We have to accommodate the soloists’ interpretations because that's the point. They have their own interpretation of the pieces and they won the competition because of that. So, my job is to kind of be the intermediary between the soloist and the orchestra to help the soloists adjust to the orchestra, and also to make the orchestra extremely aware of how flexible they have to be when the soloists might be doing something with a little bit more freedom than just playing everything strictly in tempo — so it's a mutual process that gets easier and easier the more you do it.
DTH: Are there any special highlights of the show that you're looking forward to or a particular soloist that you're especially excited about watching?
TK: I’m excited about all of them because, first of all, they're all really talented. We do have a couple of unusual ones this year in terms of the instruments they play. The normal ones, or the more common ones, are the piano soloist playing the movement of a piano concerto and the singer. We often have singers win, and they will sing maybe a couple of arias from an opera, but we also have a percussionist who's playing on the marimba, which is not as common a solo opportunity.
And also out of the ordinary is the double bass. We think of the bass as kind of a foundational instrument of the orchestra, and of course people know bass as a jazz instrument — plucked bass in the jazz combo, something like that — but for a bass player to have an actual melodic solo piece is not common and it's particularly challenging for the bass to play something like that. It's not as quick or flexible an instrument as a violin would be, for example. We have a very gifted bass player who’s a senior. He entered with a very charming and interesting piece, that he's going to be playing as a solo. It’s the first time we've had a double bass soloist in all the years I've been here, so that's kind of a novelty for the audience to hear a a solo bass, and to hear the marimba, and then of course the wonderful piano and voice. They're all terrific so I can't say I'm favoring any of them, but I'm just pointing out the unusual nature of a couple of the winners.
DTH: If you were trying to sell tickets to someone who maybe doesn't usually go to orchestra concerts and doesn't know much about the music, what would be your selling points?
TK: I think one of the selling points would be that we have four soloists who are all undergraduate students, and we have an orchestra that is made up of students. We have an orchestra that is about 90 players and only about half of them are music majors. We have a lot of non-majors who play their instruments really well — they've been playing all their lives and want to keep doing it in college even though they're not majors.
It's an orchestra of a lot of undergrads, a few graduate students and a couple of alumni, but it's basically an all-student evening, and I'd like to showcase the fact that we have this incredible pool of talent at this university, many of whom will not go on to careers as musicians, but they have this love and passion for music that brings them to want to play in a group like the orchestra, and then that wants to go on and try out for the concerto competition and play as a soloist. I think that's a selling point that I really want to emphasize that we have a vast array of musical talent that people should be going to hear, and I think they will be amazed at how well these musicians play.
Also, the fact that we have so many different pieces on this program. There's a lot of variety. You know, we have these pieces by an American composer, and a piece by Russian composer, and an Italian, and a German, so there's a lot of cultural variety as well as period variety. We have music that's more recent from the 20th century and music from the 19th century, so I would emphasize the variety of the selections on the program. Not everybody's going to like every single piece we play, but I think there's something for everybody on the program that they will identify with or resonate with.