‘Dream Like An Artist, Dress Like A Banker’

Gilbert Trout (Melissa Gerr)

Gilbert Trout (Melissa Gerr)

What do classical music, deep-data mining, devotion to Judaism and family and commercial real estate have in common? Gilbert Trout.

Speaking very modestly, Trout attributes his talents and successes to genetics and by referring to the remarkable life of his grandfather, Arthur Jacob, who was an entrepreneur ahead of his time, who saved his family from the Holocaust and who was a world-class pianist. But as Trout talks about his personal interests, it becomes obvious that another innate quality all his own is at play. Passion.

When Trout was a teenager in Cambridge, Mass., he detested classical music, but his mother, Dr. Paulette Trout, regularly dragged him to the Boston Symphony. His tastes were more geared to the electric bass he played in a friend’s rock-and-roll band. But at the end of one concert, his mother elbowed him and said, gesturing to the genius composer and conductor who graced the stage, “There’s your model. Dream like an artist, but dress like a banker.” Those words stuck with him and, conscious or not, have been a driving force in his life.

“It’s not about being an artist, it’s not about being a banker,” said Trout. “It’s about being a creative person, who can use one’s creativity in any field as long as one has a structure of practicality with the arts. And I don’t care if you’re an accountant, a lawyer or a doctor, there’s always creativity at play. But to give free reign to that creativity in an uninhibited way and to make money doing it was a real nice lesson. And that’s similar to my grandfather — that’s been my model for music and business and even technology, the three areas of my personal interest.”

His mother replaced the electric bass with a standup bass, and Trout joined the Greater Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra. Success was slow coming.

Then he encountered Mahler’s 5th Symphony, and there was no turning back.

“There’s a slow movement … it’s all strings, one harp, no brass, no winds, no percussion,” said Trout. “And you know teenagers have a lot of emotion, and it can go in all sorts of directions. But if you listen to this slow movement, it’s just unraveling of pure beauty and love. … Music is a gift, where a regular person could see inside the mind of a genius. And the genius could talk to him from a different century and a different part of the world and communicate. I remember getting the shivers and thinking, ‘Whoa, there’s something deeper going on in this piece.’”

Trout continued, “There’s a reason that something so unpractical would still be around today. There’s a higher power there that I can’t really put my finger on. Where words stop, music continues. The chasidim have a unique musical tradition called niggunim, which are musical pieces that are sung, but they don’t have words. They’re vowels like ‘noi noi noi’ or ‘dai dai dai,’ because once you put the framework of words onto it, saying this is the meaning of this melody, it’s tied down to words, it’s tied down to a message. They’ve liberated that by taking away the words, and there’s a higher level of spirituality there. I don’t know why, but it exists.”

Trout was committed. He attended New England Conservatory and trans- ferred to Indiana University, where he met his wife, Miriam. He became an accomplished classical bass player, joined the National Orchestra in Greece, and while living there he and his wife became more observant of Jewish traditions. He loved music, but it became a personal conflict to perform on Shabbat. Just then Trout encountered another person who would impart advice he would come to live by. Sir Simon Rattle (now chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic) was touring Greece when they met. Trout explained the encounter:

“He said, ‘Gilbert, I have a piece of advice. What do you like about music?’ I said, ‘I like this, I like that.’ He said, ‘Good. Are you passionate about it?’ ‘Absolutely!’ Then he said, ‘I want you to remember everything you said and take all that passion you have for music and say why don’t I be passionate about other things? Figure out what makes you tick and see how you can apply it across other things, and at the same time don’t stop your music.’”

This thinking helped catapult Trout to the next stage of his music career. He began conducting and composing with great success. Both provided him more control over his schedule, and his passion and talents transferred naturally. Trout and his wife returned to the U.S., where he received his masters in composing at Tufts University, and it was there he also discovered the multimedia lab. The combination of arts, education, and technology was seductive. Then came another stage.

“I got very involved in that, and I realized that I was a closet geek, I loved technology, I could sit for hours and make it do what I wanted it to do,” said Trout.

His technology talents landed him a job at Perot Systems conducting deep-data mining and later at Harvard creating distance education multimedia programs featuring the best of Harvard lectures. He also continued to conduct and compose. Still curious about how his knowledge and passions could evolve, eight years ago Trout applied an arts-centric approach to real estate using data-mining and marketing skills, and now he is director of investment sales at Trout Daniel & Associates.

“I vigilantly work for the client from when they reach out to me to way past the settlement table,” said Trout. “However, I can help them improve their lot financially. I’m like a Swiss army knife. I try to bring in every tool they want to succeed. If that means bringing in leasing, I’ll bring it in; if it means management, I’ll bring in management; if they need marketing, I’ll bring in that; if they need technology, I’ll bring in that. I’m intensely loyal to clients.”

Trout continued: “Being the son of a Holocaust survivor I have a type of, let’s call it, ethical vengeance on behalf of my clients. I really want to dig in and see them succeed. There are lots of dangers in life, and I want to help people succeed.”

Trout explained what he meant by ethical vengeance.

“I really feel that my mother survived the war through people’s creativity, people finding ways for her to survive,” he said. “I feel my mother survived the war because of people who made an ethical choice at the end of the day, who said, you know, I don’t want to be with the masses, I don’t want to just shut my eyes to the problem. And there were people who rescued my mother’s family and preserved her life. … So there were people intensely loyal to my family to help them survive, and that’s been brought down from the generations from my mom.”

As his commercial real estate work grows, his music continues to be performed around the world, as well. His latest musical compositions utilize technology, enabling Trout to write, perform and produce pieces himself. As a busy father, and his wife the assistant director of the Bais Yaakov preschool, it’s impressive how he fits it all in.

Trout said, “I would feel guilty if I didn’t do them. The good Lord gives you talent — I’m not saying I have talent, but if the good Lord gives you talent, you have the obligation to use it … We’re in the generation that we can choose what we do in life. We can do things like compose at wee hours of the morning or create fascinating multimedia projects — we can do that, that’s a real gift.”

Melissa Gerr is JT senior staff reporter and digital media editor — mgerr@jewishtimes.com

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