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By, Dan Perttu

This time on the Muse in Music blog, I have the great honor of interviewing Elliot Moore, Music Director of the Longmont Symphony Orchestra in Colorado. During the past year and a half, Elliot has approximately doubled audience size for the Longmont Symphony's Masterwork performances by making compelling programming choices and by interacting with the community in meaningful and authentic ways. The work he has accomplished since taking the helm in his inaugural 2017-18 season with the Longmont Symphony is quite an inspiration.

Dan: So tell me a little about yourself. What did you do before becoming the Music Director of the Longmont Symphony? Tell me about your musical background.

Elliot: I completed my undergraduate degree at the Cleveland Institute of Music in cello, and then I performed chamber music in Switzerland until 2008. A lot of the music I performed as both a chamber musician and orchestral musician in Switzerland was avant-garde music. While I was happy to be learning some wonderful music by Swiss composers, I did find some of it to be a bit too much on the cerebral side for my taste. I discovered that my desire was to be touched by the music, rather than to be “impressed” by its tonal and rhythmical complexities. In 2008 I began my conducting studies at the Manhattan School of Music, where I met the composer Richard Danielpour and got to know his music. I actually also lived with two composers in New York, so I was around new music all the time. For my doctorate, I went to the University of Michigan, where I met composers Michael Daugherty and Bright Sheng. Each of these composers has had a huge influence on my programming of new music; while their music certainly isn’t tonal all the time, they have a wonderful sense of consonance and dissonance. Their sense of line, orchestral timbre, form, etc. all combine to tell wonderful musical narratives that I have found to create moving experiences not only to me, but to audiences.

Dan: Wow – you have such a rich and interesting background that includes both traditional training and also exposure to a lot of new music. I’ll come back to that. In the meantime, though, I am curious about the Longmont Symphony and the region of Colorado Longmont is in. There are a lot of orchestras in your area – there’s the Colorado Symphony, of course, the Boulder Philharmonic, Fort Collins, etc. You’ve really made the Longmont Symphony a force to reckon with. How have you made it such a major player?

Elliot: Longmont is a growing city. It has become a destination where people want to be -- it is beautiful, close to the mountains, and has incredible amenities. We are now averaging around 900 people at our masterworks performances, which is approximately double the attendance at masterworks performances from just two years ago. With this kind of growth and interest in the performing arts, we now see broad support from music lovers and our local leaders to build a performing arts center. Seeing everyone coalesce around making Longmont a center for great culture has been incredible; it’s an exciting time for the arts in Longmont!

Dan: This is amazing! I love to hear about places where orchestras are growing and thriving. How did you manage to build the audience from around 500 to over 900?

Elliot: I started by changing the orchestra's approach to programming. First, I consider what the audience is used to. Where are they? I try to meet them where they are and then offer them some programs that will resonate with them, but with repertoire that they may not be familiar with yet. Second, I consider what the orchestra itself needs to further its artistic achievement. Third, I consider the region we are in. I recently programmed Slalom by Carter Pann, a 2016 Pulitzer Prize finalist composer who lives 10 minutes away from Longmont. This piece is about the feeling of skiing down a mountain, so it resonates with folks from Colorado. This piece was on my first program in my inaugural season with the LSO entitled “Old and New Friends.” Of course, I was new and wanted to deepen my relationship with the orchestra, but Carter was a new friend as well, and I brought in a pianist, Spencer Meyer, who was another new friend to the orchestra. For the second half, I programmed Elgar’s Enigma Variations since it was a piece about his friends. After the performance, the entire orchestra, staff, and audience all went out to a restaurant and got to know one another; it was a great way for us all to deepen our friendships through music.

In addition to changing the approach to programming, I make a point of being approachable and active in the community. People are sometimes intimidated by the “maestro,” so being down to earth, and frankly, just having an openness of spirit, allows for connecting with people from all walks of life. Honestly, having the opportunity to speak with music lovers and fans of the symphony is one of the best parts of my job.

Dan: This is great, and so inspirational to me. We hear so often that orchestras are in trouble, and your orchestra is growing and thriving! So, I’m sharing now one thing that’s inspiring to me, but now I’m really curious about what compositions inspire you. I usually start with this question, but we already got going on such interesting topics that I just wanted to let the conversation flow. But now, here we are: what music inspires you? Why do you do what you do?

