Questioning the conductors

As regular readers — and not so regular readers — know, the Seattle Symphony is looking for a new music director.  Officially, the music director search committee is taking the posture that every guest conductor has the potential to be the orchestra’s new music director.  Starting this week with Ludovic Morlot, I will be questioning, writing about, filming, or recording each and every guest conductor that passes through the Emerald City.

I need your help, however.  I need you to tell me what I should be asking.  What do you want to know about the people in the running to be the next music director of the SSO? Leave the questions you think I should be asking these potential candidates in the comments section.  Or, if you feel more comfortable, email me directly at


7 thoughts on “Questioning the conductors

  1. Altough I am an outsider to this process, here are a few things I would want to know from any potential musical director:

    1. What music/composers are you most passionate about?
    2. What are your favorite musical instruments, and which ones do you play?
    3. Where were you raised, and what are your favorite places?
    4. What have been your greatest musical experiences?
    5. What conductors past and present do you most admire?

    Hopefully, the answers to these questions may give you a broader view of each candidate and help form a picture of his musical personality. Good luck!

  2. I would ask each director what they think the role of a modern symphony orchestra plays in the promotion of new music. As a major metropolitan orchestra, the Seattle Symphony under Gerard Schwarz has done little to encourage the continued lineage of their own art. What is their view on new and emerging compositions? Would this work hurt the organization? Or help bring it to the next level on the national and world stage?

  3. Alex Ross pointed out a good article about Alan Gilbert and Gustavo Dudamel by a critic in the Boston Globe:

    I think some of what’s discussed there is also relevant to Seattle’s situation. Seattle needs a conductor who can energize both the orchestra and the community around the orchestra. That means putting a new emphasis on improving the orchestra, but also taking a good long look at programming.

    The new music director should have a vision for how they want the orchestra to sound, and clear ideas of how to get there. That include hiring new personnel, growing the existing personnel, and improving ensemble. I think they also should have keen insights into the current state of the orchestra.

    At the same time, the new music director needs to address programming, and figure out how to bring a fresh approach to stalwarts of the repertoire as well as choosing new music to program.

    So, I think the fundamental questions are:

    1. Where is the orchestra now?
    2. What’s the vision for the how the orchestra should sound, and how do you get them there?
    3. How do you program for the orchestra to achieve the above objectives and balance new and old music?

  4. Thank you for your questions! These are great. I just got the Morlot responses back today. I will be sure to incorporate some of your questions into future interviews. Please feel free to post this article on your facebook pages and where ever else you can. The more questions from the public the better.

  5. My main question falls right in line with what Mark asks. My concerns are around commitment to new music and insuring that we have new and exciting programming here in Seattle.

    * How will you promote and support new works and how important is new music to you personally?
    * Please site three works that have been written in the last 10 years that you feel are particularly compelling and explain what it is about the work that grabs you?

    I wonder how much of an interview/try-out these guest conductors are expecting. It would not surprise me if they had no real understanding of SSO and classical music in Seattle BUT if they do seem to have some ideas and understanding about our arts community and various political/social/funding type issues it might be interesting to see what they have to say on:

    * What are some of the major hurdles you’d envision programming the music you’d like? How might you compromise or work to overcome those hurdles in order to realize your vision for the SSO?
    * Gerard Schwarz has done a pretty amazing job raising money for the SSO: what sorts of experience and success do you have in this area?
    * What should the role of the SSO be in the Seattle Public Schools? Or maybe generically, what sort of role should any major orchestra have in the local school system? Can you sight any examples of programs around the world that you think work particularly well?
    * I hope you choose to continue a composer in residence program but do you think there should be a pre-determined length to that appointment? If so, how long? (yes, that is a jab at the unacceptably long appointment of Samuel Jones)

  6. Well, lets start with a short and to the point question:
    “What is your plan to FILL a 2,500 seat hall, five nights a week, 36 weeks a year plus a summer season?”

  7. I like the direction Another Zach. And, P Hoffman, your question is very salient these days. I worry about the SSO every time I get an email touting drastically reduced ticket prices. Thank you both for your contribution!

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