Pre-concert Rituals: William Hagen

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. Here is what violinist and Utah native William Hagen had to say about his.

William Hagen, violin

My first instinct, when asked about a pre-concert ritual or routine, is to say that I have none, or that I’m still working on figuring out what mine is. However, I realize that there are two things that I do very consistently on concert days; the first is to make sure that I have reasonably good blood sugar when I walk on stage. I have Type 1 Diabetes, so I have to be aware of what’s going on with my body before a concert. To lower the risk of high or low blood sugar, I try to stick to low-carb food and I try not to eat 3-4 hours before a concert—this simplifies things and makes my blood sugar more stable and predictable. The second part of my routine is to make sure that I have no wardrobe malfunctions – there are many components of a tux that can go awry. Actually, there are many components of any kind of concert garb that can go (and have gone) awry. I’ve heard stories about people walking on stage in a suave tux, everything in order, only to look down for a moment to find that they are wearing white sneakers. What a performer is wearing really doesn’t matter too much to me, because the main focus should be the music, but a wardrobe malfunction can turn into a major distraction. It’s hard to take someone completely seriously when their fly’s down.

See William Hagen in Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances November 3-4, 2017 here.

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Social Snapshot

There’s no rest for the weary! After the Great American Road Trip, we wasted no time getting back into Abravanel Hall to start off our season. We kicked things off with Raiders of the Lost Ark from our Films in Concert series, helped celebrate the Utah Opera’s 40th Anniversary Gala, and started our Masterworks series on a high note with Beethoven’s Violin Concerto.

Here are the best moments from these performances:


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Mahler Memories: Claudia Norton

Our Mahler Memories Series provides highlights from oral histories of Utah Symphony musicians who played under Maestro Maurice Abravanel. During interviews conducted during the 2014-15 season, these musicians recalled their days making music with Maestro Abravanel , especially during the period of recording the Mahler symphonies. The complete oral histories will be archived in the McKay Music Library in the school of Music at the University of Utah.

CLAUDIA NORTON: Utah Symphony bass, 1967-present (47 years)


The Great Man Abravanel

His greatness was so encompassing. I think because of his expectations and because of his greatness as a musician and his completeness. It was contagious. We really became great from just being around this incredibly unusual person. I remember that he was very involved in every single musician in the orchestra. He knew us personally, knew our personal lives, was very hands-on and insisted that we have the same vision that he did, and that was that music was the greatest gift to mankind; it was the overall greatest achievement of humanity and he insisted that everybody agree with that, and we all did. I think that was a lot of the reason we were able to have such success in so many of our recordings.

Music Isn’t English

And you know, watching Abravanel conduct was so inspiring. I can’t put it into words because he conducted music, and music isn’t English.

On Following Abravanel

You know, people who would watch him conduct said, “How did you follow that?” because you didn’t necessarily get a specific downbeat. But his idea was so contagious. And I was just saying that he made you great; it was contagious to be around him. He made you great by just his ability to communicate the idea of the music, and I think everybody understood what he wanted.

Intense Rehearsals

Yeah, it was intense. One year he re-auditioned the entire string section of the orchestra, and he had us all play for our instrument all of the excerpts from all of those symphonies, which was a huge list for basses—we have lots of difficult excerpts in the Mahler symphonies—and he listened to every string player—not with the idea of finding fault, just to make sure that everybody was giving their all 24/7 and living Mahler. That’s what he expected, and that’s what we did. And he made sure we were doing it.

Esprit de Corps

I think even if they’re not the best Mahler recordings available, there is a certain esprit de corps, there is a certain phenomenon that I don’t think you can help but be affected by when you hear it. And if you’re hearing Mahler, especially in the earlier days, if you were hearing Mahler, it probably was the Utah Symphony you were hearing.

Stay tuned for more Mahler Memories

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Mahler Memories: Ardean Watts

Our Mahler Memories Series provides highlights from oral histories of Utah Symphony musicians who played under Maestro Maurice Abravanel. During interviews conducted during the 2014-15 season, these musicians recalled their days making music with Maestro Abravanel , especially during the period of recording the Mahler symphonies. The complete oral histories will be archived in the McKay Music Library in the school of Music at the University of Utah.



