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Interview with Stéphane Denève, New World Symphony’s New Inventive Director

Stéphane Denève is aware of what you are considering: Classical music simply is not my cup of tea.

As music director for the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (SLSO), the French-born conductor has been inviting each particular person he meets to expertise the orchestra for themselves.


Denève all the time carries enterprise playing cards. At any time when he meets somebody who professes to be of the “classical music is not for me” mindset, he fingers them a enterprise card, inviting them to alternate it on the Powell Corridor field workplace for 2 free tickets to a live performance.

“Classical music is cool,” Denève says assuredly. “You realize why? As a result of all of the younger musicians love this music. I believe there are a variety of methods to create a rapport with the viewers — extra heat, cool, hip — and that is occurring. I believe it is a matter of getting individuals come and see that they adore it.”

The 51-year-old conductor now has a brand new alternative to form the subsequent technology of classical performers and listeners on the New World Symphony (NWS) in Miami, the place he took the helm as inventive director final October. Denève is just the second particular person to carry the function, which Michael Tilson Thomas famously occupied since co-founding the orchestra in 1987. Final 12 months, Tilson Thomas stepped down from the function after disclosing that he’d been identified with an aggressive type of mind most cancers.

Denève may be very a lot conscious of the void he has been requested to fill, however he is equally dedicated to an strategy of “do not repair what’s not damaged.”

“[NWS] is an unimaginable establishment that has delivered loopy great things over time, and the brand new corridor is an unimaginable legacy,” he says. “My function is for certain to proceed that, however I am my very own self. I’ve my very own priorities and positively have a variety of concepts, and so much has to do with the repertoire we play.”

The fantastic thing about the New World Symphony is the function it performs in growing the subsequent technology of classical musicians. The establishment is sort of a conservatory the place candidates bear a rigorous audition course of, with solely a handful of gifted musicians chosen yearly to affix this system. Many NSW alumni will go on to affix famend orchestras throughout the globe.
A younger expertise pool additionally helps NSW showcase a younger visage of classical music to the group. And whereas the orchestra performs conventional exhibits that command greater ticket costs, it additionally often levels free performances and occasions the place admission is $15 to $20. For individuals who do not wish to fork over $155 to see a full orchestral live performance, there’s all the time the choice to carry a blanket, sit outdoors within the SoundScape Park, and benefit from the simulcast on the New World Middle’s Wallcast display in actual time — without cost. (NWS lately launched a cellular Wallcast that has popped up in places like CityPlace Doral.)

“I adore it. I am an enormous fan,” Denève says of the Wallcast. “I used to be so blown away after I did my first live performance with the Wallcast. I went outdoors when my fellow conductor was conducting one piece of this system, and I simply went outdoors simply to expertise how it’s. It’s distinctive, and due to [the city’s] climate, you are able to do it fairly often.”

Together with lifting boundaries to entry, Denève desires audiences to appreciate that classical music is much more diversified in types than most individuals give it credit score. With three centuries of music, types can vary from baroque items to up to date avant-garde compositions. Many individuals are additionally unaware of how orchestras have helped form fashionable tradition. From John Williams’ rating for the Star Wars franchise with the London Symphony Orchestra to the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra symphonic suites of the Dragon Quest online game soundtrack, orchestras have added pomp and circumstance to our collective cultural reminiscence.

“The large mission is to make classical music extra accessible and make individuals know that it is for them,” Denève reiterates. “Individuals generally do not understand how a lot it may attain their lives and the way it may be a therapeutic companion.”

Denène has no instant plans to maneuver to South Florida full-time—he simply moved to St. Louis from Brussels final summer time. Along with main NWS, he’ll proceed as SLSO’s music director and begin his tenure as principal visitor conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic this 12 months.

“Conductors are a wierd group. They’re world vacationers on a regular basis,” he explains. “So proper now, I am going to have my residence in St. Louis and have my second residence in Florida like many individuals do.”

That mentioned, he is wanting ahead to spending much more time in Miami.

“It is a dream come true,” he says. “You may have this wonderful middle and make music in South Seaside and profit from a spot that’s world-renowned for being enjoyable, cool, and thrilling.”


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