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Fans of the Hawai’i Symphony Orchestra are familiar with the unfamiliar faces on the conductor’s podium. With no designated conductor here since Andreas Delfs in the days of the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra, it was a parade of guest conductors.
But over the next month, there will be a different breed of conductor leading the orchestra for a song or two: the symphony supporter. Winning bidders will take to the podium as the symphony orchestra auctions off opportunities to conduct the orchestra at five concerts.
Three of the concerts will be part of the orchestra’s “‘Ohana Concert” series, giving bidders the opportunity to choose from the orchestra’s repertoire of light classical, pop and film music. Two other aspiring bandleaders will perform with Windborne, a tribute band that plays the music of classic rock bands with orchestral accompaniment.
The symphony orchestra has already provided such opportunities to key supporters through its fundraising banquet, said Dave Moss, executive director of the symphony orchestra. This year, with plans evolving due to the pandemic, it decided to offer the same to the general public. Yet your love for the orchestra will have to run deep – like in deep pockets. The starting bid is $3,000.
Two people who made it to the podium said the experience was worth it.
Dr Tyrie Jenkins, an ophthalmologist who conducted the symphony at a Led Zeppelin music concert last summer, called it “one of the most fun things I’ve ever done”.
She had won the opportunity years ago with the former Honolulu Symphony Orchestra, but missed it when it went bankrupt. This information came back to the current symphony last summer. “They called me two weeks later and said, ‘You’re next week,'” she said.
Although she dreamed of directing Brahms, she ended up directing Zeppelin’s ‘Dancing Days’. With a background in music—in college, Jenkins had played oboe in the orchestra, sung in a choir, and taken a basic conducting course—it turned out to be no problem.
“I have enough experience in what 4/4 time is and how to ride it,” she said. “On the other hand, I had a great time, so I did a bit of dancing and twirling. It was really fun.”
She said the orchestra was attentive. “I’m sure if I went too slow they would keep up,” she said, “but at the very end I had to stop them, and they basically did exactly what I said. said with my hand It was the illusion of control, but it was a lot of fun.
Lawyer Ken Robbins conducted the orchestra three times, once conducting Bizet’s “March of the Toreadors” in full bullfighter attire and once conducting his father’s favorite play. Last summer, he did Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” which he called “the most fun of them all.”
“Doing it outside at the Shell, with a full house, everyone stomping and clapping, and dancing, it was a real thrill,” said Robbins, who played trombone and had a dance band when he was at the school.
Robbins said the experience of leading from the podium is unlike anything one would hear from the seats. “Most people who attend a symphony concert hear the orchestra as a whole. Once in a while you can choose someone who does a solo game,” he said. “But when you are on the podium, you are surrounded. You have musicians on your right, your left. You have musicians in front of you. You can hear all the musicians around you, all sections, playing individually. It’s very, very different. You are immersed in the music.
He said the first rehearsal provides the most exhilarating moment. “You feel like you’re going to be knocked off the podium,” he said. “The sound is loud. It sort of assaults you, in a very pleasant way. It’s not unpleasant, but wow, it’s a sound you’ve never heard before and probably won’t ever hear again.