The first classical music concert I remember attending as a young student was a performance of Mahler's "Resurrection" symphony performed by the Louisville Orchestra, the closest professional orchestra to my hometown of Georgetown, IN. My teacher at the time thought this would be an especially interesting piece for me given it's great bass part. In fact, the first minute or two of the work is dominated by the low strings, showcasing the power and intensity of these sections, with the music varying so dramatically from moment to moment in dynamic and drive, ultimately crescendoing to a climax and setting the tone for the rest of the piece. I was blown away. And the most vivid memory of the experience for me was the sensation of the hairs on my neck standing on end and feeling the chills of excitement. From that point on, I have always rated my concert going experience on whether or not the performance passed the "Goosebump Test".
Fast forward 20+ years, and I find myself part of an orchestra whose goal, in part, is to create these types of moments for our audiences. During the last few years, as we searched for our new music director, there were times when passing my own test proved a challenge. Seeing so many conductors in rapid succession (some of whom were simply not good fits) inherently means there is a lack of continuity from week to week, at times making it difficult for a large group of people to stay on the same page with one another.
Well, I can say with confidence that this is no longer an issue. Last weekend's performances with our new Music Director, Maestro Urbanski, shows without a doubt that all the musicians of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra are of a single mind once more. During each performance there were moments where my colleagues shined unlike any other time during my tenure with the orchestra. Focus was sharp, energy was high, and intention was shared. And the hairs on the back of my neck were tingling all weekend long.
While it's obvious much of this reenergizing comes along with the appointment of our new MD, it isn't purely his artistic influence that has made a difference. His ability, despite his age, to get seasoned pros to trust him and want to follow his lead, is quite remarkable. Great leadership has more to do with motivating those around you to be their best. To hold them to a standard and be unwavering in your expectation, and then be the hardest worker toward that goal you possibly can be. While Mr. Urbanski's musical talents are well documented and highly praised (and completely deserved), from where I stand it is his energy and leadership that will take the ISO to the next level. We accomplish more in two rehearsals with Urbanski than most guests are able to achieve in a full week's work.
I am excited to be a part of this orchestra entering this new era. There's a lot of positivity on stage right now. I hope all of Indianapolis has the chance to come and hear for themselves. Just bring a scarf, in case you get an unexpected chill down your spine.
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