What: Wenatchee Valley Symphony season-opening concert
Where: Wenatchee High School Auditorium, 1101 Millerdale Ave.
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Cost: $16 adults, $8 students, available from the Performing Arts Center of Wenatchee, Avalon Music, Chinook Music, Plaza Super Jet
Tickets and information: 663-2787 or pacwen.org
Of note: Featuring Young Artist winners Maggie Whiteman and Katrina Whitman.
Get tickets at the door starting at 6 p.m. Saturday
On the Web: wenatcheevalleysymphony.org
◗ Holiday concert
7 p.m. Dec. 4
Vaughan Williams, Five Variants on “Dives and Lazarus”; Tchaikovsky, Nutcracker Suite No. 1; Holcombe, “’Twas the Night Before Christmas”
◗ Song concert
7 p.m. Feb. 26: Mozart, “Figaro” Overture; Prokofiev, Violin Concerto No. 1; Dvorak, Symphony No. 8
Featuring soloist Heather Netz, violin
◗ Gala concert
March 12, venue to be announced
◗ Dance concert
7 p.m. April 16
Debussy, “Afternoon of a Faun” prelude; Rimsky-Korsakov, “Capriccio Espagnol”
Featuring soloist Kara Hunnicutt, cello
◗ Friends concert
4 p.m. May 21, Performing Arts Center of Wenatchee
Featuring Nikolas Caoile, piano, and the Icicle Creek Piano Trio
Of note: Season tickets cost $60 to $70 for adults and $28 to $35 for students; a $150 premium package offers special benefits.
It’s probably the first question anybody asks Nikolas Caoile, upon seeing his name in print for the first time.
“It’s pronounced ‘Koh-WILL-ee,’” says the new conductor of the Wenatchee Valley Symphony. “My last name’s actually Filipino, from my father. My mother’s Vietnamese.”
The Central Washington University music professor, 32, became the symphony’s newest music director in June and spent a hectic summer programming the group’s 2010-11 season. He takes the place of conductor Mary Zyskowski, who led the symphony from 2003 to 2009.
The Portland native was the orchestra’s guest conductor for a February concert, and shortly after that the symphony board approached him about taking on the role as the ninth permanent conductor in its 63-year history. He had previous experience conducting community and youth orchestras all over the Northwest; he’s the director of orchestral activities at CWU, where he’s taught since 2006.
His debut concert as conductor on Saturday features Gioachino Rossini’s overture to “The Barber of Seville,” plus solo turns by the winners of the symphony’s yearly Young Artists scholarship competition: first-place winner Maggie Whiteman on flute and runner-up Katrina Whitman on viola. In his other musical role as a pianist, Caoile performs in the symphony’s special concert of chamber music May 21, 2011. His wife, Melissa Schiel, is a mezzosoprano vocalist.
Go! Magazine: How did music enter your life?
Nikolas Caoile: I had two different kinds of genes. The musical genes came from my father, and the mathematical genes came from my mother. My mom always wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer, but I had that music fusing in my genes, and I’ve always loved it. I took music and band in high school, as a percussionist. I really wanted to be part of the orchestras — I just loved that string sound, and soon got the opportunity to conduct one of the orchestras, because I was nagging my conductor at the time, saying, ‘Y’know, I really would like to try this.’ He gave me five minutes on the podium and I’ve been hooked ever since.
Go!: You’d be the second conductor of the Wenatchee Valley Symphony to have a background in percussion, to my knowledge.
Caoile: Well, my principal instrument is piano. Getting into percussion was just a means of getting into the orchestras. Orchestras don’t have many piano parts, so I took up percussion so I could be back there. I often had a score with me, and I had many measures of rests to count, so I would watch (the conductor).
Go!: Did the conducting and directing require you to learn new instincts, or was it a natural fit?
Caoile: I think I found out that part of the skill of being a conductor is being able to communicate nonverbally with your body. I found out I had a talent for that first and foremost. I could move, and it made sense — my physical vocabulary actually made sense. But the other stuff, I really had to work at. I really had to work at learning all the instruments of the orchestra, developing repertoire. A lot of our job is administrative skills. I had to really understand how to build and manage an orchestra. Those things take more time.
Go!: What do you expect of your players in Wenatchee?
Caoile: My goal this year is just to raise the artistic standard of the orchestra. I want the orchestra to play well, and I want them to feel good about what they’re playing, and I want the audience to feel engaged by that accomplishment, for one. My second goal is for everyone in the North Central (Washington) area to know there’s a symphony in Wenatchee. … I’d like to get the word out that Wenatchee has a cultural center that is the Wenatchee symphony. Part of our job is not just to play the concerts but to get the word out and get the audience excited about what we’re doing. So one of our goals this year is to really reach out to the high schools, the public schools — to be visible as performers.
Go!: How do you want to format seasons in the future?
Caoile: It’s a little bit like cooking a meal for guests. You sort of have to plan the shape of the whole evening, or in this case, the shape of the whole season. Part of that is to mix up classical favorites with pops favorite, sometimes fusing those programs with new compositions. We’ve had a lot of submissions from local composers. Also, part of that is trying to feature local musicians as soloists. The other thing is just to kind of see what kind of repertoire is good for the orchestra — what is rewarding for them, yet challenging.
Go!: Do you find any distinct difference between directing an orchestra composed of students — they’re there to learn, they paid the tuition — versus a community orchestra, where most likely you’re going to have a group who just really like playing music?
Caoile: That’s exactly right. Students here are taking classes, and what I love about is they’re coming to repertoire for the first time. They’re playing these favorites, these classics, like Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony or (Ottorino Respighi’s) “Pines of Rome” or (Modest Mussorgsky’s) “Pictures at an Exhibition” — they’re coming into it for the first time with a sort of childlike curiosity. And they’re allowed to unravel this music over the course of a quarter, which is 10 weeks. Conducting the Wenatchee symphony is different, because it’s people that just want to play. It’s what I love about orchestra — it’s people reminding me that why I came into this business in the first place was for the music. … They’re doing this to feed their soul. They’re doing it because they want to play. That’s very, very exciting to me.
Jefferson Robbins: 664-7123