The Religion of Mahler

I think of Maurice as a kind of high priest. And Mahler’s the Bible. You know he knew how Mahler’s genius was the genius of transforming the angst, the misery of national, international and personal into a kind of redemptive sound. The sounds can growl and suggest horror and cataclysm and everything, which is all there, but when it comes out, it doesn’t come out that way. It comes out. You want to be there. You want to experience it because there is some redemption in it, and maybe that’s what the musical experience is about.

Music and the Geist

The players were really expected to do their homework (which they sometimes did and sometimes didn’t), but the experience of the symphony was a holistic experience; it wasn’t about your part. It was about a kind of mysterious, mystical Geist that the piece embodied, and Abravanel knew the Geist. He was the one who saw that clearly and nobody questioned that.

On Being Abravanel’s Second

Maurice is the greatest man I ever met personally. And a person is lucky to meet one like that in life, where you can almost whole-heartedly just follow. I was very happy to do that. I never wanted to be number one. Being a number two to Maurice was such an extraordinary privilege that that was a career by itself.

The Dark Side of Music

There is a syndrome that exists amongst professionals, that it has a dark side. The beautiful side is what we hear when we go to the concerts. The dark side is when you’re twenty seconds from the end of the symphony and the clock reaches the end of the rehearsal and…And that’s it. They put their instruments away. You know, that’s black to me. And it’s like an infectious disease. Not everybody is affected that way, thank heaven, but it also isn’t cool to talk about how moved you might be by something like that.

Abravanel’s Sense of Timing

He (Abravanel) came back after the fourth movement—after the conclusion of the symphony—and he said “Forty minutes. Forty-two minutes, sixty or something seconds.” And of course I hadn’t looked, but it did indicate that he really cared about timing, and I don’t think it was ever timing for timing’s sake. I think that it helps to understand Maurice if you think of him as an autodidact. That is because he considered himself self-taught. He assumed that everybody who was successful in the business world was self-taught. They had it or they didn’t have it, and his sense of timing was part of that.


RadioWest’s Doug Fabrizio talks to Ardean Watts and Paul Banks about Mahler 5 and Maurice Abravanel’s relationship with the composer.

Stay tuned for more Mahler Memories.

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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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Becoming a Professional: Travis Peterson

The road to becoming a professional musician can take many unexpected turns. The journey is filled with both triumphs and failures, and each musician has a success story of their own. In this series, members of the Utah Symphony share the ups and the downs of their personal journey to becoming a professional musician and what it takes to win an orchestral audition.

“I wasn’t interested in orchestra,” said Travis Peterson, who grew up on a dairy farm in Milaca, Minnesota where he and his cousins would buzz on the rubber hoses like a trumpet mouthpiece above the milking parlor. “I really wanted to be a band conductor. I didn’t want to perform.” Travis picked up the trumpet at the age of 10 and dove into the world of music. He was the top chair trumpet in the highest band in school, played tenor sax in another band and sang in the show choir. Along with his school marching band and pep band, Travis participated in Drum Corps, a semi-professional marching band of sorts in Madison, WI for 6 years. “I was obsessed with band. I was in the band room before school, ate my lunch in there, and then I would go there after school to practice and hang out. That was like my domain.”

Travis Peterson

His “musical but not musician” parents were supportive and encouraging of Travis’ trumpet playing. And would drive him to lessons with Robert Dorer, Second Trumpet of the Minnesota Orchestra, but he was still not interested in an orchestral career. His band conductors and directors challenged and pushed Travis to get a performance degree in college. At the time he recalls, “not really understanding that you could have a career as a performing musician” and wanted to be a band director. “My middle school band director and high school band director were really inspirational and I just really looked up to them. For it being a small town I had really great…mentors and teachers… they encouraged me and challenged me and pushed me in ways that I probably wouldn’t have pushed myself.” Senior year came along and Travis was accepted into all four schools he applied to. His top choice was St. Olaf College, a private liberal arts school, but after discussing with his parents he landed at Indiana University in the Jacobs School of Music, which ended up being a great fit.

