By the time he was in the seventh grade, Robert Duerr was substituting for the organists in churches around his suburb near Buffalo, N.Y. and directing two children's choirs—one of them made up of high schoolers. At 23 he'd won a national organists' competition, but he decided that he really wanted to be a conductor. So, one year after graduating from USC, he founded the Pasadena (Calif.) Chamber Orchestra. "I started it because you're not a conductor unless you have an orchestra," he explains. "And Pasadena needed a small orchestra—35 or 40 players. All the music up until late Beethoven was written for a small orchestra." After seven years, the group's budget has grown from $12,000 to $350,000, and it has won three ASCAP awards for innovative programming. Reviewers have also referred to Duerr as "gifted," with one noting that he conducted Handel's Messiah with "loving care." Duerr schedules a traditional piece, a seldom heard composition and a newly commissioned work for most of the orchestra's seven annual concerts. The transition from musical boy wonder to boss, however, has not been easy. Duerr complains that he spends more time raising funds than raising his baton. He lives alone in a one-bedroom apartment that doubles as his office. His social life, such as it is, revolves around music. "The orchestra," he says, "is my first love. Nothing comes before that."
It was as if Fairuza Balk, 10, had clicked her ruby slippers three times and gotten her wish. The blue-eyed, brown-haired youngster answered a 12-city open call last summer and beat out 800 girls to land the lead role in the $25 million sequel to The Wizard of Oz. The youngest of the would-be Dorothys, Balk impressed director Walter Murch because "I feel like I am talking to an equal, a collaborator, rather than a child." Currently filming in London, OZ has Dorothy returning to the fabled land to find the Emerald City in ruins, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion turned to stone and the Scarecrow being held captive by a gnome king. Fairuza (whose name means "turquoise" in Turkish) has enjoyed the filming, except the time she had to "lie in the cold mud when I was suffering from a virus." Balk's only previous acting credit was 1983's ABC special The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Her divorced parents have floated on the fringes of show business—her mother, Cathryn, teaches Mid-Eastern and flamenco dance, and her father, Solomon, is a folk musician. A native Californian who has been living in Vancouver, British Columbia, for six years, Fairuza will spend the next six months in England. She lives in Hampstead with her mother, who makes sure her daughter doesn't put on airs. "I tell her she may be the leading lady," notes Cathryn, "but she's not yet a star." Give her time, Mom.
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