After Eckart Preu took the final bow of his 15-year tenure as the Spokane Symphony's musical director, an international search for a replacement ensued. That yielded several worthy candidates, but James Lowe was eventually selected as the eighth music director in the symphony's long history.
The British-born, Scotland-based conductor's tenure begins on Sept. 14, when the Spokane Symphony kicks off its 74th season. Lowe hopes to demystify the art of classical music for Inland Northwest audiences, while also staying true to the work of history's great composers. Here are some insights he shared with us.
Connecting with an audience should be an orchestra's top priority
"An orchestra is nothing without an audience," Lowe says. "The function of music is not just as an entertainment, not just playing music at people."
And Spokane is the ideal city for that kind of connection, he says.
"In a place like New York City, how can you possibly engage meaningfully with people on a long-term basis? It's almost impossible. Here, what I love ... is that there is an almost direct connection from the orchestra to the community, and vice versa."
Classical music isn't rocket science
There's a common misconception that you can only enjoy classical music if you have an extensive knowledge of any given composer or piece. Not so, says Lowe.
"If you've got a pair of ears and beating heart, you've got all the equipment you need to enjoy classical music," he says. "It's just music, and it's some of the greatest music ever written. And there's something magical about having an audience, a communal experience."
It's OK to be enthusiastic about music
Many classical aficionados can approach the music with a straight-faced, buttoned-down demeanor, but Lowe says he appreciates unbridled excitement. Most countries aren't prone to standing ovations, he says, but American audiences aren't shy about leaping from their seats following a particularly standout performance.
"Enthusiasm is not unsophisticated," he says. "That's why I love being in the states: There is an unapologetic enthusiasm for things that people like that is wonderful."