Travis “was in his element” participating in marching band and pep band and attending every football and basketball game all four years. “I still miss doing that stuff. It was just fun. You get to be a part of this really fun energy at games…I wish that there were adult pep bands!” He studied with Edmund Cord, coincidentally former principal trumpet of the Utah Symphony, the same position that Travis would win years later. He pushed Travis but, “I just didn’t have an interest in orchestra… I liked all that unconventional, not classical type playing.” The biggest turn off of orchestral playing for him was transposing. “If I’m playing Bb trumpet and a C is on the page I’m reading it as a Bb. So everything is a step lower. I was so frustrated [with transposing] and didn’t want to do it. I wasn’t interested in it. I wasn’t engaged in that.”

Travis Peterson

After four years, Travis graduated with a degree in Music Education but in his last semester during student teaching he realized he did not want to be a teacher. “It didn’t have the appeal to me that I thought it was going to.” So Travis moved to Lubbock, Texas to be with his now wife, Andrea, and started looking into the performance route. He waited on tables in a Mexican restaurant while he applied and auditioned for graduate schools that spring.

Travis was accepted into two of the five music schools and conservatories he applied to: New England Conservatory and Boston Conservatory. “I really wanted to go to the University of Maryland. But I didn’t get in there… I was heartbroken about University of Maryland, but I got into NEC and Boston Conservatory.” Andrea and Travis moved to Boston that fall where He earned his Masters in Music from the New England Conservatory of Music studying with Ben Wright and Tom Rolfs, both members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, who “whipped me into shape.” Tom Rolfs was fresh off the audition circuit having recently won Boston Symphony Orchestra’s principal trumpet position. “If it weren’t for the time and attention that Tom gave me, I don’t think that I would have been as successful as I have been.” Travis was launched into the world of orchestral music through listening to recordings. Ben Wright gave Andrea, Travis’ wife, “a big list of great recordings of pieces that I should know – all the great brass pieces.” Andrea gave all of them to Travis for Christmas and he started listening nonstop. “Being exposed to that helped turn me on to orchestral playing. I still listen…all the time. On the bus today I was listening to Mahler 3. I listen to all kinds of stuff. I use it as inspiration to keep rooted in why I love what we do.”


Post grad school, Travis and Andrea stayed in Boston. He attended summer music festivals including Tanglewood Music Center and National Repertory Orchestra, and free-lanced with many local orchestras around Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.  All these were stepping stones leading to his career as a principal trumpet player.  Travis worked various jobs at restaurants and grocery stores while musically he jumped into orchestral playing whole-heartedly. “A person’s best bet is just getting in there and playing. Not being told what to do. Just get in there and get your feet wet and just play. Those have been the most beneficial experiences I’ve had in my growth from student into professional.”  Travis entered into a “whole new ball game” as he started taking auditions for professional orchestras. “It’s like a solo recital but you are playing orchestral excerpts…everything is on display just like a solo recital would be. But there’s a lot more at stake.”

Travis advanced to the semi-final round in the fall of 2009 at the audition for associate principal trumpet in the Boston Symphony Orchestra. “I was just floored about that. Just to have that as a vote of confidence means a ton. Something like that helps everything.” The winner of the audition at that time was a current member in the New World Symphony and left a vacancy that Travis was invited to fill.

Andrea and Travis drove down the coast to Miami in January 2010 looking forward to their next adventure. New World symphony helped Travis get his “feet wet with a lot of repertoire” and helped him make connections in an environment that fostered a higher level of growth than his alma maters. This proved to be a turning point in Travis’ quest to win an orchestra job. Through NWS Travis worked with Don Greene and Dr. Noa Kageyama regarding performance anxiety and sports psychology. “I skyped with Noa once or twice a week. He helped me learn how to handle my nerves at auditions. I worked with him all summer. He had me keep a journal and write down a practice log with what I was feeling about stuff. I kept diligent notes…I was just reading it the other day. They are still valuable to review.” That following fall Travis had his first opportunity to implement these knew performance psychology practices in an actual audition.

