Orchestrating a career

Conductor: Jason Love, who was recently named to conduct the Columbia Orchestra, has found success at a young age.

September 24, 1999|By PHIL GREENFIELD | PHIL GREENFIELD,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Jason Love is that rarest of musical breeds -- a young conductor actually making his living from conducting before reaching his 30th birthday.

"That is a little uncommon in this country," said Love, 29, a graduate of Baltimore's Peabody Conservatory who was named in the spring to lead the Columbia Orchestra. "Not that I didn't have to sell ladies' shoes at JC Penney's to help ends meet along the way."

But, mixing and matching engagements, Love has become one of the area's busiest, most enterprising conductors. On a weekly basis, he may be found in Essex rehearsing the senior ensemble of the Greater Baltimore Youth Orchestra, in Annapolis putting the intermediate Repertory Orchestra of the Chesapeake Youth Symphony through its paces, or in Baltimore with the New Horizons Chamber Ensemble -- a 16-member orchestra he founded four years ago that is devoted to contemporary music.

"I'm playing fewer weddings and bar mitzvahs on my cello these days," the North Carolina native says with a laugh, "but that's how you make a living as a conductor."

Last season, as Columbia Orchestra conductor Catherine Ferguson was completing her nine-year stint with the ensemble, 63 conductors from across the country were finalizing their resumes and videotaping themselves in action in attempts to impress the orchestra's selection committee. From that pool, the committee chose 15 semifinalists. A series of telephone interviews yielded three finalists who were invited to rehearse with the orchestra in April.

"All three were very good," recalls Elaine Newhall, a Columbia Orchestra flutist who also serves as the organization's president, "but there was overwhelming support for Jason. The orchestra just fell in love with him. He's exciting, very dynamic, and brings us a lot of humor along with his great musicianship. He keeps people excited about what he's doing."

Love will lead a community orchestra full of music teachers and amateur musicians who are not full-time professional players. To him, that's hardly a liability.

"I see this as a great opportunity to do something with people who aren't doing music as an occupation," he says. "In the music profession, we've become a community of specialists and too often there's no place for players who haven't made performance their specialty. I think it's very important to keep such people involved in active music-making."

But Love is quick to point out that Columbia is not just a teaching orchestra, but a performing one as well. "We want to increase the visibility we have and the role we play in the community. We want people to be interested in us. After all, we play the same music the Baltimore Symphony plays!" Love says.

This season's repertoire includes high-powered, large-scale, colorful works such as Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition," Falla's "Three-Cornered Hat" and Respighi's "Pines of Rome."

"It will be a challenging season," Love says, "but, thanks to Cathy Ferguson, they've been doing increasingly difficult stuff for a while now. The musicians hadn't received their music ahead of time, but at our first rehearsal they were able to crash right through Mussorgsky and do it pretty well. I think they're really taking to it."

Columbia Orchestra

1999-2000 season Oct. 23, 8 p.m. Jim Rouse Theatre: Hsiu-hui Wang, piano; Verdi's Overture to "Nabucco"; Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1; Mussorgsky's (orch. Ravel) "Pictures at an Exhibition."

Dec. 12, 2 p.m. Atholton High School: Christmas concert.

Jan. 29, 8 p.m. Smith Theatre, Howard Community College: Kyle Coughlin, clarinet; Mozart's Symphony No. 32; Mozart's Clarinet Concerto; Falla's music from "The Three-Cornered Hat."

March 5, 2 p.m. Smith Theatre: Young artist competition winners, repertoire to be announced; Prokofiev's Overture on Hebrew Themes; Beethoven's Symphony No. 7.

June 10, 8 p.m. Jim Rouse Theatre: Elisa Koehler, trumpet; Rouse's "The Infernal Machine"; Hummel's Trumpet Concerto; Copland's "Quiet City"; Respighi's "Pines of Rome."

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Pub Date: 9/24/99

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