Symphony’s Maestro Brings Encouraging Words

September 21, 2011 / by / 0 Comment

By Doug Carroll
Communications Staff

Insisting that “there’s never a good time or a bad time to be in the arts,” Phoenix Symphony music director Michael Christie gave an insightful and engaging talk Tuesday night at Ethington Theatre, sharing career tips with the largely student audience on hand.

Christie, only 37, is already in his eighth season as the symphony’s maestro. A former trumpet player from Buffalo, N.Y., he went to school at Oberlin (Ohio) College and his career took off from there. When he won a conducting competition in Finland as a college junior, his path became clear.

“It takes nerves of steel to be an artist,” Christie told his audience, “and it always has. It’s a roller-coaster existence, with the idea of creating something with a great endpoint. Ideally, every experience along the way feeds into the next one.”

Phoenix Symphony Music Director Michael Christie.

From his laptop, Christie played video clips of the indie rock band Arcade Fire and performers Joanna Newsom, a singer/harpist, and Jake Shimabukuro, a ukulele virtuoso, to demonstrate that there’s still plenty of room at the top.

“No matter what you do, if you’re excellent at it — and can demonstrate that — people will want to hear it,” he said. “Success in the arts is such a personal thing, and I hope you will remember that. People who experience what you’ve done will have a visceral response to it. You can change how people feel.”

Christie said the only criteria for his career at this point are to be surrounded by like-minded musicians and a community that supports them.

He had a short list of pointers for the students, many of them from the University’s College of Fine Arts and Production:

  • Be observant to everything that relates to your area of specialty.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of relationships.
  • Think about what your “artistic victories” will look like and get a feeling for how people respond to what you do.
  • Don’t be afraid to make a mistake.
  • Enjoy the process.

Christie said he wishes he had done a better job of maintaining relationships from college while he was busy furthering his career. Lately, he has been reconnecting with some of those individuals.

“You can’t underestimate the relationships you’re forming right now,” he said to the students. “There is power in enthusiastic, talented people coming together and feeding each other’s fires.”

Reach Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or [email protected].

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