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Pickett to lead final symphony concerts this weekend

Posted: June 12, 2014 - 12:08am
 Juneau Symphony Music Director Kyle Wiley Pickett rehearses with symphony members Lisa Ibias, middle, and Kate Walters, in January 2010.  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Juneau Symphony Music Director Kyle Wiley Pickett rehearses with symphony members Lisa Ibias, middle, and Kate Walters, in January 2010.

The Juneau Symphony will present Kyle Wiley Pickett’s final concert this weekend with two shows that reprise his first concert with the JSO. The concerts will feature Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Procession of the Nobles,” Brahms’ Piano Concerto
No. 1 featuring Tanya Gabrielian, and Respighi’s “Pines of Rome.”

Performances will be at
8 p.m. Saturday, June 14, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, June 15, at the Juneau Douglas High School Auditorium. There will be a Concert Conversation with Pickett one hour before each performance.

Pickett’s Juneau concerts mark the end of 14 years as JSO conductor and music director. He has also stepped down from his position with the North State Symphony in California, and is now conductor and music director of the Springfield Symphony in Missouri and the Topeka Symphony in Kansas. In an Empire interview last week, Pickett said his experience in Juneau has been overwhelmingly positive.

“It’s been enormously rewarding all the way through,” he said. “I’ve done 58 or 62 concerts over the years — something like that — and there’s not one of them I’m not proud of.”

Tickets to this weekend’s concerts are on sale at the JACC, Hearthside Books, by calling the Symphony office at 586-4676 and www.juneausymphony.org. Limited pay-as-you-can seats may be available at the door.

•••

As they prepared for the final concert with Picket, JSO members shared some memorable concert moments from the last 14 years.

“Juneau Symphony was one of the main reasons my husband and I moved to Juneau six years ago. After 15 years in Bush Alaska, I was eager to play in a symphony again, and Juneau’s community-based symphony seemed like the perfect vehicle to bring my rusty talents back up to speed.

Due to Kyle’s leadership, my experience in JSO has been far beyond my expectations. Kyle’s enthusiasm and positive encouragement have made rehearsals with him a pleasure. Additionally, I’ve been impressed by how he’s reached out to integrate community resources and attract new audiences and diversify programming. Examples include the kids’ concerts, regular events with the JSO chorus, integration of high school musicians, use of multimedia and the pops concerts (especially Motown!).

Balancing the nature of a community-based symphony of volunteers with the level of professionalism Kyle achieves is not always easy. My husband and I travel frequently, and I remember telling Kyle that I probably wouldn’t be able to play the Mahler symphony a few years ago due to my travel schedule. I was surprised when Kyle made a sincere pitch for me to make every effort to play. “I really NEED you in the cello section!” he said. So, I was inspired to take my hand exerciser and my Mahler recording with me when I traveled, and to set aside time to learn the music quickly when I returned. Playing the Mahler with Kyle did turn out to be an incredible musical experience.”

— Amy Lujan, cellist

“Part of the fun of rehearsals was Kyle telling us not just about the music we were working on, but about how it came to be. The composer’s thoughts, his peers, and even the times he lived in —these all influenced the composition. Kyle’s best stories were always about Brahms, and his relationships with Robert Schumann and his wife, Clara. Brahms is Kyle’s favorite composer, I believe, so the stories were passionate and about the passion of Brahms and the Schumanns. After working hard on the piece of music, a vivid tale of the composer’s life was just the thing to bring us all back into personal contact with Brahms. Because of this, I think the pieces of Brahms that we played, especially the Requiem, were my favorites.

Kyle’s influence on us, the players, has been one of the best things that ever happened to this group.”

— John Staub, bassist

“I served on the search committee that found Kyle in 1999. We had originally planned to have all the auditions during the 1999-2000 season, but when Gordon Wright unexpectedly had to cancel for the April 1999 concert, Kyle happened to be available. So he did his audition concert early.

We played Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture and Beethoven Symphony #5. Neither had ever been performed by the Juneau Symphony at the time. The first rehearsal was in the Floyd Dryden Middle School band room. As Kyle began the rehearsal, I remember looking across at Steve Tada and thinking, “Wow, we get to make real music again!” And we did. And it kept getting better and better.

When I retired from the Juneau School District and my husband, Nathan, and I moved to Oregon, Kyle contacted us immediately to join the North State Symphony in California. We have been fortunate to play with this excellent group since, and have seen how Kyle has taken that orchestra to a high level as well. We have played some fantastic concerts with both symphonies, and have witnessed first hand how Kyle has developed his career from the Dryden band room to the professional concert hall.

I am certainly a much better musician since I have been playing under Kyle’s baton. Because of how he communicates to the orchestra, I have a better understanding of how the music is put together. I am able to pass this knowledge on to my students in the Central Oregon Youth Orchestra and help them become better musicians as well.”

— Julia Bastuscheck, violist

“I’d like to thank Kyle for the special opportunities that he offered. Few conductors would ever allow a tuba player to handle the contra-bassoon lines in the B5, or play a concerto on the euphonium, but Kyle did those very things for me. Working with Kyle has helped me become a more rounded musician and a better listener.”

— Nathan Bastuscheck, tubist

“(A favorite for me was) Maestro Pickett’s premiere of the Alaskan Symphony by Wilson Sawyer. Especially in the slow movement, Kyle showed a great warmth of expression and artistry in the collaborative interpretation of Robert Service poetry with Dr. David Miller, baritone soloist.”

— John Schumann, horn player

To read the full exit interview with Kyle Pickett published in last week’s Arts section, visit http://juneauempire.com/art/2014-06-05/con-brio#.U5i4bpRdX-s.

For more information about this weekend’s shows, visit www.juneausymphony.org.

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