“As a conductor, the role is to help orchestra members . . . . so you’re serving them.”

—David Rutherford, candidate for Music Director of the Longmont Symphony

By Peter Alexander

Each of the four candidates for music director of the Longmont Symphony will conduct a concert during the 2016–17 season. When each candidate visits Longmont, I will take the opportunity to introduce him (and yes, they are all male). The questions will include serious questions about the job of a music director, but also questions that help introduce each of them to the reader. I hope this will give a clearer picture of the strengths of each candidate.

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David Rutherford

The third candidate, David Rutherford, will conduct the LSO on Saturday, Feb. 25.  Rutherford is well known in Colorado for his position on air with Colorado Public Radio’s Classical Music station, and in Longmont as rehearsal conductor and conductor of family concerts with the LSO.

His program will be: Danzon No. 2 by Arturo Marquez; Five Bagatelles, Op. 23, by Gerald Finzi, with Stephanie Zelnick, clarinet; Symphony No. 2 in D major by Johannes Brahms.

Here are his answers to the questions I asked:

What first attracted you to the Longmont Symphony?

 Years ago [former LSO music director] Bob Olson had programmed the Peter Schickele version of Beethoven’s Fifth where there’s two sports commentators, a play-by-play and a color commentator along with the orchestra, and I got a call to come play one of the commentators. So I came up and did that, and that’s how I first met Bob. There was a need for a substitute rehearsal conductor, and I said, “If you ever need anyone to fill in, let me know.” Bob said “Sure, go ahead and bring him in for a rehearsal.” Bob liked my work, so he asked me to do that again in the next season. He continued to like my work until he was using me exclusively [for rehearsals].

It was never my intent to overplay my role. I was hired as a rehearsal conductor, and that’s what I was. My job was to serve Bob and to serve the orchestra, and to get them ready for him coming in. And I was always really happy in that role.

How do you think about programming for a community orchestra? What would a season of the LSO with David Rutherford look like?

 The audience has to be kept in mind so that they get to hear things that they expect to hear and also get introduced to new works that are worth hearing.  So in any one of my programs you would find familiar and unfamiliar, in a balance that makes sense for that particular program.

A community orchestra is different from a professional orchestra in that these folks aren’t getting paid—or not very much. The reason they’re there is that they want to play—so, programming works for them that they really enjoy playing. Together we can enjoy exploring and making great music together, so that when we’re done with our process and we invite the audience in, sharing music with them and them sharing the experience with us, we all really enjoy what we’re doing.

I like to program in themes, and find music that helps you understand this theme, whatever it might be, in new ways. The nice thing about music is that it helps us understand other experiences. And so music always helps us to understand the rest of our lives.

There have recently been alarm bells for classical music and orchestras, especially the larger orchestras that have had serious labor disputes. Do you think that these problems will affect community orchestras as well? And if not, what do you think are the challenges for the smaller  orchestras?

 I would say that the challenges are very different. Because, once again, this is not a job for [the orchestra members]. Most everybody in a community orchestra is coming from work to something that they enjoy. The people are coming because they really love it and want to make music. And so the orchestra institution in this case exists much more for the players.

In balance, the reason a professional orchestra exists is not for the players, it’s for the audience. In a community orchestra, the orchestra exists in large part just for the players. Now that’s not to say that there is not thought of the audience. In fact, when the audience realizes, ‘Hey, these guys really love it,’ and the music that they’re making is really good, then the audience is brought along for the ride, and together then we become a larger community surrounding this music-making activity.

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David Rutherford

How do you balance and prepare for the various aspects of the conductor’s job: the musical requirements, the social demands with the public, and the diplomatic demands with contributors, the board and musicians?

 Isn’t that the thing about conducting? That it is so multi-faceted, and even when you’re standing up on the podium just doing the conducting thing, there are so many things happening simultaneously. I always describe the conductor’s mind as being in three time zones simultaneously. Because you’re creating the music in your mind ahead of the moment that it happens, and then there is the moment that it happens, and then there’s after it happens you are evaluating what just happened.

