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Interview with Steven Sloane,
Music Director Designate

Steven Sloane, Music Director Designate (Photo Credit: Stas Rzeznik)

What are you most looking forward to about your new appointment with the ACO?

I'm most looking forward to working with a great orchestra committed to performing new music and the actual process of making music with this orchestra. I'm also looking forward to embracing the tradition that the ACO started 25 years ago, and continuing to promote American composers and American musical art forms and looking for ways to move it forward. One of the things I'm also excited about is working with Bob Beaser and the rest of the ACO staff and also working with Mr. Ohnesorg, who in my view is one of the great arts presenters of our time.

Who are some American composers that are of particular interest to you?

I've conducted music of a wide variety of American composers, and my tastes are fairly eclectic. I've worked hard to have a varied kind of career. I'm very interested in new music and in music theater, opera, and also older music. I've done a lot with performance practice in the Baroque and Classical periods as well.

I've conducted many premieres including Stewart Wallace's "Gorilla in a Cage" with Evelyn Glennie, the first European performance of Michael Daugherty's "Metropolis Symphony", music of Steve Reich, John Adams, John Corigliano—a lot of "mainstream" new music. I'm very excited about discovering more about the history of American music the "classic" American school as well as learning more about non-mainstream American composers. I look forward to playing a role in nurturing young American talent, not just the tried and true. You really never know whether a commissioned work is going to be successful and you discover it together with the orchestra. I love the excitement that there are no guarantees with premieres. In addition to American repertoire, I've also conducted a lot of new compositions from German composers and Israeli composers. I've done a lot of music of Bruno Moderna, Luciano Berio and Israeli composers Tzvi Avni, Noam Sharriff, and Gil Shohat. I've just commissioned a big work from Gil Shohat.

I have been involved my whole professional life in creating new pieces. The ACO fills an interest I have in doing this kind of repertoire because I don't do it that much in Germany and in the UK and it's a wonderful complement to the other orchestras I conduct.

What do you think are the principal differences in being a music director in Bochum vs. in the US with the ACO?

I really don't know all the differences yet, but English Northern Philharmonia and Bochum are full-time ensembles that work all the time with 50-60 programs a year, so the scale of activities is much greater; in that way the challenge is different with the ACO. With a limited number of performing opportunities one has to try to find the right focus the make the maximum impact.

Another difference is in the systems of funding. In Germany 100% of the funding for the orchestra is guaranteed by the city. With the ACO it's the responsibility of the music director to help communicate the vision to both the audience and its supporters, which is a significant difference from working in Europe.

How do you feel about the state of contemporary American music?

I think it's in a very exciting place. The idea of a new millennium may be worn out, but the history of American music is full of movements and schools. Through the development of the American music scene, Americans are in a position to create many new and interesting ideas. American music has become more and more accepted and nurtured by concertgoers as well. I think the amount of new American music being played has been steadily rising and as a result the opportunities for the ACO are even greater than in the past. Also, the quality of music education at a higher level in the US is really very high, and the compositional level in comparison with international standards is high.Steven Sloane, Music Director Designate (Photo Credit: Stas Rzeznik)

What are some long-term goals that you hope to accomplish in your tenure with the orchestra?

One of the things I'm interested in doing is breaking down the traditional boundaries of what one considers "classic" music or "entertainment" music, which is how they catagorize music in Germany. "Entertainment" music is what we would consider "pop" music. I would like to treat American music as American music and want it to be an umbrella for all kinds of musical forms: I want to encourage a more flexible art form that also includes unusual instruments, multi-media, theater, film, performance art, and dance, so that we can break down the idea that new music is in any way elitist or aloof. New music is driving new ideas into the public and also reacting to the world around it.

Do you still play the viola?

Yes, but my main musical outlet is singing. I'm a tenor without a top. I like to sing lieder, folksongs, and I also play guitar. Singing is my greatest love as a musical outlet.

After being away from the US for a while, how do you feel about having a position in New York?

I've always had some involvement conducting in the US, but I'm very excited about being in the great city of New York and the opportunity to perform in Carnegie Hall.

What are some of your favorite activities outside of music?

I'm a big basketball fan: since I was born and raised in LA, the LA Lakers have been my team, but of course from now on I will root heavily for the Knicks. I love to play basketball and baseball. Although I don't have much time for it now, I can still get around the basketball court.

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Steven Sloane biography

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