Travis Peterson

He advanced to the finals for the San Francisco Section Trumpet chair. “That was the beginning for me for throwing down at auditions.” Travis was only two years away from winning Principal Trumpet in Utah.

Similar to throwing himself into marching band, playing, and listening, Travis threw himself into auditioning. He decided to take every full time orchestra audition that came up. “For me… the only way to get more comfortable with the audition process is to take as many as I can. You are not going to get the same feeling in a mock audition because nothing is riding on a mock. You’re not going to feel the same tugs and pulls you would feel sitting on the stage in Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco sitting in this room playing for some of your friends. It’s just not the same.” He auditioned all over America – Charlotte, Charleston, Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, St. Louis, San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle, among others. He became frustrated with doing so well, advancing to finals and being named runner up, but never succeeding.

“The most frustrating moment was June 2012” when Travis auditioned for Seattle Symphony Associate Principal in an invitation only audition. It came down to Travis and one other candidate. The committee was equally split on votes so the decision lay in the hands of the Music Director who picked the other auditionee. “At that point I just thought the odds were never going to work out…I remember talking to Andrea on the phone just after that happened. I wasn’t ready to quit or throw in the towel…but something had to give. When was it going to stop? I was so sick of getting so close and being on the cusp of winning a job but it just wasn’t happening.” Andrea happened to be in SLC with her parents on a trip and encouraged Travis to focus on Utah and thought he would really enjoy living in this beautiful city. “I didn’t want to hear that and I didn’t know anything about Utah.” That summer Andrea and Travis celebrated their 5th wedding anniversary and traveled to Minnesota and Europe for a few weeks and took some time off. Travis began preparing for Utah and the leading up to the audition he had several lessons with Tom. Travis recalls one lesson late at night where he wasn’t feeling his best and Tom said, “You know Travis, I don’t want to be here either. But sometimes you just have to put a little bit of effort into it and get through something regardless of if you want to do it or not…you just have to bear down and do it. You can’t let these outside things get in the way of you trying to accomplish something.”

September 17, 2012 Travis took his 33rd audition. He recalled his “chops didn’t feel great” but he followed Tom’s words of wisdom and bore down and did it. After three rounds Travis won his current position as Principal Trumpet of the Utah Symphony. “The odds finally worked out in my favor.” After the decision was announced Travis met the audition committee and Thierry Fischer and was finally able to share his fantastic news with Andrea. He called Tom who had already heard, and his mother with the best birthday present from her son.

Travis Peterson

Travis is now a tenured member of the orchestra and he and Andrea are “in love with Utah.” Some of his favorite Utah Symphony performances have been Mahler’s Fifth Symphony last spring, Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony last year, the second performance of Mahler’s First Symphony this year, and Mahler’s Second Symphony. “It’s one of those pieces that I’ve always dreamed of playing. It was just transformative. [Mahler’s] music in general, to me, is music that I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of playing. It’s difficult to play but rewarding at the same time.” For Travis “it’s important to stay grounded in listening and finding the enjoyment because I don’t want to become a cynical musician. I don’t want to lose sight of the love of what we do. Because sometimes it is just a job. It is what it is…There have been a handful of days that I don’t want to play. My chops feel like crap or I’ve had too much salt the night before and my chops feel all puffy. Those are days that I don’t care for it, but that’s why I think it’s important to stay grounded in listening to music and enjoying it and finding the enjoyment in it all the time.”


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音楽 and 食べ物 with Fumiaki Miura

Konnichiwa! Hello in Japanese. Beyond that, I know how to say “arigatou gozaimasu,” which is a polite form of “Thank you,” and “Nihongo de hanashimasen,” which means, “I don’t speak Japanese.” (In the title are the words ongaku (music) and tabemono (food) which I had to look up.)


When I called guest violinst Fumiaki Miura, he was very impressed by the three Japanese phrases I know. Then again, it was really early in the morning in Japan, and maybe he was too tired to notice how badly I pronounced them.