That’s analogous to so many things about conducting. Because you’re a cheerleader, you’re an advocate, you’re a disciplinarian, you’re a psychologist, a counselor—and that’s all still just standing on the podium! But then you’re also working with the board, and you’re working with patrons, and you’re working with the audience. And I think what it all comes down to is understanding as a conductor that your role is as a servant in all of these aspects, that you serve the orchestra. As a conductor, the role is to help orchestra members to overcome whatever little issues are here and there, and to come to that point where they can do what they want to do. So you’re serving them.

You’re also serving the audience in helping them to understand what’s going on, and to program in a way that they’re included. And serving the board, making sure that the orchestra that is on stage is the orchestra that the board thinks it is, and that’s a communication issue. So you’re serving the board in giving them the information that they need, and giving them the understanding of the orchestra that they need so that they can continue to do the work that they do. And patrons, in working with them, it’s serving them and trying to figure out how it is that they can understand the orchestra as an asset to our community. It is really the role of a servant in all situations.

About you now: Where did you grow up?

 In two places, but both in Colorado. I was born at Rose Memorial Hospital in Denver, and we lived in Littleton until I was 8, in third grade. We moved up to Grand Lake. So I grew up, really, up in the mountains. I went to elementary school, junior high and high school in Granby, driving that 16 mils every day from Grand Lake to Granby.

Did you come from a musical family?

 My mom played a little piano, my dad played folk guitar, so I know a bunch of old cowboy songs because of him.

I played trumpet in elementary school. In 7th grade I was able to play in the high school band if I switched to horn, so in 7th grade I switched to horn and played all the way through my first year of college. But in high school the big thing is to play in jazz band. So I told my band director, “I want to play in the jazz band!” He sent me home with a book and an electric bass and I started playing in jazz band the next day. That’s how I got started playing bass.

20DNLSOrutherford.jpg David Rutherford, Courtesy photo. David Rutherford

David Rutherford

I went to UNC for the jazz program. But they said, you can’t major in this (miming electric bass), you have to play this (miming upright bass). By the fall of my second year I had really pretty much fallen in love with playing orchestra bass. And so by the time I was a senior I was playing in six orchestras.

Who are your musical mentors?

 First and foremost would be Elza Daugherty, the long-time music education professor at UNC, for his understanding of how it is that we each individually have our own stories and our own connections with music.

Howard Skinner, the long-time conductor of the Greeley Philharmonic and dean of the School of Music at UNC, for his incredible musicality. He was very organized, very professional. I studied conducting with him and he was really amazing—and still is.

And third would be my bass teacher Ed Krolick, who has since passed away. But he taught me to think while I play. He would continually ask you, ‘OK, you just did this. Why did you do that?’ What he’s teaching me is that everything you do in music—that nothing’s left to chance. He also taught me how to play the bass, but he taught me to think while I play.

Are there any conductors today whose work you especially admire?

 You know there’s a lot. I think Andrew Litton really is a terrific conductor. I think John Eliot Gardner is really amazing in  getting what he does out or orchestras. And I really like his approach to that transitional, even late Romantic stuff, the Brahms, the recordings that he’s done with the Romantic & Revolutionary Orchestra. I just think he’s terrific. Yannick Nezit-Seguin is amazing. You could go on and on and on!

Moving on the sillier questions: Do you have a favorite food?

 My favorite restaurant in Denver right now is Café Brazil in Denver. I’ve never been in a restaurant that puts more flavor in its food than Café Brazil. It’s at 44th and Lowell. And so that’s really terrific. I like Asian food. I met my wife when I was living in Hawaii, and I miss the Korean barbecue that’s in Hawaii.

As you know, Colorado is an outdoor recreation state. What is your favorite activity outdoors?

I love to hunt and to hike and to camp. Backpacking is really terrific. I like bicycling. Any excuse I can get to head up into the mountains, because growing up in the mountains—I can’t be a conductor year-round in the mountains, but if I could, I would! I love the fresh air, and when I’m hunting I love being the only person within a mile of where I’m standing. There’s a solitude and a solace and a beauty in the quiet that I miss.

