Let’s Move Quad Cities celebrates the spirit and determination Quad City area residents take to promote movement and fitness. For the holidays, we welcome guest blogger, Benjamin Klemme, conductor for the Quad City Youth Symphony as well as the conductor for the Quad City Holiday Pops!
Name: Benjamin Klemme
Title(s): Associate Conductor of the Quad City Symphony Orchestra and Music Director of the Quad City Symphony Youth Ensembles
Tell us about your journey to becoming a conductor.
The path to becoming a conductor is such a fantastic one because it never ends! The journey begins with learning an instrument and playing in ensembles for many years.
For me, this began in the Davenport and Pleasant Valley schools, where I benefitted from the instruction and inspiration of world-class music educators who not only taught me to play the trombone well, but to approach music-making with imagination and expressiveness. While in college, teachers identified my natural aptitude for conducting, and encouraged me to develop the expertise to learn and interpret the repertoire and to lead colleagues in performance.
Conducting is a “legacy” art form, passed down from one generation of artists to another, and I am fortunate to call some of the best musicians I’ve ever known my mentors.
How would you describe the role of the conductor?
Most of a conductor’s job is done offstage, in preparation for rehearsals and performances. A conductor selects the repertoire, interprets what he/she feels the composer is endeavoring to communicate, and makes musical decisions about how every detail of a piece will be performed. And this is all before rehearsals begin!
Once rehearsals begin, the conductor leads and unifies the ensemble’s preparation of the music, and empowers the musicians to achieve their potential. The famous conductor, Erich Leinsdorf, summarized our profession well when he wrote that the conductor is “the composer’s advocate.”
Is your job physically demanding?
Conducting can be very physically, mentally, even spiritually demanding. Because I conduct many hours each week, I developed a technique to convey intensity without overtaxing my body. One must be mindful of efficient movement, especially when conducting very long works such as opera, or during weeks with multiple engagements, so as not to foster fatigue. When I began conducting, this did not come naturally to me; experience has taught me — just like an athlete — to make efficient and meaningful use of every movement.
Talk about your special interest in conducting young musicians.
I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with so many talented, young musicians. Introducing them to the music of great composers is a responsibility I find incredibly rewarding, and I am inspired by the enthusiasm, hard work, and good humor my students bring to the music-making process. I am privileged to partner with music educators from across our region to give the young musicians rich and diverse musical experiences.
We understand you travel between the Quad Cities and Minneapolis?
My weekly routine involves rehearsals both in the Quad Cities and in Minneapolis, which is fun and exciting, but also requires incredible organization and planning (especially in combination with my wife’s busy schedule as a touring musician).
Thankfully, I have an adventure-loving family. I also depend on the talent and support of amazing colleagues who make it possible for me to do what I do. My wife and I have two young boys (ages five and three) who keep us very active. We are blessed to live close to extended family whose love and support also makes this possible.
Tell us about the upcoming Quad City Pops! concert. What can audiences look forward to?
The Quad City Symphony Orchestra musicians and I are looking forward to ring in the holiday season with this year’s Holiday Pops! concert. We welcome back the Cirque de la Symphonie, whose acrobatic artistry will lend excitement, beauty, and good cheer to these performances. And it wouldn’t truly feel like the holidays without the fantastic choral sounds of the First Presbyterian Church Sanctuary Choir and Quad City Symphony Youth Choir.
I love planning these concerts as well as performing alongside the QCSO, as we usher in the holidays in the beautiful Adler Theatre. Holiday Pops has something to offer the whole family!