Tell us about your career and how you came to Live Arts Maryland.
I was born in Baltimore and my family moved to Cleveland but I have a lifelong connection to Annapolis; every year I spent chunks of my summer visiting family here. In the ‘80s, I was the Orchestra Assistant at Peabody and assistant to my teacher. When I was finishing my doctoral work, my teacher said, “I want you to do this job with the Annapolis Chorale. It’s perfect for you.” Because I was also assisting with the Opera program, I had a reputation for working with singers and orchestras – it’s unusual to move easily between the two. My teacher thought I’d be the perfect fit for the Chorale and told me to go and make something of it. So I did!
Very quickly the orchestra established itself and the chorus became a really strong ensemble that was musically vibrant in the community. At the same time, I traveled back and forth to South America to conduct opera in Brazil. I did that for 4-5 years while also building the chorale. Guest conducting took me all over Europe and America. When I put down roots, I ended up at the Kennedy Center as conductor with the National Symphony for 12 years. From there, I began working with Marvin Hamlish developing part of my life as a pops conductor. Today, most of my guest conducting is orchestral and my residencies last a few days. “Live Arts” is now in the middle of what I consider its third or fourth iteration since I came in ’85.
What can an audience expect from your “fusion” programs?
In the classical concert music world, we’ve created a “museum repertoire.” The bulk of what we do was written in the mid 1800s to early 1900s. That’s over a 100 years old! That doesn’t always connect with us. So, our programs combine chorale traditions with new, contemporary pieces. Our goal is to find connections with music that may sometimes go unnoticed and share that with our audience. Doing new pieces and fusing them together ensures we’re creating something that is part of our time.
What are Live Arts’ keys to success?
We constantly re-evaluate and assess what we’re doing in the context of what the community needs. Not necessarily what it wants but what it needs and how to serve them. That’s the secret to longevity. It’s all well and good to do what you do, sing, perform music, dance, but you have to be careful that you’re not creating a museum. Last season, we did a tremendous amount of repertoire of this time and that resonated with our audience.
How do artists become part of the Orchestra and Chorale?
The chorus is a mostly volunteer chorus with some section leaders on staff. It is a community group of singers drawn from the region. To join, there is a quick voice placement audition and then they come and sing with us. The process is simple and not scary. We want to be as welcoming as we can.
The Annapolis Chamber Orchestra is made up of professional musicians from the area as well. They are some of the best players in the region. Our soloists are drawn from all over the country and the world.
The Chorale has a loyal following. What keeps patrons coming back?
In everything that we do, we try to share the joy that we have in making, sharing and presenting music. I want the audience to feel like they are welcome. They should feel like we’ve invited them into our house and we’re playing music. It’s just a slightly bigger house with lots of seats. Sharing a piece of music at a concert is a big statement and we embrace it. If our audience knows we’re excited about it, they become excited about it.
What is unique about the upcoming season?
We’re really focused on building connections across the season and across the repertoire that resonate with the audience. Connections unfold in that original program and across the whole season. The audience will see the music through the same lens we look through. They are an active participant in what happens on stage.