The brand new symphony director opens in Baltimore at Chuck Taylors’ signing

Estimated read time 4 min read

Jonathan Heyward’s profession is stuffed with accomplishments, however it has additionally been marked by what he describes as “serendipitous moments.”

Heyward, the brand new music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, mentioned he began enjoying the cello at age 10 as a result of there have been too many college students at his performing arts faculty in Charleston, South Carolina, who wished to play the violin.

“The violin class was proper outdoors the door and there was nobody within the cello class,” Heyward mentioned. “I used to be able to go house.”

This temporary second of childhood impatience developed right into a love for the instrument, setting him on a path that might result in making historical past, Heyward mentioned. Heyward is the primary black music director within the BSO’s 107-year historical past, and in addition its youngest at 31 years previous. His appointment is smart in a metropolis whose inhabitants is greater than 60% black.

“In 2023, I did not suppose I would be saying that: ‘The primary African-American music director,’” Heyward mentioned. “It is a testomony that work must be performed.”

He mentioned his early curiosity in orchestral music was fostered by discovering “the sense of group that music brings.” “I picked up the cello in fifth grade and instantly felt a part of one thing. … You are creating one thing larger than one particular person. I believe that is the great thing about the unity you get from this type of classical music.”

One other serendipitous second led him to conducting in eighth grade, when a substitute trainer determined to select a scholar’s identify out of a hat to steer the category orchestra.

“Guess who was chosen?” Heyward mentioned. “To my embarrassment, I didn’t like standing in entrance of my colleagues and taking cost in any respect. However what I preferred was the concept of ​​the outcome.”

Photo: Jonathan Hayward
Bandleader Jonathan Heyward sits outdoors the Gaillard Heart in Charleston, South Carolina on January 7, 2023.Gavin McIntyre/The Washington Publish by way of Getty Pictures

Heyward mentioned he was fascinated by the idea of unity within the orchestra, an invite to return to his unique love of the cello.

The chief’s ardour for group and bridging the hole spreads via his work and clothes. Thus he earned his nickname “Dialog Chief.”

Heyward started carrying basic crimson Chuck Taylors on stage after forgetting his gown sneakers to attend a live performance whereas working as assistant conductor of the Halle Orchestra in Manchester, England. This incident become a possibility for connection. Heyward mentioned the viewers could not get sufficient of his shiny crimson sneakers. Moreover, Heyward mentioned the unconventional alternative was merely extra snug. He now owns about 15 pairs.

Naturally, Heyward wore his signature Converse sneakers throughout his three-concert weekend live performance tour in September, which started his five-year engagement as BSO music director.

“What’s superb is how many individuals have determined to put on Converse sneakers as a substitute of excessive heels!” Heyward mentioned.

Many members of the general public traveled to witness historical past being made. Heyward has shared the stage with Dance Theater of Harlem and Baltimore’s OrchKids program, which seeks to increase entry to classical music for college kids in Baltimore Metropolis colleges. Heyward mentioned he champions exhibits like OrchKids as a result of they remind him of the alternatives he had as a younger actor.

“I felt like I might do that as a result of I had nice supporters. I had nice lecturers. With the ability to cross that baton, no pun supposed, is important,” Heyward mentioned.

“The sky is the restrict.”

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