Elliot: My all-time favorites are Bach’s Mass in B-Minor and his Goldberg Variations. Unfortunately, though, I don’t get to conduct a tremendous amount of Bach. I also love Mahler’s symphonies; he certainly does create an entire world within each of his symphonies! And, his music is interesting too because it is of, for, and by the people in a sense, especially in the First Symphony — I have his first symphony on my mind as we recently performed it. In that symphony, he includes peasant dances, nursery rhymes such as “Frere Jacques” in minor, and Klezmer music, juxtaposed against some of the greatest musical expressions of the human spirit ever put onto paper. He captures the entire spectrum of being human in his symphonies. Other composers . . . I love Brahms as well. Right now I have been working on Debussy’s La Mer, and I love it too. I become quite enveloped in whatever piece I am studying at the time -- I get into the composer’s world and live in it for as long as I can.

Dan: I share your passion for the great composers – Mahler, Brahms, Vaughan Williams, and Samuel Barber are some of my favorites. What about new music? Which contemporary composers do you want to program in the future?

Elliot: One role of the music director is to find composers they believe in and bring them to their audience. And, I love to provide my audiences also with the Colorado premiere of a piece, perhaps with the second performance of a piece (because sometimes for a composer, the second performance is even harder to get than the premiere), and also music by women and minorities. We need to choose composers who reflect people in our audience, which means choosing not just the music by white men. I’ve been prioritizing including music by women: this year I programmed a piece by Libby Larsen; last year I programmed music by Joan Tower, and next year I am hoping to bring in music by Jennifer Higdon. I would love to program something by Brahms, but right now, I am replacing it with the work of living composers because we conductors do have a responsibility to bring compelling new music to our audiences.

Dan: This has been so interesting to hear. Thanks for your open-minded approach to programming! Is there anything else that you would like to share?

Elliot: One of the driving forces for me is how music can be a catalyst to create community. One reason why the Longmont Symphony is so successful is because we have been able to tap into the need that so many people have, which is to be a part of something greater than themselves. I use music to create community.

Dan: I love this. I love your open attitude and your willingness to cultivate your audience and its community. I can see why you are so successful with drawing more people in to hear the Longmont Symphony perform. I’m truly excited to see how you will continue to make your orchestra grow and thrive! Thanks for taking the time to talk with me.

Elliot: Thanks, Dan!

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By, Dan Perttu

For this time in the Muse in Music blog, I am interviewing Lawrence Golan, Music Director of the Yakima Symphony (Washington), York Symphony (Pennsylvania), the Denver Philharmonic, and the Lamont Symphony (Colorado). Lawrence has also conducted throughout the United States and in Bulgaria, Canada, China, Czech Republic, El Salvador, England, Georgia, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, South Korea, Taiwan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan, and continues to develop relationships with orchestras nationally and abroad. In addition to concerts with the orchestras of which he is Music Director, Golan’s 2018-19 season includes return engagements with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra (for performances of The Nutcracker with Tucson Regional Ballet Company), his debut with Italy’s Orchestra Sinfonica di Sanremo and Maui Pops Orchestra, and leading a summer 2019 production of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro at the Europäisches Musikinstitut Wien. 2018 summer performances included the Yakima Symphony Orchestra’s new concert series at Cave B Summer Music Theater in Quincy, Washington and a sold-out concert with the Bayerische Philharmonie in Munich, Germany.

Dan: What music inspires you as a conductor? If the entire body of classical music were on fire, and you could only save 2 to 3 pieces, what would you save?

Lawrence: I am inspired by all kinds of music. From within the realm of Classical Music, I love repertoire from all periods, styles and geographic areas. That said, I tend to be most inspired by whatever I am working on at the time. When I’m studying and/or conducting a Brahms symphony—there is nothing better. But then I would say the same thing as I am working on Mahler, or Beethoven, or Mozart, etc. As for saving 2 or 3 pieces: Beethoven 9: it is the greatest and certainly the most influential symphony ever written. Mahler 2, Tchaik 5.

Dan: What motivates you as a conductor? Why do you do what you do?

Lawrence: I am motivated by the great composers. I am in such awe of their talent and creativity. I spend my days and nights trying to realize their creations and their intentions to the best of my ability.