Fumiaki is returning to Utah to play Camille Saint-Saens’ Violin Concerto No. 3. He made his U.S. and Utah Symphony debut in 2012, playing Max Bruch’s “Scottish Fantasy,” and we are very excited to have him back. I was lucky enough to see him play at his debut, but I never thought I would get to interview him. Fumiaki is only 21 years old, and he has been playing the violin since he was three. Even over the phone and over 5,506 miles, I could tell how much he adores playing the violin.


Fumiaki Miura

Fumiaki Miura

USUO: We are very excited that you are coming back to Utah. When are you arriving?
Fumiaki: I am arriving on the 19th. Quite late. I am flying from Tokyo, first to San Francisco and then I change planes. I will arrive at about 11 p.m. Last time I also arrived late. I came from Vienna last time.

USUO: What did you do last time you were here that you are excited to do again?
Fumiaki: My last time there I visited different shops and stores that I want to go to again. Also I visited a violin maker there, where the young people are studying to make violins. I would like to visit them again. It was quite wonderful. And I am interesting in buying an instrument, as well.

USUO: Is there something new you want to do here in Salt Lake?
Fumiaki: I have to think about it once I get there, but I want to visit many restaurants. Any recommendations?
USUO: Oh, um, on the spot. Of course, my brain goes blank.
Fumiaki: That is okay. I really love to eat, so I have to find a nice restaurant to go to while I am there.

USUO: What is your favorite American food?
Fumiaki: I love meat, so I love steaks and pork and burgers. And fries. I love fries. I like all these foods.

(I sent him a tweet with a few recommendations after I was able to think properly.)

USUO: If someone were to travel to Japan, what is the one food dish they must eat?
Fumiaki: People think in Japan, that sushi is the best; they are right, but there are other good things, different kinds of Japanese cuisine like tonkatsu. It is made of cooked meat. You fry the meat, basically, and usually it is pork, but sometimes it’s beef, also. It’s very tasty. Tonkatsu is very thin in Europe, but in Japan it is thicker. And also, I like to also recommend, curry on rice. It is Indian food, but it is popular in our culture. It’s spicy. In Japan, there are a lot of different curries, but I don’t think people know that.


Tonkatsu, recommended by Fumiaki Miura

USUO: What is your favorite drink?
Fumiaki: Before I could not drink in Utah, I was 19. Now I can drink everywhere. But my favorite drink in general is Coke. I love cola very much. And also an iced coffee.

USUO: I love Japanese rock music. Alice Nine, The GazettE, Dir en grey.
Fumiaki: Really? You know them? That is very cool.
USUO: Do you have time to listen to other music than classical?
Fumiaki: I listen to different music also, basically I love classical, of course, but I know the popular groups, and somehow I started listening to old songs from like the 1990s. Also, I love beautiful, traditional Japanese songs. We call them enka; it’s a beautiful Japanese traditional songs. If you google it,  you can find it. It is very special. I’d say sometimes they can be very heavy, also, but it’s a  beautiful melody.

USUO: I discovered that you were in the mock-umentary movie, “Noseland.” Can you talk about filming it?
Fumiaki: *laughs* I think now it will be on DVD . This is a movie actually about a  classical musician’s life. They made some funny interviews, but also some serious things. My teacher and mentor, Julian Rachlin, is a wonderful musician, violinist, violist, and conductor; he took this idea to do this different kinds of funny things when he was running a music festival at Croatia where you can see the beautiful sea. I was there twice. It was a fun time, but in the movie, they used the music from the festival, so it’s very nice.


Movie poster from Noseland with Fumiaki Miura’s teacher, Julian Rachlin

USUO: Let’s talk about the piece that you will be playing this weekend. What do you like most about Saint-Saëns’ Violin Concerto No. 3?
Fumiaki: For me, it’s beautiful music. Simply beautiful. Quite violin-istic. Technically it is also, well, it’s quite hard sometimes, but I think it’s good. People sometimes think this concerto is a bit rough, but the harmonies are great and there is great orchestration. It’s written very well. This is one of the pieces I learned in my early age. For the first time, I played this when I was 11 or 12. I studied this concerto hard, and I learned a lot with my teacher and my mother. The second movement is unbelievable. I’ve played it so many times. I am excited to play it with the Utah Symphony. And I will play it again next year in Japan with Maestro Fischer, where he was principal conductor and he’s coming back next season to conduct. I am happy to play with him in Japan.

