“Conducting is truly an art” I told one of my students at a recent conducting masterclass. I remember my first experimental appearance in front of the orchestra at Cranleigh, wafting my arms through the air to Elgar’s ‘Serenade for Strings’, wondering how one was supposed to connect all these notes between impulses of the beat as well as inspire from the podium. Long has my search for those answers continued, throughout my ascent to three Music Director positions in the US, as well as guest conducting across continents in a rather unpredictable “business”. My journey in pursuit of the musical dream has certainly had its wealth of valleys and peaks, but when the going was tough I turned always to my heart for direction.
Even before I knew this would be my path I was fully absorbed in every available musical opportunity. My direction only became clear when I began to trust the mentors and teachers around me. One of the most important from school days was Elizabeth Ovenden, both a Computer Science teacher and a professional violinist, who changed my attitude and directed the application of my talent. She guided me from practice room to library study, where I put in the countless hours necessary to join both the National Youth Orchestra and Oxford University as an instrumental scholar. Cranleigh gave me the leeway to follow my passion for music whilst maintaining my academics, training for the person I later became: instrumentalist, conductor and Music Director. It also enabled me to devote countless hours to the French Horn, Violin, Piano, Singing Lessons, Choir and Orchestra practice, even a term in guitar and saxophone lessons. It was a huge awakening to find that I could set what seemed like a far-fetched goal and achieve it with determination and diligence. From this point I began to allow myself to dream and to believe that I could become not just “another conductor” but the ultimate version of myself, the most powerful communicator of music that I could be.
On the mind of many in the audience at Saturday night’s Arkansas Symphony Orchestra concert at Little Rock’s Robinson Center Performance Hall: Is Sarah Ioannides’ guest-conducting gig this weekend a tryout for the orchestra’s pending podium vacancy? If so, she could not have had a more auspicious audition.
Music Director Philip Mann advocates using guest conductors, at least one per season, as a way of keeping the orchestra sharp, exposing the musicians to different styles and different techniques and strengthening the musical organization thereby. Ioannides, music director of Symphony Tacoma, certainly did that for this orchestra with some fierce orchestral showpieces, and the players came through with flying colors.
She led, sans score, a gorgeous rendition of Edward Elgar’s “Enigma” Variations, evoking a fine ensemble performance with several starring solo parts. Slightly longish breaks between many of the 14 variations allowed the audience to see each as a finely crafted gem while preserving the overall integrity of the piece.
Ioannides’ style differs markedly from Mann’s; her gestures are expressive and forceful, and there’s no chance the orchestra might misinterpret any of them.
Symphony Tacoma kicked off its new season with an Oct. 20 concert, “Barber and Tchaikovsky,” at the Rialto Theater. The symphony performed three works: the seven minute “Ravish and Mayhem” by contemporary composer Stephanie Berg, Samuel Barber’s “Violin Concerto” and Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “Symphony No. 5.” Representing three very different eras, each of the three works seemed to have an almost programmatic power of being evocative of images, seasons and moods.
The closing note was followed by sustained applause and a standing ovation, as conductor and musical director Sarah Ioannides took a bow and then had individual musicians and instrumental sections stand to be acknowledged.
By James Bennett, II and Max Fine
Some may argue that “impossible questions” are futile exercises — after all, what’s the point in wondering circumstances that in all likelihood will never be made reality?
That’s a fair argument, but that’s not exactly a “fun” way of moving through life and assessing those myriad things that bring you joy and happiness. Which is why we asked a handful of conductors to share with us the one piece they would choose if they could only conduct that music for the rest of their lives. Here’s what they said.
“Well, this verges on the devastating question; which one of your children would you keep if you had to choose just one? So even here I can’t do it; I’d choose Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, Wagner’s The Ring Cycle, and I couldn’t pass up the Brahms’ Four Symphonies as my third treasure of a lifetime!” – Sarah Ioannides
By Kelly Lenihan, Showcase Magazine
Sarah Ioannides’ dynamic presence on the podium for Symphony Tacoma has won praise from audiences and critics internationally. The New York Times has described her as a conductor with “unquestionable strength and authority.”
The physicality of Ioannides’ career requires dedication and perseverance, much like an athletic endeavor. She shares her story of injury, healing and music as a lens through which others might envision succeeding in anything that requires both mental and physical discipline.
“I’ve always had a passion for running,” says Ioannides, “but…with having two knee surgeries, conquering Lyme disease, and bringing up three children—while living in three states from coast to coast—my physical strength needed recovery…an ongoing challenge with constant travel.”
By James Bennet II and Max Fine, WQXR New York Blog
There’s something magical about watching a conductor at work — how they internalize the work before them in all its component parts, in turn uniting the ensemble and bringing the music to life. It seems an almost superhuman effort. But conductors are human too, and like the rest of us, sometimes they think about what else they might have done instead of walking onto a podium with their baton.
We asked eleven of them what other career paths they might have taken. Here’s what they had to say.
“I envision myself a neuroscientist, studying the effect of classical music on brain development; how we are changed as performers, students, listeners and ultimately as members of a civil society. I believe we would show its value to humanity and society, an essential component of education, as important as Math, English and the Sciences; even its role in peace-making, and the optimal wiring of our minds. Invigorated by my work as a neuroscientist, and inspired by nature and the animal world, I would spend the weekends as an environmental scientist / conservationist who is also a pilot, free like a bird to explore the beauty of our planet.”
From timeless masterpieces by Tchaikovsky, Berlioz and Beethoven, to innovative works by contemporary composers, Symphony Tacoma presents a rich program line-up for its 2018-2019 season. The season includes eight concerts that run from October to May.
For the first time, the Symphony offers six classics concerts, complemented by annual holiday favorites, Sounds of the Season and Handel’s Messiah. Maestra Sarah Ioannides has carefully curated each concert to balance treasured masterpieces alongside contemporary works that are unconventional in both instrumentation and repertoire. “My planning process is a bit like a Rubik’s Cube,” says Ioannides. “I keep working the program until it feels right artistically and musically. It’s hard to put a label on that, but I’m looking for a certain kind of energy and inspiration.”
The 2018-2019 concert series highlights innovation with works by six living composers and three by women. Prominent guest artists from around the world–masters of instruments ranging from violin and piano to saxophone and tabla-will join the Symphony Tacoma orchestra on stage in the newly–renovated Pantages Theater for all but Barber & Tchaikovsky and Messiah.
By Dave Davison of Tacoma Weekly News
In the ornate and spacious interior of Tacoma’s Pantages Theater, on May 12, Symphony Tacoma finished its 2017-18 season in style with a combined choral and symphonic concert that included the powerful vocals of Kelly Cae Hogan, a soprano from the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Music director and conductor of Symphony Tacoma, Sarah Ioannides was like a combination of a dancer and a wizard as she expressively captained the musicians through an evening of sonic wonderment.
The evening opened with a performance of the six movements of Francis Poulenc’s “Gloria,” which brought to bear the full orchestra, the Symphony Tacoma Voices and Hogan’s talents. Decked out in a sparkling, creamy gray gown and with eyes catching the lights as brilliantly as her jeweled ring, Hogan sang the Latin text of “Gloria” with sumptuous verbosity.