Allan’s early life was challenging. His mother died when he was sixteen and his father suffered from a serious bi-polar illness that led to him being violent and abusive. Solace for Allan came in the form of great music that he discovered in his mid-teens.
Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Puccini, Strauss, Verdi, and Wagner would become his lifelong companions. It also turned out that Allan could sing.
With his first professional audition he became a member of the renowned American Savoyards with whom he performed all thirteen Gilbert and Sullivan operettas in front of New York audiences. The NY Times declared that the young singer had ” . . . a remarkably fine voice.”
Allan’s first Broadway show followed when he was cast in the original company of Oliver! His love of travel may have been born at this time as the pre-Broadway tryout went to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Toronto, long treks for the Brooklyn-born boy.
The Oliver! creative team then brought Pickwick to Broadway and Allan was employed again. This was followed by a return to his Gilbert and Sullivan experience as Allan was cast by the great British director, Sir Tyrone Guthrie, to be in the Stratford Festival and Broadway production of The Pirates of Penzance.
For twenty-eight years Allan enjoyed performing professionally in musicals, opera, operetta, recitals, and concerts. He ventured out and produced and directed his own companies (sometimes necessitated by a lack of other offers.)
He began teaching singers in the early 1980’s and before long his studio was fully booked. His personal life blossomed at this time as well, and he married former dancer Susanna Weiss with whom he has enjoyed an extraordinary relationship ever since. They partner well not just at home but professionally as well. Susanna was appointed the Community Meditation Center’s first Executive Director and Allan its first Guiding Teacher.
For reasons he has never been able to explain, Allan enrolled in a program studying world religions (in which he previously had no interest) and two years later was ordained as an Interfaith Minister, a role he has since left behind. But his previously vague interest in Eastern philosophy and meditation was now seriously aroused. A few months later he went on his first mindfulness retreat with the Vietnamese monk, Thich Naht Hanh, and Allan knew he had found a meaningful path for himself.
After five years in the Thich Naht Hanh community Allan felt a need to deepen his meditation practice and his knowledge of the dharma (the teachings of the Buddha). He searched for a teacher who would work with him individually and guide him. Through the greatest of fortune, Sharon Salzberg agreed to be that person, his Kalyana Mitta (spiritual guide).
For ten years Allan met with Sharon and her influence on his practice, understanding, teaching, writing, and life have been inestimable. During that time, and since, he has attended retreats at the Insight Meditation Society with such teachers as Joseph Goldstein, Stephen Batchelor, and Larry Rosenberg, and has studied Buddhist psychology, Abhidamma, and the Pali language at the Barre Center for Buddhist studies primarily with senior scholar Andrew Olendzki.
The events of 9/11 had a profound impact on Allan and Susanna. Their various endeavors to serve eventually led to seven people asking Allan to teach them how to meditate. From that was born the Community Meditation Center where more than one hundred people now attend the weekly sessions. For Allan and Susanna, this sangha (community) has become their most loving and supportive extended family.
In 2010 Allan’s first book, Pocket Peace: Effective Practices for Enlightened Living, was published by Tarcher/Penguin. Based on the Buddhist perfection practices, it offers concise daily practices that enable one to be in the world as the person they want to be.
In 2012 Tarcher published his second book, Patience: The Art of Peaceful Living, an in-depth exploration of the virtuous quality of patience.
On Christmas day, 2012, Susanna and Allan were in a horrific plane crash in Myanmar. Doctors in four countries told Susanna that Allan would not survive his injuries. Yet he not only survived, but he is thriving. His latest book, Through the Flames: Overcoming Disaster Through Compassion, Patience, and Determination, tells the story of the accident and his remarkable recovery.
The severe injuries to his legs left him unable to walk for a while but he struggled back. He added Tai Chi to his schedule of physical therapy, occupational therapy, massage therapy, and trauma therapy and has become a highly proficient practitioner of the ancient Chinese art. Allan is also a skilled photographer with a particular love of photographing wildlife.
He replaced the camera that was lost in the plane crash with Nikon’s biggest and baddest model so that his injured hands would have to work hard. A full-fledged safari (his seventh) is scheduled for August 2015, but for now, his “wildlife” photography is limited to the squirrels, birds, and insects in Central Park.
Family plays a significant role in Allan’s life. His grandson Max was born in 2008 and is a source of joy (and exhaustion).
His daughter Samantha, seen here with her husband Sean, is dad’s shining star.
His wife Susanna has been the perfect partner from day one – loving, caring, supportive, and fun.