Meet Tulsa Ballet's New Principal Conductor
Aug 15, 2012 in Blog Posts
Can you tell us a brief background on your education and motivation to be a conductor?
I attended a performance by the Boston Symphony at their summer home, Tanglewood, when I was 13 years of age. It was there, watching Erich Leinsdorf conduct, that I first became enamored with conducting. I studied conducting through high school and at the conservatory (University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music) and in Europe after graduation. I was an oboist before conducting truly monopolized my time, and I do miss playing. My primary mentor in college was Thomas Schippers, a conductor who died tragically at a fairly young age. Rarely a week goes by that I don’t wish I could spend an hour with him, now that I know what the questions really are.
You have been working with various organizations in Ohio and have made appearances all over the world. What has been a defining moment for you in your career?
I have been blessed to conduct all over the world, and lead some of the greatest orchestras (including the New York Philharmonic and the Cleveland Orchestra), but I think some of my most treasured moments have been at the helm with young musicians, experiencing the great musical masterpieces for the first time. I remember leading a concert by my youth orchestra in Europe at the end of a long tour, and the music was far beyond their supposed maturity. It was then that I realized that my work was literally molding the future. I have learned that those defining moments often come when and where you least expect them.
Is there a particular piece of music you love conducting? Why do you love it?
Hard to pin down one piece, but I do love the music of Tchaikovsky (he wrote a few ballets!). His way of conveying passion and compassion almost literally in the same musical idea has always been a great vehicle for my musical voice.
What to you is the biggest difference in conducting music for a ballet rather than a symphony?
The comedian Danny Kaye once said that conducting is the greatest feeling of neurotic power in the world, and he was right! But, conducting for the ballet is very much a collaborative effort. My approach to a score must be nuanced with the dancers and the choreographer as well as the musicians in mind. The right tempo at any given moment is essential to the stage, and I must temper my musical intentions to be sure that the choreographer is being served, the dancers look great, the musicians sound great, and the composer would be satisfied. Conducting a symphony, I am in charge. Conducting for the ballet, everyone else is in charge!
What sort of challenges do you face in this year’s season at Tulsa Ballet?
I will have a lot of work to do in very short periods of time! I will be in residence for one week of studio observation and then the actual production week, when I will rehearse the Orchestra and lead performances. Luckily the productions slated for this season have history with the Tulsa Ballet, and I have archival performances to study. But there will be a lot of adaptation as I learn the needs of these particular dancers.
Which ballet are you most looking forward to working on and conducting? Why?
The Nutcracker has a very special place in my heart! I have conducted it well over 100 times (in fact, I’ll be leading performances with BalletMet Columbus in Detroit before I come to Tulsa!), but every time I conduct that score, I find something new! Did I mention that I love Tchaikovsky!? However, I am currently working on Dracula, and find the score simply amazing!
How would you define your style of conducting?
I think, collaborative is a word that comes to mind. I feel that it is my job to empower the Orchestra to play as well as they can, and I think that comes through in my style. And I think that is why I do enjoy work in the theater, whether opera or ballet, as that concept extends to inspiring other artists as well.
What are you most looking forward to in Tulsa?
Having Marcello drive me around in one of his Porsches!