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Q: Scott, we hear about artists and musicians who expressed interests and talent early on. Was that true for you?
I was fortunate to always have a lot of natural talent that I took advantage of for as long as I could. I began playing saxophone in the fifth grade in Michigan because I wanted to play the theme to the “Pink Panther”. After accomplishing that, I spent a lot of time transcribing saxophone solos from all the famous Big Band charts of the early 20th century. I’m not sure I really learned how to practice until I was in high school. Then, in college, I had to practice anywhere from 4-7 hours a day to get to the level that I felt I needed to be at.
Q: Do you remember the point in your life when you decided on this musical career path?
I have wanted to be a conductor since sometime in high school or possibly before. I remember from an early age watching the Boston Pops on the television and wanting desperately to conduct all those great classical pieces. In high school, I conducted the marching band, which further propelled me into this wondrous profession.
Q: If you weren’t conducting, what would have been your second career choice?
I was a double major in mathematics and music in college, so I would have definitely done something related to numbers. In high school, I thought it would be cool to work in an FBI crime lab or something similar.
Q: You hail from Nashville, which I think most people associate with country music. How did Nashville influence your musical interests?
Fortunately, Nashville is home to all kinds of music, not just country. I was really into Bluegrass and Jazz when I went to college in Nashville. Nashville is also home to one of the greatest performance halls in the region occupied by the world-class Nashville Symphony Orchestra. There was always a lot to go hear! When I was younger, however, my parents’ house was definitely filled with country music. I can certainly pull out a good Garth Brooks song when singing karaoke!
Q: You’ve conducted literally all over the world. What is the difference – or is there one – between conducting in Luxembourg, or Walnut Creek or Montreal or Redding?
The biggest difference would probably be the people, which is also one of the greatest reasons to be in the profession in the first place. The music, fortunately, is the constant – it’s the one thing that you can always count on. Music is easily the greatest and most universal means of communication regardless of where in the world you are.
Q: You’ve won awards for your conducting and have received rave reviews with such quotes as your conducting leaves audiences “breathless”. What is it that a conductor can do to elicit such responses?
I would like to think that the orchestra had something to do with that! I don’t make any sound, but rather try to unify a bunch of different opinions on how the piece should be performed. Orchestral music is a large-scale collaborative process that depends on the conductor working with and inspiring musicians to realize the potential of any given piece. When I left the audience “breathless”, I would like to think that the person writing those words experienced a moment when the stars aligned and everything just “clicked”.
Q: Not to put you on the spot, but do you have a favorite instrument, or symphony section?
I love the cello! My favorite section of an orchestra just might be the horn section, though. There are SO many moments in the repertoire to exploit outstanding horn sections. The First Movement of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, for example – I would LOVE to someday play one of those horn parts!
Q: What’s your idea of a healthy, successful symphony?
A happy, successful symphony is a symphony that never loses that unexplainable spark when playing together. They always come to rehearsals and performances with shining eyes and a childlike curiosity. The other part of that is a symphony that serves the community that it exists in. The North State Symphony would not exist without the dedicated concertgoers of the Chico and Redding areas!
Q: And when it comes to a symphony’s presence in a community, what should that look like, in a perfect world?
The symphony should be as much a viable option on most evenings as going to a movie or a club. I would like people not to think about it as such a formal event – you should be able to go to the symphony after a long day of work and have fun listening to live music. It doesn’t have to be a formal coat and tie affair. When I lived in Boston, I regularly attended Boston Symphony performances in torn jeans and a tee shirt. It should be accessible to everyone!
Q: Before we go, can you tell us something about your upcoming concerts in Chico and Redding, and about what you’ve selected, and why you chose this particular program?
I based the program around my all-time favorite symphony, the seventh symphony of Antonin Dvorak. It is a work that has consumed me for years since I first heard it. This will be my first time conducting this magnificent work and I’m beyond excited to share that with the North State Symphony, and the Chico and Redding communities. The entire program is an exploration of the 19th Century and I’m sure everyone will love the mature music of a 17-year old Felix Mendelssohn and his Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture. The violin concerto by Max Bruch is one of the great concertos that came in the footsteps the Beethoven Violin Concerto and its soaring themes give a nice balance to the entire program. I’m very much looking forward to collaborating with Lindsay Deutsch on this wonderful concerto!
Q: What are your impressions of the north state?
I LOVE this area! There is so much energy that I feel just walking around downtown or on campus. The weather has also been amazing and quite a contrast to the weather in North Dakota, for sure!
Q: What do you do for fun that’s not related to music?
I’m an avid cyclist and runner. In a few weeks, I’ll be running in the LA Marathon in an attempt to qualify for the 2016 Boston Marathon. This summer, I will be cycling from Portland (Oregon) to Boston. I also enjoy foosball, chess, and frisbee.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like us to know?
If there is anyone reading this that has never seen or heard the North State Symphony, come check them out this weekend! They are an absolutely incredible asset to the Chico and Redding communities – definitely an orchestra that rivals any major US orchestra!
Guest Conductor Scott Seaton’s concerts take place: Sat. Feb. 21, 7:30 p.m., Laxson Auditorium in Chico and Sun., Feb. 22, 2 p.m. at the Cascade Theatre in Redding. His selections: Mendelssohn: Overture to Midsummer Night’s Dream, Bruch: Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, op. 26 and Dvorak: Symphony No. 7. Guest Artist: Lindsay Deutsch, Violin. There is a free pre-concert talk one hour before each performance.
There are two opportunities – one in Chico, one in Redding – to meet Scott Seaton before this weekend’s upcoming concerts. Admission is free:
Chico: Wednesday, Feb. 18, 4 p.m. CSU, Chico Performing Arts Center Room 134. This is the room where pre-concert talks are held.
Redding: Thurs., Feb. 19, 4 p.m., Pilgrim Congregational Church, 2850 Foothill Blvd.
And, you catch Scott on the radio: Wed., Feb. 18, 2:11 p.m. interview on North State Public Radio, KCHO, 91.7 FM; Thur., Feb. 19, 6 p.m. interview on KCNR, 1460 AM
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Chamberlain was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.