USUO: I have spent the last couple days watching YouTube videos of you playing. It always seems like you’re enjoying every piece you play. Is there a piece that is your favorite?
Fumiaki: There are some nice pieces for violinists. It is hard for me to decide. I love many. When I must pick a concerto, I always pick Shostakovich or Prokofiev. It’s difficult to pick. But then again, I love Beethoven and Brahams, and I also ask for Saint-Saëns, and sometimes Mendelssohn.


USUO: You obviously love playing the violin, but are there any other instruments that you play?
Fumiaki: I play the viola also. I really enjoy it. I’m completely influenced by my teacher because he’s always pushing me to study. I started about two years ago, and now I’m practicing more and learning concertos. I am playing Penderecki’s Concerto for Violin and Viola on the viola in January. It is a duet and I will be on viola. I am very excited. It is also very hard when I started to learn the keys. It’s a different key than the violin. Once you understand it is easier, but it takes time.

USUO: Thank you so much for talking with me today. I appreciate your time, and I am so excited to see you play next weekend.
Fumiaki: Yes, yes, thank you! I am really looking forward to next weekend, also.

As much as I wished I to talk to Fumiaki all day long, I had to let him go. He’s a delight to speak with and a delight to watch play the violin. In a recent Salt Lake Tribune article, Fumiaki said of his last visit to Utah, “I really loved the orchestra and the concert hall — I remember everything very clearly. The audience was so nice, it was amazing.” Let’s not disappoint him as an audience and give him even better memories this time around.

For more information about this weekend’s concert, go here.

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Mahler Memories: Tom Baron

Our Mahler Memories Series provides highlights from oral histories of Utah Symphony musicians who played under Maestro Maurice Abravanel. During interviews conducted during the 2014-15 season, these musicians recalled their days making music with Maestro Abravanel , especially during the period of recording the Mahler symphonies. The complete oral histories will be archived in the McKay Music Library in the school of Music at the University of Utah.

TOM BARON: Utah Symphony violinist, 1968-present (47 years so far)

Tom Baron

Tom Baron
Utah Symphony violinist
1968-present (47 years so far)

Abravanel recordings & performances

Abravanel was not one to placate us in any way. He would not cut anyone any non-professional slack. We did beautiful work with him. He demanded it and he got it from us, and we didn’t know how. We’d listen to those CDs later and say “Is that us?” We never could figure it out. He was in touch with something that collectively we would feel. The performance was quite often different from what we had rehearsed. It would be a certain way, and when it started moving in a little different direction, he would let it go. And it would build. We would play better than we should have been able to, and then we’d see five thousand people standing up applauding us in the Tabernacle. We would look around, thinking, “What happened?”  Something was in this room, something was here with us. Something incredibly special would happen, and it happened a lot with him. It really bonded us in those days. It was incredible.


The orchestra blend

I’m one of the few people who just loves to play in an orchestra. I learned a lot from Maestro Abravanel. I learned there’s great beauty even if no one else hears you, because then you’re blending, you’re contributing to this overall sound, you’re making your contribution.

Abravanel, a mentor to young musicians

He left his mark on us, whether we liked it or not, he was a formative influence for all of us. We were better people for having known him, guaranteed, 100%.


Highlights from an oral history interview conducted on October 13, 2014 in the Abravanel Studio of the McKay Music Library.

Stay tuned for more Mahler Memories.

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Mahler Memories: Carolee Baron

Our Mahler Memories Series provides highlights from oral histories of Utah Symphony musicians who played under Maestro Maurice Abravanel. During interviews conducted during the 2014-15 season, these musicians recalled their days making music with Maestro Abravanel , especially during the period of recording the Mahler symphonies. The complete oral histories will be archived in the McKay Music Library in the school of Music at the University of Utah.

