After a lengthy hiatus of community concerts, the Symphony is delighted to return for two exciting performances at Miller Outdoor Theatre, each highlighting a different section of the orchestra. Ting Tsung and Wei Fong Chao Foundation Conducting Fellow Yue Bao, who was instrumental in the success of the 2020–21 Season, will lead the concerts on both June 10 & 12. Read below to learn how she curated pieces for these varied programs, found her way into conducting, and her advice for aspiring conductors.
Houston Symphony: The first Miller Outdoor Theatre concert on June 10 highlights the orchestra’s woodwind and brass sections, followed by the string section on June 12. How did you select the program for these concerts? Are there pieces you’re especially looking forward to?
Yue Bao: For me, these concerts are festival-like. I imagine people having picnics with their family and friends while enjoying the concerts. Houston has people of many different backgrounds, so I bring a variety of different styles of music to the program. As a conductor, I think we are a bridge builder between the orchestra musicians and the audience, cementing the connection. These concerts include pieces patrons might be familiar with and have some connecting bond to feel engaged. Also, there are pieces they might not know, but I hope they will enjoy nevertheless! (Even if classical music is not your cup of tea, it really does rock your world!)
HS: What can audiences expect at these concerts?
YB: Expect a variety of styles and changes including Mozart, Strauss, Prokofiev, Piazzolla, and a piece from China. It will be an explosion of joy and vitality. It’s a musical hug!
HS: What inspired you to become a conductor?
YB: I started playing piano at the age of six, like many kids. I was inspired by my piano teacher, who’s also a composer, so I started composition study with him. During school, I liked gathering my friends around to experience my pieces. One day, my teacher came to our rehearsal and said afterwards, “Yue, why don’t you study conducting in college?” At that time, I didn’t think my personality matched that of a conductor, who’s “powerful” like a “boss.” When I started it, however, it came quite naturally to me and I enjoy it. I found that I had the wrong perspective of conductors. It’s really a collaboration relationship between you and the orchestra. It wasn’t a childhood dream that finally came true, but more like a “go with the flow.”
HS: What is your favorite part about your job?
YB: Making music in the group and sharing music with people is what animates me.
HS: Do you have any advice for aspiring conductors?
YB: I’m a young conductor (a baby, or let’s say a teenage in the conducting world.) Maybe not advice, but sharing from my experiences: Go to as many rehearsals as you can. This is one of the important ways to learn as a young conductor. At rehearsals you learn how to elevate and cooperate with the orchestra from point A to point B. The process is very vital. Finally, be yourselves… be honest with the music. It’s lifelong learning, but keep working hard and being patient!
HS: What were some of the pieces that first got you “hooked” on classical music as a young listener?
YB: I was introduced to Shostakovich’s music by my piano and composition teacher. His 5th Symphony was one of the earliest works I heard, then 7th, 11th, and his String Quartet No.8. At that time, I didn’t know about the history behind the music, but somehow I felt very close to his music. I couldn’t explain it, but you feel the tension, struggles, drama, sarcasm, and pure honesty in his music. That was unlike other music I was more familiar with, which was more literal and delicate. Other pieces would be Stravinsky’s Fireworks and Rite of Spring, which were also introduced to me by my piano and composition teacher. I was fascinated by his musical language. So creative! When I was listening for the first time, I wondered how did he do that? I wished I had the score in front of me as I listened!
We hope you join us for these free outdoor performances at Miller Outdoor Theatre on June 10, for a program featuring works by Strauss, Prokofiev, and Piazzolla; and June 12 for selections by Mozart, Elgar, Holst, and more. Until then, we wish you a safe and happy summer and look forward to seeing you in the Fall to kick off the highly anticipated 2021–22 Season!
By Elizabeth Shackelford and Mark Bailes