing was for a brief time after Ruth passed away.
His advice to young musicians and artists: “If art and music are a part of you, you must keep practicing your craft.”
Getting to Know Daniel Lempert
Education: Graduate of Fredonia Music School and Columbia University
Occupation: 37 years as music teacher in East Rochester. Retired in 1984
Hobbies: Painting. Trumpet player in Jack Allen’s Big Band