James Lowe, the Spokane Symphony's music director, says closures could completely change the orchestra's model

James Lowe should be in Spokane right now.

Since becoming the music director of the Spokane Symphony last year, he's been splitting his time between the Inland Northwest, Finland (where he conducts the Vaasa City Orchestra) and his primary residence in Scotland. He was supposed to be here for last weekend's party announcing the symphony's upcoming season, and conducting a masterworks concert the next weekend. Since then, the remainder of the orchestra's 2019-20 season has been canceled, and he's holed up in his home in the Scottish countryside.

His fiancée, Charlotte, has been gardening a lot, and they just had a delivery of wine come to the house. They're concerned that the pandemic could delay their spring wedding, though Lowe admits it was going to be a small affair anyway.

"But I'm mostly worried about our musicians in the orchestra," Lowe says. "It's this feeling that there's something out in the world that none of us can do anything about. ... In moments like this, music is usually what people turn to, but we're entirely shut down right now."

Symphonies around the country are following suit, and once everything goes back to normal, Lowe wonders if they'll merely go back to the old way of doing things.

"The old-fashioned model of the symphony orchestra is we put on a concert once a week, and you're very lucky to come, and thank you very much," he says. "I think that was changing in any case, and I suspect this crisis now will speed up that change. The old model will be pretty untenable when we all go back to work."

And of all the classical artists, the one he turns to in difficult times is Beethoven.

"He led a terrible life with heartbreak and with death, and yet his music is full of incredible hope," Lowe says. "No matter what happened to him, he always ended it on a note of hopefulness. There's a resilience to the human spirit that I look to, and I think we can rely on that to get us through whatever's coming."

Pompeii: The Immortal City @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Through May 3, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • or

About The Author

Nathan Weinbender

Nathan Weinbender is the Inlander's Music & Film editor. He is also a film critic for Spokane Public Radio, where he has co-hosted the weekly film review show Movies 101 since 2011.