Meet Larry Rachleff, the Grand Rapids Symphony's Music Advisor

“A take-charge maestro who invests everything he conducts with deep musical understanding,” Larry Rachleff will serve as the Grand Rapids Symphony's Music Advisor as the organization continues its search for a new Music Director

Mr. Rachleff is director of orchestras and holds the Walter Kris Hubert Chair at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music in Houston. He is the Music Director of the Rhode Island Philharmonic, and held the same position at the San Antonio Symphony in the past. He's guest conducted at a number of renowned orchestras and music festivals, including Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan. A passionate advocate for music education in schools, he conducts All-State Orchestras across the country. 

Mr. Rachleff kindly answered a few questions for the Grand Rapids Symphony blog, providing further insight into his role as Music Advisor and the opening concert of the 2015-16 Season, Romeo and Juliet

How would you describe the role of Music Advisor?   

My main role first is to listen to what people feel we need and what they feel is timely. Then, I’ve worked directly with [Vice President and Chief Operating Officer] Roger Nelson and the Artistic Committee to primarily develop programs this season and for next season for the Music Director candidates so the repertoire will be appealing to all. This involves showing insight into the new contemporary pieces, concerti that work with the soloists, and of course the legendary symphonic works that build a full program. There's an interesting season of programming ahead...I'm honored to be here!   

What is exciting about conducting and advising in Grand Rapids? 

The orchestra is just wonderful! My time this week has already reinforced the feelings I had when I conducted the orchestra a few seasons ago. Today I sat on a audition committee to select a new musician for the season. I could see the comradeship and musical insight in the committee leadership, and how this is such a value to the community. It was enjoyable and easy all at once. I've been getting to know the board members, the musicians and staff better, and I'm looking forward to getting to know more community members as well.  

What can the audience anticipate at the “Romeo & Juliet” concert? 

It’s a program full of drama and a variety of musical color and sound. The Overture to “Béatrice et Bénédict” is from a high voltage opera, just quirky enough to be Berlioz, and full of his imagination. We also get to present Saint-Saëns' "Cello Concerto No. 1" with talented Swedish cellist Jakob Koranyi. The second half is dedicated to the glorious "Romeo and Juliet" by Prokofiev, who also spent time in France--an interesting connection there to Berlioz. The "Romeo and Juliet" suite will follow in and out of the original Shakespeare storyline, as does the Berlioz piece. In short: they can expect a large orchestral with colossal sounds all wrapped into 40 minutes!

What sort of tangible benefits do you think a symphony lends to a city like Grand Rapids? 

A symphony orchestra is an essential component to the life of any city. There is a far-reaching impact with music education, the essence of the next generation having music in their lives. Orchestras provide musical experiences that can help community members in their lives. The impact goes all the way through to how important cultural institutions are in a community, and how great arts organizations inspire economic growth. Additionally, an orchestra is something the community can be proud of as an opportunity to be touched by great beauty.   

You can see Mr. Rachleff conduct the Grand Rapids Symphony's season opener, Romeo and Juliet, September 18 and 19 at DeVos Performance Hall. He'll return to conduct Carmina Burana in May 2016.              

Posted by Sam Napolitan at 4:52 PM

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