The Florida Orchestra’s Coffee Concerts series continues on Thursday 7th March 2013 at Mahaffey Theater with Beloved Ballets, a selection of pieces from well-known ballets and musicals. We interviewed Stuart Malina, Principal Guest Conductor of TFO and Pianist and Composer Extraordinaire. He holds degrees from Yale School of Music, Harvard University and the Curtis Institute of Music.
What inspires you about conducting? I think the profession chooses you rather than the other way round – I got involved with musical theatre at school and directed several shows. Since then it’s been a windy path through college to where I am now.
Why these pieces? Choosing the pieces was a joint collaboration between me and the artistic directors. I enjoy dance and thought ballet would be popular with audiences, and have combined familiar classics with some more unusual pieces.
What would you say to someone who’s never been to a classical concert before? Come! The great thing about the Coffee Concerts is that they show some of the greatest creative classics in an informal, accessible environment.
When did you start to play? I grew up in Scarsdale, New York, where my parents constantly had music playing at home. I learnt the piano, French horn and several other instruments, and still perform frequently with my sister and brother, who play guitar and violin.
Tell me about your recent composition, Brahms Fanfare. It’s similar to a Broadway overture – I have a soft spot for musicals and composers such as Gershwin and Cole Porter.
Is it difficult to conduct a whole orchestra? The main challenge is the size of the score. I’m a people person, so I’m good at sorting out interpersonal issues and bringing a unified approach.
How about life outside the musical sphere? Apart from music, I spend a lot of time with my family. I met my wife when she was playing for the Charleston Orchestra and we have two children aged 13 and 10. When I get the chance I also enjoy cooking, reading and crosswords.
If you had $1 million to spend on music, what would you do? I’d put it into my orchestral work to keep standards high, but I think there’s no quick fix. It’s better to have regular, smaller donations than one large one.
Is music important for children? Every child should play an instrument, even if they don’t become a professional. It trains parts of the mind that school doesn’t. Regular practice is really important, but only comes through love of music. Playing with others helps a lot.
Do you have any plans for the future? At the moment I’m very happy with life – I have excellent orchestras to conduct and a great balance. This is my first year of three with TFO – I don’t plan too far ahead but certainly intend to stay here for the next while.
The Florida Orchestra’s Coffee Concert starts at 11:00 AM, with a Pre-Concert Conversation at 10:00. Pieces include part of the Sleeping Beauty Suite by Tchaikovsky, Dance of the Hours by Ponchielli and others including Debussy, Prokofiev and Stravinsky’s Firebird. During the concert there will be inspiring narrative from the conductor and free coffee and doughnuts.
Prices start from $24.00 for Balcony or Front seats up to $42.00 in the D Circle and can be booked online from http://www.floridaorchestra.org/event_info.asp?id=183&date=3/7/2013. There’s also a Ticket Center on 244 2nd Avenue North, St. Petersburg, FL 33701, 727.892.3337 Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm or Saturday and Sunday, 10 am to 3 pm, or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.