Pre-concert rituals: Conrad Tao

Professional musicians often spend much of their lives on the road performing in concert venues around the globe. Amid the hectic travel schedules, rehearsals, practice time and adjustments to a different time zone, culture and climate, regular routine is sacrificed. We ask our guest artists to share what pre-concert rituals help keep them grounded. Pianist and all-around creative genius, Conrad Tao, tells us about his pre-concert rituals in the best way he knows how: with poetry.

I’m still figuring out my pre-concert ritual.


Are you frightened of
Ninety minutes
Three varieties
Lots of water
green room coffee and the
archetypal banana


Last fall I got stuck in an elevator. This was in Ottawa, on a show day with the National Arts Centre Orchestra, a matinee on which I was performing two concerti, one by Schumann and one by Beethoven (the Emperor), and this was just past noon, after morning rehearsal and a mediocre lunch from a place whose name I don’t recall and this is all to say that I was looking forward to getting a half hour or so of silence in my hotel room, before changing into concert dress. The hotel elevator was about a half of a floor away from my floor when it kachunked into stillness. I loved every one of the fifty minutes I spent in that elevator. I was glad I was alone. I was so thoroughly tickled by this less-orthodox iteration of my usual preconcert enforcement of silence. I would not have been good company for someone with claustrophobia.


As an apology the hotel brought me a fruit basket

This story will I be remembering slightly with a position of “this is why,” perceived

origin perhaps, because I don’t like going through the motions, that much is true

But I mourn the absence of ritual in my life at the risk of careless romanticizing

and sometimes I wonder if I don’t have enough discipline

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Benedetto Lupo on Mozart

USUO: How early do you arrive for a given performance?
Lupo: Whenever possible, I like to arrive early enough in order to check the piano before the hall is open to the public.

USUO: Do you have any pre-performance rituals?
Lupo: I like to eat a banana and some chocolate, and I like to be surrounded by silence, if possible.

USUO: You have competed in many competitions. Is your preparation process different for a competition than for performing a concerto with orchestra? How?
Lupo: A big competition requires to perform a lot of solo repertoire, not just concertos, therefore, when I entered competitions, the preparation process was a bit different.

 benedetto lupo

USUO: When you travel to perform with different orchestras what are you most concerned about?
Lupo: Flight disruptions because of weather; I always try to be one day earlier than expected in any city where I have to play, whenever possible, as it makes sense also for jet lag.

USUO: Tell us about Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21. What should the audience listen for?

Lupo: The first movement is very rich in contrasts and has a wide range of emotions, from the subdued soft opening to the brilliancy of the forte, then to some drama when it goes into the minor mode, while the second theme, after all this, sounds like a rainbow after a short storm within its luminous simplicity.  The second movement is so beautiful and so famous that does not need any presentation… I am sure that everybody in the audience will think “oh, I know this!”. The third movement, with its brilliancy and virtuosity, builds up to a wonderful finale, with lots of references to “opera buffa” and its comic situations, including several dialogues between piano and woodwinds. The conclusion is very theatrical, with the theme almost disappearing and getting softer and softer in tone, until when three strong and short chords end the piece abruptly, sounding almost like three slaps!

USUO: What draws you to this work?
Lupo: Its beauty



USUO: Do you have anything else planned while you are in Salt Lake City?
Lupo: Not really, but I like very much the city, as I have been several time there in the past. I have some wonderful memories of all my visits in SLC after being a prize-winner at the Bachauer International Piano Competition and I will be forever grateful to the memory of Paul Pollei, who founded the competition and always trusted my talent.

USUO: How many pianos do you own? What kind of pianos are they?
Lupo: I own two baby-grand pianos, a Steinway and a Boesendorfer.

USUO: Do you have any hobbies?
Lupo: I like maps

USUO: What’s your favorite post performance snack/meal?
Lupo: Something light, nothing fixed.

USUO: How many languages do you speak?
Lupo: Italian, English, French, Spanish and just a bit of German and Portuguese for survival in case of need!

USUO: Do you have any advice to aspiring pianists?
Lupo: Find your inner, unique, individual voice, think a lot before playing something, look carefully at the score without playing it and make it sound in your brain and heart, like if you were the composer –which means that all indications must make sense for you-; finally, think of a sound that has to speak to listeners, because, after all, being able to produce many different qualities of sound is sometimes much harder than playing really fast and it will be what we say through our unique sound that will move our listeners.


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7 Teenagers who are Making Their Dreams Come True

Congratulations to the seven soloists who have been selected to perform in the 55th Annual Salute to Youth concert next week on September 30! One of our core missions at Utah Symphony | Utah Opera is to reach out to the community and to students. With this goal in mind, it brings us a wealth of joy to see such talented musicians vie for the starring spots in this concert

Associate Conductor Vladimir Kulenovic, jury member during the selection process and conductor for the concert, said, “It is one of the greatest and most rewarding experiences as a conductor to give back to the next generation of aspiring soloists. We have enormous talent here in Utah and we are very proud to cultivate it to the highest level.”

These students worked hard to hone their skills and come out on top, and the selection process was just as difficult for us. This year, the seven winners who will be performing at the Salute to Youth concert are Shenae Anderson, Sanne Christensen, Rebecca Epperson, Karen Ferry, Maggie Ivory, Michael Marsden, and Caroline Richards.

Salute to Youth Finalists

Salute to Youth Finalists: (Back row L-R) Maggie, Rebecca, Sanne, Shenae (Front row L-R) Karen, Michael, Caroline

Contine reading

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