Do you follow any sport or team?

 I am the quintessential fair-weather fan of the Rockies and the Broncos. I don’t always watch.

 

“The most important aspect of an orchestra is to really be in the community.”

—Elliot Moore, candidate for Music Director of the Longmont Symphony

By Peter Alexander

Each of the four candidates for music director of the Longmont Symphony Orchestra will conduct a concert during the 2016–17 season. When each candidate visits Longmont, I will take the opportunity to introduce him (and yes, they are all male). The questions will include serious questions about the job of a music director, but also questions that help introduce each of them to the reader. I hope this will give a clearer picture of the strengths of each candidate.

The first candidate, Elliott Moore, will conduct the orchestra on  Saturday, Nov. 12. The following works are on the program: Mozart’s Symphony No. 32 in G major; Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, with pianist Vivian Choi; and the Ravel orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

Here are his answers to the questions I asked:

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Elliot Moore

PA: What attracted you to the Longmont Symphony?

EM: They seemed to be an orchestra that has, first of all, a presence in the community. They seem to be an orchestra that is well run. There’s a feeling about the orchestra, and I got that already from their online presence, that they’re an orchestra that takes pride in what they do. They’re an orchestra that wants to be playing great music, and they’re an orchestra that wants to be in their community.

How do you think about programming for a community orchestra? What would a season of the LSO with Elliot Moore look like?

Whenever I think about programming, I consider a couple of different things. I consider, what does the audience want to hear, what do they expect to hear? I also always think about what will further the artistic achievement of the orchestra. If they haven’t played much from the classical period, that is something that I would want to begin focusing on, or, if they haven’t done much modern music, perhaps doing some living composers would be good for them to start doing, so that they become a well rounded orchestra in all the different musical genres. And then, once I have sort of the overall season done, I look to see if there’s something for everyone.

I think that pops plays a role in a season’s program, and the orchestra certainly has a pops series. When there are pops concerts, it’s important to still showcase the orchestra. One other thing: Something that should be in the programming would be opportunities to work with other local arts organizations, whether that be modern dance ensembles, or videographers, or choreographers—all kinds of different artistic media that the orchestra can work with in order to connect the dots within the community.

There have recently been alarm bells for classical music and orchestras, especially the larger orchestras that have had serious budget issues and labor disputes. Do you think that these problems will affect community orchestras as well? And if not, what do you think are the challenges for the smaller orchestras?

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Elliot Moore

I see it as being less of an issue for the Longmont Symphony. What I think is the most important aspect of an orchestra, period, is to really be in the community. What are the specific needs of the community, and is the orchestra playing a role to address those needs? I know in Longmont there is an Hispanic population of approximately 30%, and I know also that they tend not to be coming to the LSO concerts. How, in an authentic way, can the Longmont Symphony bridge the gap to that community? Connecting different organizations, to create one incredible cultural community—I think that that is important. And I think that once you really connect with your community, in an authentic way, really thinking about it, really considering how to make this community better, then go after that. So making a plan and then taking action. When those things are done, the chances of an orchestra folding are much less because they are in the community and they are making a difference, and their presence matters, and the public knows that, they understand that and they feel that.

How do you balance and prepare for the various aspects of the conductor’s job: the musical requirements, the social demands with the public, and the diplomatic demands with contributors, the board and musicians?

That’s a really great question. Let’s talk about the musical first. The job of a conductor is largely one where you are alone a lot of the time, studying the scores. That is what informs inspiring rehearsals. It’s impossible to have inspiring rehearsals if you don’t really know your music, you don’t know the context in which it was written, or you know don’t what inspired the composers of the music you’re performing. That is probably the single most important aspect.

When conducting, I imagine myself as a conduit. I empty out and then I fill up with the music. It’s like a straw that’s flavored with chocolate flavor: when you drink milk through the straw you get chocolate milk. My experiences as a human being, they’re like that straw, so when the music flows though me, it has that flavor of Elliot, Elliot’s experiences, Elliot’s beliefs.

