You’re conducting three out of the five Discover Music! concerts; not a series that a music director usually conducts. You must really want to be part of the children’s program.
Totally. I couldn’t do all five of them because of the schedule. I say constantly that I want to be opening the doors of Benaroya Hall for the young people, and for people who never really experienced live symphonic music. So I think it’s only fair that I’m actually committing to doing those concerts. If by next year I can do the five of them, I will.
It’s a model that I’m kind of taking from Alan Gilbert [music director of the New York Philharmonic] in New York, also, that he’s doing all of them. I’m also lucky to have an assistant conductor [Eric Garcia] that is very skillful for doing those.
So I also want to give him a little bit of an opportunity to work with the orchestra, and do the shows, but I’m really keen on doing as many as possible.
(The Discover Music! concerts are Saturday morning events aimed at audiences ages 6-12.)
What’s your program for the Discover Music! series?
I’m presenting music for what it is, which is rhythm, harmony, and melody. So those three concepts are highlighted individually in three of those five concerts. And then there is another element: music sometimes tells a story, so it’s programmatic. We had to start with that one, for logistical reasons, because I wanted to do partnerships with the ARC Dance, and with Broadway Bound. I’m encouraging with choreography to create some imagination.
I came up with the idea to start each concert with the “Hear the Music” theme, the signature song for the Discover Music! Concerts [composed by Seattle Symphony Young Composers Workshop Director Samuel Jones]. Ultimately I would love that all schools could learn this, and they come into the morning, and they sing that together. It takes one minute, but it makes a tremendous gift of music, I mean you just start your life with singing. Rather than running to school, and you know, it becomes like going to work.
I would love to see people at Microsoft go and, before they start work, they sing all together!
In addition to the Discover Music! concerts, and what you present during the concerts, you have a pre-concert lecture for the kids earlier in the week, at Soundbridge.
Oh, yes, but this is our Education Department, so Nancy Gosen is really organizing this. I might just be coming in as a visitor there, but I’m only involved in overseeing all of this. [Seattle Symphony also presents a full season of half-hour Tiny Tots concerts for audiences ages birth to 5.]
To parents who say they don’t like Mozart, what would you say?
You have to first say that you know all the music of Mozart and then you decide you don’t like it. On the first Discover Music! concert this season, we played music that included jazz and Latin American dance rhythms. So, what does “classical music” mean? That’s maybe the question I’d like to ask. I think there’s not such a thing! I think there’s great music and there’s the other kind.
Do you think all people are musical?
I think we are all musical to start with, and then we lose it because we don’t sustain it. We all sing great when we are kids. I mean, you can argue some are more in tune than others. But I think we lose that natural thing about being involved with music because we don’t do it anymore. And we are ashamed of doing it. When you see adults being asked to sing, they look around, you know…but singing is the most beautiful thing! It’s the instrument that we are trying to imitate on any other instrument: it’s the voice!
Do you have a favorite rock band? Broadway musical?
The latest musical I’ve seen is “Beauty and the Beast,” in New York, with the girls. That’s not really my thing. When I have an evening off, I usually prefer to go either to listen to jazz, or to the opera or the ballet. Broadway shows, I go because of the girls; we went to “Mary Poppins” and all the classics. I enjoy, but it’s a little too long for me. At intermission at those shows, I’m always ready to go home. I mean, the sound is great, the singing is great, the dancing is great, but it’s just a little too much of the same thing in the same evening for me.
Rock bands, I have many favorites, and I like to discover still new ones. Being in this place, I do like Nirvana. I like electronic music, as well. Radiohead, I like. All kind of things. All kind of things.