I was born into a life of music. My father, Joseph Golan, was the Principal Second Violinist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for decades. I started as a professional violinist—not knowing any other life. I eventually morphed into conducting because I became enchanted with the big picture; not only the musical big picture (all of the parts, the interpretation, etc.), but the organizational big picture as well: programming, audience development, marketing, orchestra building, etc.

Dan: Audience development is a really interesting issue. What have you found to be the most effective ways to grow audiences?

Lawrence: This is a huge topic and one that can’t be fully explored right here and now. However, I can make a few comments about it. I think that for 95% of orchestras—all except those that have the budgets to bring in the superstar soloists and conductors whose names alone sell tickets—the most important factor in selling tickets and thus developing an audience is programming. I find that thematic programming—both for individual concerts as well as entire seasons—is helpful in this regard. While a concert with three great but unrelated pieces could be perfectly enjoyable for those who buy a ticket, it is difficult to market. All the marketing department can say is “come hear us play three really great pieces.” But thematic programming gives the marketing department something to grab on to. It can affect everything they do including the text they use for their materials, the graphics, the color schemes and end even pre- and post-concert activities. Another thing that I find very important, especially in regard to new music, is to gain the trust of the audience—trust that whatever we program, whether one has heard of the piece/composer or not, will be a great aural experience. The programming of bad pieces (those with no interesting sonic elements) can negatively impact ticket sales for future concerts. And the repeated programming of bad music will completely kill off an existing audience base.

Dan: This leads nicely into the idea of artistic vision. How would you characterize your artistic vision? How does music by living composers fit into this vision?

Lawrence: I endeavor to provide the audiences that I serve with a wide variety of music, from all countries, eras and styles. And within that programming context, I endeavor to present each piece within the historical performance practices that it was written as well as the historical, political and/or emotional context that the composer was working in. The works of living composers are absolutely a part of that equation. I want the audience to know that great music is still being written every day.

Dan: What a wonderful vision. Do you have preferences for certain aesthetic orientations or styles in new music? What does this imply for your programming and for your audiences?

Lawrence: My own preferences are, in my opinion, irrelevant. I don’t program for myself, but rather for the audience and, to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the situation (professional orchestra, university orchestra, youth orchestra, etc.) for the musicians in the orchestra. That said, in order to keep contemporary music alive, it is important not to let the audience, as they so often do, fall into the incorrect mindset that all contemporary music is bad. For that reason, I tend to program sonically interesting, exciting contemporary music as opposed to music whose interesting characteristics are strictly intellectual but cannot be heard.

Dan: Do you find that you and the administrators who work in your organizations have to market contemporary music differently?

Lawrence: Not really. Because my programs tend to be thematic, we primarily market the entire concert, as opposed to individual pieces. If a contemporary piece fits in to the theme of a concert, it belongs there. We don’t need to explain why we are doing it.

Dan: This has all been very interesting and illuminating to me. I have one more question - just on the lighter side, so that people can get to know you as a person. What do you do to relax?

Lawrence: Sadly, I have very little time to relax. However, I love my family (wife and two kids) and like to spend as much time with them as possible. We usually go on an annual ski trip and also tend to rendezvous with extended family members in tropical destinations (while I am not much of a beach fan, my wife certainly is!).

Dan: Wow – that sounds wonderful…. I’ll take either a ski trip or a tropical vacation—especially right now in the doldrums of the dark time of the year. Anyway, thank you so much for talking with me! I have enjoyed getting to know you as an artist.

Lawrence: Thank you!

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By, Dan Perttu

This time on the Muse in Music, I have the great pleasure of interviewing Tim Corpus, Composer and Executive Director at the Lake Forest Symphony Orchestra. Tim is particularly unique because he has perspectives both as a composer and as an orchestra administrator, and I'm excited to share them with you.

Dan: I always love to ask fellow musicians this question, usually to start off with. What music inspires you the most? What repertoire do you love? And, why do you compose?