In terms of working with boards, fundraising, interfacing with the audience, a couple of things come into play. First of all, having a fundamental respect for everyone is very important—being able to empathize with people and see their points of view. But also having a business sense is very important. So combining vision with empathy is a very important aspect of working with people.

When the organization is more than just an orchestra, it’s a fundamental part of the community and makes the community better, then it’s easier to go and sell the orchestra to potential donors because the orchestra is not just playing a symphony; the orchestra is playing a symphony that transforms people’s lives and transforms the community. When you see fundraising from that perspective, being part of an organization that is actively fundraising is a great thing because all of these things help contribute to the wellbeing of the community. I think being an empathic person is very important.

About you, now: Where did you grow up?

I grew up in many, many different parts of the United States and the world. I was born in Anchorage, Alaska. I lived in south Denver for 6 months when I was 6 years old. I lived in Texas, for about 10 years, in Midland and Plano. Then I finished high school in Cleveland. I lived in Switzerland for 6 years—I speak French and German, I lived in the French part and the German part. And I’ve lived in New York City and now Detroit.

Did you come from a musical family?

The joke is, my mom plays piano, my dad plays tennis.

Who are your musical mentors?

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Mstislav Rostropovich presenting an impromptu concert after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Nov. 1989

I have a couple of musical heroes. The first one is Mstislav Rostropovich, the great cellist/conductor, in part maybe because he’s a great cellist and conductor, and I am also a cellist. What I would say about him that has been so inspiring to me over the course of my childhood and career has been the humanity that he shows to everyone. There are so many stories, but one was that there was a stage hand or maybe a custodian at the National Symphony where he worked, who passed away. Rostropovich wanted to go to the funeral, which is amazing for a music director to go to the funeral of a stage hand. He couldn’t make it to the funeral, so he went and privately played his cello at his casket, and said to the orchestra’s executive director, “I don’t want this to be a media thing, this is just me expressing my feelings about this man and to his family.”

There’s a great photo I had up in my bedroom when I was child, a photo of Rostropovich letting a soldier sleep on his shoulder. The soldier was supposed to protect him and he was so exhausted he fell asleep and Rostropovich let him sleep on his shoulder, and there was a gun leaning up against his leg. That sort of attachment to all human beings is something that I certainly strive for. The attachment to music and humanity is why he’s my musical hero.

Are there any conductors today whose work you especially admire?

I really look up to Manfred Honeck, the music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony. There are many things that I enjoy about his music making. One is his authenticity at how he brings his experience to conducting. He’s not about being in the spotlight; he’s about putting the spotlight on the music. I think that resonates with their audiences, with the players, with the orchestras with which he works. It’s a breath of fresh air to see somebody come in and be about the music, as opposed to about the spotlight.

Moving on to some less serious questions: Do you have a favorite food?

I feel like this isn’t a very interesting answer. I love all kinds of foods, and I Iove to cook. Often my wife will choose what she wants to have, and she chooses very interesting things that I would have never chosen, and then I cook them. So I love to cook, and I like trying things that are different. I have tried many different kinds of foods, and basically love them all.

Since you lived in Lausanne, Switzerland, what about raclette?

Raclette! I lived in Lausanne, yes, and I do love raclette and I do love fondue. I find that I it’s not quite the same here.

As you know, Colorado is an outdoor recreation state. Do you have a favorite activity outdoors? Or are you too busy shut up in your studio studying scores?

No, I’m not too busy shut up in my studio. The great conductor Carlo Maria Giulini said that if you have to study a score for 10 hours, you should study your score for one hour every day for 10 days and the rest of the time you should spend walking in the woods. Yesterday I had just an unbelievable experience, going up into the Rocky Mountain National Park, all the way up to the top. I love photography, and so I took some really stunning photos. It’s been a blessing to be here, for many reasons, including the outdoors, but also there are just lovely people here.

Do you follow any sport or team?

I have been a Cubs fan since I was 7 years old! There was an LSO Board meeting on the night of game 7 of the World Series, and as soon as the board meeting was over I ran into a sports bar where they had the game on, and I made a lot of new friends!

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11.8. Minor typos corrected on this page