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David and Art - Conductors on the Move

An orchestra hosting a guest conductor is a common practice that lets conductors, musicians, and audiences partake in the wide variety of interests and styles in contemporary music.

I was driving in downtown Greensboro North Carolina a short while ago and passed their beautiful performing arts center. They have an electronic sign out front—sort of like a jumbo-tron at sporting events—announcing upcoming concerts and performances. I was stopped at a stoplight just long enough to look up and see a picture of my favorite conductor who, as it turns out, is going to be doing a guest performance with the Greensboro Symphony next April. Her name is Rei Hotoda and I first saw her conduct years ago at a Dallas Symphony Children’s Concert. 

Conductors are a peripatetic bunch — they’re always on the move. Even the ones who have full time gigs with established symphonies maintain a touring schedule of guest conducting during those times that their home ensembles don’t have performances scheduled. 

Hotoda is one of the most engaging and fun-to-watch I’ve ever seen. She was an assistant with the DSO from 2009-2012. Among her other responsibilities then, she conducted the DSO family concerts and her presence at these, and the way she interacted with the young audiences, was just spot-on perfect. I remember one memorable Halloween concert which she came out and conducted in a bumblebee costume. Doesn’t sound like much, but the impact was electric. Her enthusiasm is genuine and infectious. In short, what orchestras need. 

I remember when she didn’t step from the wings at the first family concert of the 2012 season, I was crestfallen. Turns out she had left to pursue other opportunities for both conducting and performing. In the fall of 2015, she surfaced as the Associate Conductor of the Utah Symphony Orchestra. Since 2017, she’s been Music Director of the Fresno Philharmonic but pursues an active calendar of guest appearances around the country. 

This fall in addition to her performances at Fresno, she’s going to be a panelist at the “Women in Classical Music Symposium” put on by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Next spring, in addition to her appearance at Greensboro, she’ll be a guest conductor with the Kansas City Symphony and the American Composers Orchestra in NYC. She’ll also be performing on piano, which she’s played since she was three years old, with an orchestra in Hawaii.

The days of the celebrity conductor who’s a household name is pretty much over. I don’t think we’re going to have any more Leonard Bernstein’s. But within the world of orchestral music there are still some names that bring attention. Hers is definitely one. When you hear about such a person, go see them when you can. They will be worth your time. 

The Greensboro audience is going to love her.