When Your Mom's Part of the Orchestra

Question: Your mother is a violinist in the New York Philharmonic. What is it like to conduct her?

Alan Gilbert: My mother is a violinist, a wonderful \r\nviolinist, still playing in the New York Philharmonic.  I was more aware\r\n of it... I mean, it's not that I forget about it; I’ll never be able to\r\n do that.  It's a very unique situation—a kind of fantastic, wonderful \r\nsituation.  Early in the time I was conducting the orchestra, the first \r\ntimes with the orchestra, I certainly was more aware of the fact that my\r\n mother was sitting over to my left.  Now, frankly, there's so much to \r\nthink about, there's so much to worry about, there are so many elements \r\nthat I have to keep in my mind that I would say that her presence has \r\nassumed it's sort of proper proportion now.  Of course, I'm aware she's \r\nthere.  I'm happy she's there.  I'm lucky that she's playing really, \r\nreally well, and there are no issues as far as that goes because I guess\r\n technically I'm her boss, and if there were any sort of issues I'd be \r\nthe one who would have to deal with it.  She's at the top of her game, \r\nand that keeps it simple.

Does she still give you advice?

Alan Gilbert:  Absolutely.  She's me mother, after all.  \r\nShe will often... I mean, sometimes it's silly advice, like “Oh, I \r\ndidn't like those clothes you wore, or whatever.”  But she says, “Here \r\nit felt a little bit pushed” or “It feels like we could use a little bit\r\n more time on this.”  This is really interesting feedback to get, and \r\nbecause of the hierarchy and because of the nature of the situation, \r\nconductors tend not to get a lot of feedback from the orchestra, which \r\nis probably good because it could become really messy if everybody in \r\nthe orchestra felt that it was okay to give his or her advice.  And, you\r\n know, there's some boundaries that are probably worth preserving.

It's\r\n also very useful because the musicians are smart and they have a lot of\r\n perspective and experience.  Good advice is always welcome, and it \r\nhappens that my mother feels comfortable saying things.  She basically \r\nleaves me to my work, but occasionally she will definitely say, “Oh, \r\nthis was a little fast,” or “We need a little more help with the beat at\r\n this point.”  It's useful.
\r\nRecorded on June 18, 2010
\r\nInterviewed by David Hirschman

The conductor's mother is a violinist in the New York Philharmonic, but he says her presence has assumed it's proper proportion. "I'm lucky that she's playing really, really well, and there are no issues ... because I guess technically I'm her boss."

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