CAROLEE BARON: Utah Symphony cellist, 1968-2012 (44 years)

Carolee Baron

Carolee Baron
Utah Symphony cellist
1968-2012 (44 years)













New to Mahler

[Abravanel] called to tell me that I was in the orchestra and then he said there was a tour that summer. There was no summer season, just an extra thing that they had added—a five day tour to the west coast. And we were going to be playing Mahler 2nd and Mahler 4th. I was 17, and I was about this close to saying, “Who’s Mahler?” because I did not know who Mahler was. But some little thing in the back of my head (thank you, thank you) said “Don’t ask that.”


Playing Mahler’s 2nd Symphony for the first time

It was the Mahler 2nd , the “Resurrection Symphony,” and I have always remembered this, because [Abravanel] could tell a story that brought everyone’s focus to the same place. We were playing in a rehearsal for the performance, and he was talking about the moment when the choir comes in (after 3 movements of just orchestra). It is a very soft moment. He said, “At this point is the entire crux of Christianity. It is not a huge angel chorus, it’s not a full orchestra and trumpets blaring and harps and everything else, it is only the chorus. It is sopranos to basses, it is the human voice, and it is the one German word which means  ‘rise up’ and it is God speaking to his son, one on one, nothing spectacular. Very quiet. Very simple. ‘Rise up.’”  [Abravanel] said, “Upon this moment is built all of Christianity.” There are moments like that, when someone brings you to a focal point. Abravanel did that quite often.


Abravanel lets go but keeps everything together

We were at an age in our late teens to mid-twenties where that kind of thing (having a mentor like Abravanel) impacts you. That kind of a person guiding you can just make all the difference in the world. Like I said, I didn’t know who Mahler was, and we did quite a bit of Mahler. It was like this gate opening into this gorgeous garden – or I think about it as somebody who lives their whole life in Kansas, and is suddenly plunked down in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. That’s kind of what Mahler was.  He (Abravanel) had a way, especially with Mahler; he knew just how much to let it go. It is kind of like the human spirit – you cannot confine it in a box. He knew just how to let it go, and yet keep it all together.


An earthquake in rehearsal

We were in a rehearsal with full orchestra and the full chorus. And we had an earthquake. I felt this odd feeling in my feet. And I looked up and all of a sudden the chandelier started to swing. A couple of the basses just went right out the door, and Abravanel wasn’t through yet. He was almost out of time; we were getting ready to go and he kept saying “Quiet, quiet!  I’m not through. I’m not through.” Ardean was sitting behind him and leaned forward and said, “Maestro, I believe we are having an earthquake.”  And [Abravanel] said, “I’m not through! I still have things to say!”


We’ve all said, those of us who played under him, it’s kind of like we have his blood in us. We have Abravanel blood.


Highlights from an oral history interview conducted on October 13, 2014 in the Abravanel Studio of the McKay Music Library.


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Mahler Memories: Julia Lawrence

Our Mahler Memories Series provides highlights from oral histories of Utah Symphony musicians who played under Maestro Maurice Abravanel. During interviews conducted during the 2014-15 season, these musicians recalled their days making music with Maestro Abravanel , especially during the period of recording the Mahler symphonies. The complete oral histories will be archived in the McKay Music Library in the school of Music at the University of Utah.

JULIA LAWRENCE: Utah Symphony violist, 1965-2011 (45 years)


Julia Lawrence

Julia Lawrence
Utah Symphony violist
1965-2011 (45 years)

Abravanel introduced his musicians to Mahler

I’m not sure I had ever heard of Mahler before I got into the symphony. Probably I had heard his name in my music history classes, but I’m sure I had never played anything by Mahler before I got into the orchestra.

Mahler symphonies are challenging for the musicians

[Playing] Mahler was hard because [the music] was so elastic. The meters change, the tempos change suddenly, and the notes were hard—it was all over the place. It was really challenging.

Mahler symphonies

I played in performances of the First and Second Symphonies a lot. It was obvious that [Abravanel] loved this music, and that love was contagious. He had a great way of communicating his feelings about all of this music.


Highlights from an oral history interview conducted on October 13, 2014 in the Abravanel Studio of the McKay Music Library.

Stay tuned for more Mahler Memories.

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