Open Letter to Sol Hurok

Dear Sol Hurok,

I know nothing about you except that you are an impresario.  I really don’t know what an impresario is except to say, “It’s someone like Sol Hurok.”  The words Sol Hurok and impresario have been tattooed on my brain ever since they appeared on the 1976 MCAT test, an entrance exam for medical school.  I never think of one without the other.  That’s 42 years ago, which makes me think you must be dead.

I am at least a generation younger than you, but old enough to explore the deep mysteries of reminiscence.  When I first said “25 years ago” to describe a personal recollection, I marveled at the simple fact that I had memories that old.  Those 25 years have now blossomed to 60.  Odd vignettes pop up and I stop to puzzle out why my brain opted to store that random piece of data.

Sol Hurok/impresario

Back in the 1970s, the MCAT had a section called “general knowledge,” presumably to weed out the savants or other social misfits.  Perhaps a command of general knowledge would ensure that prospective medical students had some hope of developing a bedside manner, able to talk soothingly to patients about sports, culture or politics.

This was where I first met your acquaintance, Mr. Hurok, on a list of people I was supposed to match up with a profession.  Yours is the only name I recall.  I suppose I could Google you, but I have resisted.  I don’t need to know anything more about you.  Your name and occupation have served me well.

Sol Hurok/impresario

I confidently filled in the little bleb that matched you up with your profession.  Mr. Hurok, you helped me get into medical school and gave me the confidence to succeed. If I could pluck your name out of the vast unwitting lint trap of my brain, well then I could master the deliberate memorization of all the cranial nerves, the complex of little bones in the wrist and the dense wiring of the spinal cord.  However, I would like to point out my command of General Knowledge didn’t translate to a chatty bedside manner.  I specialized in Anatomic Pathology, where patients have lost the ability to talk.

Your name offered me another point of pride as a Midwesterner.  The word impresario had an international flair.  It sounded like the type of job only a New Yorker would have.  I went to a boarding school on the east coast for high school. My flashy classmates could pop home to New York for the weekend, talk about the energy of New York, that it was the only place to live.  I came from Chicago, stuck on campus.  After I graduated, New York friends would ask when I was coming to visit, as if everyone comes to New York.  There were never any offers to come to Chicago.

Since that little bleb on the MCAT, I felt I could hold my own with New Yorkers.  I knew something about their blessed city.  Anybody who knew you were an impresario could not possibly be a hick from the Midwest.

The General Knowledge section of the MCAT was deleted one year later, criticized as being culturally biased.   Well, of course it was. Don’t take offense, Mr. Hurok, but any test that requires students to know your name and profession favors the elite New York aristocracy.  I somehow managed to nail it, but my command of general knowledge was both my best and most questionable qualification for medical school.  I barely scraped by in the other categories.

Again, please don’t take offense, but your name has never come up since, and there have been many opportunities.  I read the New Yorker magazine and diligently do all the New York Times crossword puzzles, creating an international and multilingual trove of trivia.   “Sol” is a frequent crossword word, but usually clued with a reference to the musical scale, i.e. do, re, me, fa sol, la, ti, do.   I suppose inclusion in the MCAT reflects your cultural legitimacy, but if your name shows up in a New York Times puzzle, well that’s something to be celebrated.   I will keep my eyes open for you.


Liza Blue

ps: I succumbed to temptation and googled you.  Condolences on your death in 1974.  As a manager and concert promoter, you helped organize one of the first salvos in the Civil Rights movement.  In 1939 Marian Anderson sang “My Country Tis of Thee” in front of the Lincoln Memorial.  Bravo!  I’m sorry that I relegated your name to mere trivia.  You deserve better.

pps:  Mere days after I wrote this, I spotted this clue in the New York Times crossword. “He really gets the show on the road.”  Boom! There it was:  Impresario.  My heart broke at this lost opportunity to bring me full circle.  The clue should had read: Sol Hurok.

Sol Hurok/Impresario



  1. Richard Baker on May 10, 2018 at 1:21 am

    Such an interesting post, so well written too. Love ‘the vast unwitting lint trap of my brain’ and the sense that General Knowledge got you into medical school.

    I have a similar memory of a schoolboy interview for Oxford, although I used neither impresario nor Sol Hurok as my successful answer.

    • Liza Blue on May 13, 2018 at 1:39 pm

      Thanks for your kind comments. Love retrieving little nuggets of memory and then put them in a broader context.

      Liza Blue

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