Culture Watch

By Natalie Kurz
In Culture, Feature

Getting to know the gifted, young and, dare we say, charming new Saint Louis Symphony resident conductor Ward Stare

 

This record-breaking musician and conductor’s career all started with a vinyl record. Around the age of five, Ward Stare’s curiosity led his father to play one of the large discs—a Beethoven symphony—and the next several weekends were spent listening, learning and questioning the maestro’s oeuvre. “I never imagined doing anything else,” said Stare, 26, when asked when he
decided to pursue music as a profession. He learned to play the trombone (like his father) around nine and took his first paid gig at an astonishing 10 years old with his dad’s fireman’s band, playing in parades for $20 a pop. A half-dozen years later, he graduated high school and enrolled at Juilliard at 16, an unheard of age for such a talented trombonist. At 18, he broke records, becoming the youngest principal brass player at any major U.S. orchestra when he joined the Lyric Opera of Chicago as the principal trombonist—ironic, since he almost wasn’t allowed to play as a kid because his arms were too short. Stare’s musical curiosity kept churning, and he soon got bit by the conducting bug. “The only thing better than playing in an orchestra is conducting one,” he admitted. Never one to sit on his laurels, he spent the next several years dividing his time between the orchestra and Europe, where he spent six-month stints learning from conducting greats in Paris, Germany, London, Moscow and Finland. After taking top conducting prizes two years running at the esteemed Aspen Music Festival, he retired from performing—at the ripe ol’ age of 25—to focus solely on conducting. Before he was appointed as the Saint Louis Symphony’s first resident conductor in 2008— besting more than 250 candidates across the country—Stare appeared at the helm of the Cleveland Orchestra, the Moscow Chamber Orchestra during their 2007 North American Tour and the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra as part of a celebration for the King of Thailand’s 80th birthday. He was also designated as the music director of the Saint Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra, where he leads 100 talented 12- to 22-year-olds in several concerts a year. “Youth orchestras were an important part of my education,” said Stare. “This is my chance to give back.” As the resident conductor, he’ll start this season at the symphony with a full-throttle week from September 16-27 where he’ll be conducting three concerts including the Kinder Konzert featuring Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, a free Forest Park concert to kick off the Balloon Glow and the special multi-media concert The Blue Planet Live! For more information or to purchase tickets, visit slso.org.

 

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Photo credit: Jillian Kyle

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