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Martin Majkut, the man behind the baton

Sometimes you don’t need to jimmy the window of opportunity. It opens with an audacious nudge.

I’d recently witnessed the stunning season finale of our beloved Rogue Valley Symphony and needed to address a mounting curiosity about director Martin Majkut. I asked whether he would throw caution to the wind and be my captive, er, subject. He said yes.

We met over a pair of matcha lattes at Pony Espresso in Ashland, I with my spiral-bound list, and he in a cap, street clothes and rocking that all-over charm and energy. I had come to uncover the man behind the baton.

Visiting his website gives a brief account of his credentials, but it doesn’t tell all. At 13 he was interviewed for the State Conservatory in Slovakia, his home country, and where his family resides. He began his career at the piano, and when testing his hearing for the conservatory, his teacher’s husband suggested he had a good personality for becoming a conductor.

Martin thought it sounded interesting so he went for it, and he really can’t imagine doing anything else. But as a child he held other ambitions lofty ones involving space flight and garbage collecting. Yes, he had a yen to catch a ride on the rear of a waste removal truck.

In fact, his one request for his 40th birthday (he’s 42, gals) was to spend the day back home near Bratislava riding astern on the refuse receptacle. Alas, his buddies let him down. Now we know what would ring his bell.

Maestro Majkut memorizes musical scores. I mean, the man committed to memory Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. So it’s no wonder that when I asked him what other genres of music he enjoyed, he responded with, “Honestly, silence is golden. I rarely listen to music. There’s so much music in my life that when I go to the gym I listen to scientific podcasts and philosophical podcasts.”

He grew up with hard rock and punk music but added, “In order to continue being surprised with what happens in music, you sort of have to take a step back. I’m not a music nerd, in that I have other interests. I need nourishment from other sources.”

In his rare free time, Martin enjoys bike riding, snow skiing and travel. He keeps an ever-evolving list of future destinations. Among them are South America, Israel and ... Siberia. Well, why not Siberia? There are 36 million people there, and it covers a huge swath of the globe. He’s curious, all right?

So we finally warmed up to the love quotient. He currently has no significant other, but he’s not against it.

“I remain hopeful,” Martin said.

Though he describes himself as self-sufficient and fairly set in his ways, he’s open to the one woman who would “change my life and enrich it.” He holds a diminishing hope of having children and enjoys visiting his brother’s two in Slovakia.

“I had a fantastic relationship with both my parents, and so the idea of that loving unit is so appealing to me. I was really fortunate in that respect.”

He’s a dog lover. Martin would love a big dog with personality but confesses that he just couldn’t look into those sad eyes every few weeks when taking a flight to New York, for example, for his other symphony in Queens. Yes, he directs two. In fact, three weeks hence will find him headed for Vermont, Chicago, where he’s a featured presenter at the League of American Orchestras, and NYC again.

Is he a dancer? If you’ve had the pleasure of watching him conduct, he is music in motion. But conductors are taught to keep their lower body still, so anything happening up there is subconscious and a surprise when he watches the video. He feels inadequate on the dance floor, a shortcoming he would like to rectify. To Martin, “Shaking and bending without a purpose feels weird.” But he disapproves of his own message.

My takeaway is that Martin is a kind and gracious person who makes whomever he is with feel special. This could be his greatest gift among a treasure trove.

Peggy Dover is a freelance writer. Email her at pcdover@hotmail.com.