Some things can't be learned in school. David Danzmayr says conducting a symphony orchestra is one of them.
"You learn conducting by conducting," he says. "I was lucky. I had very good teachers, but they said that most of conducting you learn by doing it. The more you do it, the better you get."
What: Britt Classical Festival
Who: David Danzmayr, one of three finalists for the job of the Britt Classical Festival music director, will conduct the Britt Orchestra
When: 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 16 and Saturday, Aug. 17
Danzmayr, the third of three finalists for the job of the Britt Classical Festival's music director to visit the Rogue Valley this summer, put his teachers' advice into practice. At age 32, the Austrian-born conductor brings the resume of a veteran conductor to his week of residency at Britt, where he will lead the 90-member Britt Orchestra in concerts on the hillside Friday and Saturday nights.
His Friday program is Bernstein's "West Side Story" Symphonic Dances, Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 2, and Bizet's "L'Arlesienne Suites 1 and 2." The Saturday lineup is Mendelssohn's "The Hebrides," Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto and Dvorak's Symphony No. 8.
Like the other two candidates for Britt's artistic leadership, he chose his program with input from Britt classical maven Angela Warren.
"I was very happy with her input," he says in an accent that sounds a bit like Arnold Schwarzenegger's. "It's always a collaboration. You have to consider things like which piece has been played when. But these represent what I'd like to conduct."
Danzmayr is music director of the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra in Chicago and has been named music director of the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra in Columbus, Ohio. Serving as music director of the Ensemble Acrobat in Salzburg, he was a regular guest conductor with the Austrian Contemporary Music Ensemble.
He trained at the University Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, where he studied piano before conducting. He took further studies at the famed Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland, and worked as an assistant to conductors in Europe and New York City.
He served three years as assistant conductor of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and has appeared as a guest conductor with orchestras in Basel, Salzburg and Vienna. He is the only European conductor to reach the final of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Sir Georg Solti competition.
Danzmayr says the three-week classical festival at Britt fits perfectly with his other commitments.
"I'm very busy from September to June," he says. "But (Britt) doesn't lead to any conflict. And the setting is marvelous. Everybody gushes about it."
He says programming for a summer festival has some differences from programming for a long season, but they're not big ones. The Dvorak symphony is an example of a piece that's great outdoors, he says.
"When you go on stage you give your very best — what I want to bring to them, what they would find exciting. For me, the type of audience doesn't change (programming) very much.
"With outdoor concerts you try to feed to atmosphere. With a concert hall you program to a certain orchestra's strength. You need to take acoustics into consideration, and the tastes of the public. The venue does influence your choices, but they're not completely different.
"If you play well, from the heart, the enjoyment will be there. Many people think it's different to conduct in the United States from Europe, but for me it's been passion and energy all over the world, and people enjoy it."
He knew he wanted to conduct from the time he was a preschooler attending concerts with his parents.
"When I started playing piano, I loved it," he says. "But I never wanted to be a pianist. I always wanted to become a conductor, except at 15 to 17 or 18, when I wanted to be a soccer star."
He says the Great Recession hit classical music groups hard, because their financial stability is tied in part to the giving of corporations, foundations and private donors. That makes it more important than ever to draw large audiences.
"You have to offer the audience things they want, and also things they don't know they want," he says. "You can't just keep doing the same few things."
He is an advocate of contemporary music in addition to the classical repertoire. At the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra, he includes one American composition in each concert.
"The audience seems to like it," he says.
He's also a staunch advocate of music education, which he says is part of the mission of the orchestra. In Scotland he frequently took educational concerts into the schools. He's doing the same with the llinois Philharmonic. He also goes into schools to give talks and gives free tickets to students for certain concerts.
"Then we hope they bring their parents," he says.
He says there's no single, magic bullet to build classical audiences.
"It takes creativity," he says, "and risk-taking."
Bill Varble writes about arts and entertainment for the Mail Tribune. He can be reached at email@example.com.