Tim: Like many people, I love a wide variety of music that changes day-to-day. On any given day I'm listening to concert music, film scores and rock music. My roots in music are really from 90s grunge and early 2000s punk, so I do hold that music in a high place. Bands like The Hotelier, Pinegrove, Brand New and The Wonder Years are some of my current favorites. When it comes to classical, I love orchestral music. Lately I’ve been enjoying the orchestral music of William Walton and Debussy. Have you heard the film score to “Scaramouchie” by Victor Young? It’s absolutely terrific. When it comes to my all-time favorites. I am always in the mood to listen to Music for 18 Musicians, Appalachian Spring, and Mahler 9.

I compose because it is my best creative outlet. I enjoy performing, but I have so much music of my own, that I have to write it down. Some music, especially commissions, are written for others and have audiences in mind. However, a lot of my music is written just for me. It's a fine balance in serving the audience and being a creative outlet.

Dan: As an Executive Director of an orchestra, a composer, and a percussionist, how do the various aspects of your career inform each other? What aspects of your job do you like the most?

Tim: I think that each of those jobs feeds the other. Being a percussionist taught me so much about music. Half of the time you (as a percussionist) are sitting in the back of the orchestra doing nothing. For me, those rehearsals where I was often tacet were an opportunity for me to watch and learn about each of the instrument sections and how they work. This was really my first education in orchestration as a composer. Being a composer introduced me to the business side of our industry. I was applying for grants, contacting other musicians and learning all about project plans and budgets. Eventually that knowledge led me to working in arts administration. Having had time performing and composing, I have a good grasp on the life of the musicians. I have a deep respect and great pride for the musicians in my orchestra. Now that I have worked with orchestras from the administrative side, I have more of an understanding about what conductors and orchestras need from a composer. Performers, administrators and composers are all part of this ecosystem, and each one is a critical part of the puzzle.

As an Executive Director, one of the things I like most is being able to have an impact on my workplace. We work incredibly hard trying to be creative about the orchestra experience to draw in new audiences. There are a lot of great ideas coming from our musicians, the Board of Directors and the staff. Right now, no ideas are off the table. We are trying to build something really different here.

Dan: As a musician and as an artistic administrator, you sometimes work with living composers. Do you have preferences for certain aesthetic orientations or styles in new music? What does this imply for your thoughts on programming?

Tim: As an Executive Director, my job is to oversee the business operations of the orchestra and to help facilitate growth for the organization. As a composer, I am thrilled that the spectrum of music is so varied today and I find that very fascinating. There is a delicate balance for an organization between performing what they think will sell and programming what is artistically important. I have a great music director, Vladimir Kulenovic, who shares the same beliefs I do. We work very hard to program a season that is artistically relevant while being aesthetically pleasing. We oftentimes program what we believe is best for the audience and the orchestra, sometimes that is contemporary music and sometimes it’s not. This season, we are celebrating the bicentennial of Illinois and we felt it necessary to recognize our amazing living Illinois composers, including female composers. We are fortunate enough to have amazing composers like Augusta Read Thomas and Stacy Garrop here in Illinois that we can work with. Not only does this concert feature four living composers, but we have also included the show stopping “La Mer” by Debussy. It's a good balance of new music mixed with an old standard. I would like to see orchestras able to perform more contemporary music; it is where our industry needs to go. The industry as a whole is trying to figure out how to respond to the needs of our audiences and it’s important for audiences to be vocal about what they want.

Dan: That leads well to my next question. In what ways do you think orchestras in general could collaborate with contemporary composers that would enhance the new music scene and its reach to audiences?

Tim: Collaboration is good for both sides, and I’m always happy when it works. We have a composer-in-residence here at the Lake Forest Symphony, and it has been a great way to educate audiences about what composers do and classical music in general. We have also started a chamber music series called the Salon Series that features Symphony musicians performing the music they want to play. These intimate concerts have been incredibly successful and blend a variety of styles from world music to baroque to jazz. This model is something I think other organizations can follow and we plan to expand. In this series we’re able to introduce audiences to a variety of styles. One of the critical pieces of this series is that it is not in a concert hall. We are able to use a variety of spaces for performances that will engage audiences.

In addition to composers-in-residence, we would like to find a way to provide orchestral readings for composers in Illinois. This is a situation where we are all in support of the program, we just need the sponsorship or financial support to do so.

Dan: Well, thanks, Tim, for your interesting perspectives as a composer and executive director. I learned a lot from you! Thanks for talking with me.

Tim: Thank you!

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