Friday, July 1, the Jacobs School of Music’s Festival Orchestra plays their opening concert in the IU Auditorium with conductor Michael Stern and violinist Joshua Bell.
Michael Stern is in his sixth season as music director of the Kansas City Symphony. He’s also the founder of the IRIS Orchestra in Germantown, Tennessee. His career has led to long relationships with orchestras in France, Germany and across the country.
We could have spent the entire five minutes of our brief interview with Stern sampling listing the orchestras that have invited to come and conduct. We suggested that he’s been on a lot of ‘first dates.’
Stern suggested that this sounded a bit risqué. “Really, with most of the orchestras, we knew quite a bit about one another even before the first rehearsals.” He added, “there have been follow-up engagements, some of them extending over years. Indeed, right now I’m in my very comfortable sixth year with the Kansas City Symphony.”
However, he was willing to talk a bit about the ‘first dates.’ “There is an excitement about the first time that you meet an orchestra, a chance to hear the players in the repertoire and to work with them.” But, he quickly added, “there’s also pleasure in coming back to a group that you’ve worked with.”
Stern is in fact coming back to the IU Festival Orchestra. He conducted it in 2006, but it’s a new festival orchestra this year–to him, and even to itself. He seemed calm about the challenge, though. “I know that with Indiana University’s students, along with the faculty and guests, it will be a very skilled and enthusiastic orchestra. I do have a bit of the educator in me, and so I’m especially grateful to have the chance to work with this mix of experienced and younger players.”
Friday night’s Festival Orchestra Concert conducted by Michael Stern includes The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Dukas, Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, Variations on America by Charles Ives, and Max Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy with longtime friend, violinist Joshua Bell.
The following evening, July 2, the orchestra will repeat the program at Chicago’s Ravinia Festival, becoming the first collegiate ensemble to be presented as a featured festival ensemble there.