The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra will host a special televised performance on July 4th at Dickies Arena.
It’ll be the first time the orchestra will perform live since cancelling its season due to the pandemic. It’ll also be the last time Miguel Harth-Bedoya leads the ensemble as music director.
Art&Seek sat down with Harth-Bedoya to look back at his 20-year tenure.
What did you inherit when you first became music director in 2000, and how has the orchestra changed?
I inherited a smaller pool of musicians with great talent, great abilities, who had great hopes and goals to achieve. Two decades later, we have grown artistically beyond what we ever dreamed.
How would you describe your approach to conducting, and how has that changed?
Well, I got into conducting with the belief in the love of music.
I’ve tried my best to grow as an artist, so that the orchestras that I’m leading — and I’ve been leading for over three decades — grow along my side. Obviously, I have to be ahead so that I can give direction.
So, it’s egalitarian in the sense that it’s a workplace where everybody feels great about coming to work. That, to me, is an achievement that we have made together that is hard to measure.
In 2016, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra grappled with a strike over potential pay cuts. How did that affect the camaraderie that you’d been building?
We definitely learned from a work stoppage. The realization was that we shouldn’t think that to sustain a symphony orchestra is easy. During current times, it’s even surfacing much more. Not just orchestras, but so many institutions in the arts sector. The good thing is it brought awareness to the value of the orchestra in the community and the relevancy of music making. Just like now, we have to be together as a family.
What about the pandemic? How has that impacted the workplace?
Well, the sense of collaboration will remain there. I assure you because we have gone through worse. The power of music and what we do will go beyond all of us and all crises. And this has been proven by hundreds of years, and wars have happened. Music is still there.
But how do you feel about the financial health of the industry right now?
Well, I think financially it’s disastrous. The income when you don’t perform goes down to zero, as simple as that. Then, the impact on the industry itself. It’s a domino effect because your host cannot produce, people cannot come in. The economic impact that a concert hall with an orchestra has is quite big. Definitely not being able to present to an audience, that’s going to be a hard one to overcome.
You clearly have so much passion for what you do. I’m curious who first lit that fire under you.
It was the experience working as backstage crew at the opera theater in Lima, Peru when I was in high school. I just heard basically Italian operas and that just got me, and I didn’t have the ability to do anything well, as in either as a violinist, as a pianist, much less as a singer. So I really didn’t have any options to be new music than really to be a conductor. It was who became my teacher later, Otto-Werner Mueller, who opened the door for me at the Curtis Institute of music in Philadelphia. I was 19 and knew very little, but his point was, if you want to study, study a long time and I’ll take you through it. That’s what I want to give others. I wanted others to have the same opportunity that I have.
And that’s what you’ll be doing next at the University of Nebraska – Omaha?
Yes, that’ll be my main focus in leading a program. And I’ll be leading not only the studies of orchestral conducting from the undergrad level onwards. In addition to that, I’m going to devote some more time to the Conducting Institute, which is this program that I do once a year in the summer to spark the interest and open the door for conducting students.
Why is it so important for you to pass on your knowledge?
The 21st century started yielding to me a group of less prepared young conductors because academia and the training of conducting was taking different turns. What was the basic for us now became the advanced. How are you producing conductors for youth orchestras, civic orchestras, college orchestras, high school orchestras, professional orchestras, regional orchestras when we’re not really producing them from the bottom up?
So, I identified this gap and decided that I was very interested in working with the beginners, and I find it quite fulfilling. I just learned that I love doing it and the realization at age 30 or 40, it wasn’t really so much then. I just didn’t feel comfortable that I knew enough. So, I waited a couple of decades and here I am.
What has been your driving force?
I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do this without my family, especially my wife. We’ve been married 20 years, but we’ve known each other for 33 years now. That’s a lifetime. I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this, from my studies to having a family. So, my best friend became my wife and mother of my children, my best advocate and my first critic! She catapulted my inner drive.
One of the reasons we’re not moving out of Fort Worth is so that our children can finish school and so my wife can finish her projects. I hope I can repay all the time she’s given me.
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