When applying to be a Guest Conductor for the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra, Dina Gilbert knew she wanted to honor those who serve. She wanted to center Fayetteville’s military community and dedicate the concert to Fort Bragg and all civil service members. The concert she will conduct on March 25, closing out FSO’s 2016-2017 season, is appropriately titled Heroes Among Us.
The early stages of Gilbert’s journey towards conducting involved the military. At age 12, she started playing clarinet and joined the Cadet Program in her hometown of Saint-Georges de Beauce, Canada. In this program, she had her first chance to conduct marching bands and to participate in the International Festival of Quebec Military Music — through which she met military musicians from around the world. At age 18, she joined the Reserve in the Royal Canadian Air Force as a Cadet Instructor Cadre Officer, working to give youth the same opportunities she had, and having more opportunities to conduct throughout.
But she didn’t yet realize that conducting could be her full-time profession. She enrolled in an optional conducting class as she later pursued an Undergraduate degree in clarinet. It was there she met a professional orchestra conductor for the first time, Paolo Bellomia. “After a few classes, he said to me that I had an intuitive way of communicating music through gesture and he offered to give me private lessons. From that point on, I realized that I wanted to become a conductor ... and that passion never left me since,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert has now founded her own chamber orchestra, Ensemble Arkea; served for three seasons as assistant conductor of the Symphonic Orchestra of Montreal; and served as a guest conductor for orchestras throughout Canada, Europe and China. She made her US debut last year at the Eugene Symphony in Oregon.
The 2016-2017 season has been unique for the FSO, as they are in the process of finding a new permanent music conductor. To find this person, the FSO board has introduced a new guest conductor for each concert this season; Gilbert will be the 5th and last auditioning candidate. Fouad Fakhouri served in the position for 11 years and stepped down almost one year ago. “He took it from being a community orchestra to a professional orchestra,” Director of Artistic Operations and Marketing Julia Atkins said. So they want to make sure his replacement is truly excellent. “The board chose their favorite candidates and built a season around their unique talents and interests,” Atkins said. FSO President Christine Kastner spoke of her excitement about Gilbert’s approach: “We were so pleased that she had researched our area well enough to understand the significance of the military in our community and that she decided to program a concert that demonstrated that understanding,” she said.
In preparing for Heroes Among Us, Gilbert combined many lenses of interpretation. She included Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 3,” often subtitled “Eroica,” which means “Heroic.” “The symphony is quite romantic in sound … there are so many ideals in it. You can feel that Beethoven wanted to write a piece about the kind of man who would contribute to history changing.” she said. Joshua Busman, PhD in musicology, professor at UNC Pembroke and “FSO Music Nerd,” agrees: “One of the primary things that I love about orchestral music is the way that it connects us to the past. Reading about the [French Revolution] might give you some idea of what was going on at the time, but listening to Beethoven’s Eroica … connects you to those moments in history in a profound and visceral way.”
But this isn’t just a concert of classical odes to heroism, timeless as they may be. Gilbert also asked her colleague Simon Leclerc, who is well known for composing music for films and pop artists, to arrange Ramin Djawadi’s Game of Thrones theme. “I wanted people who are less acquainted to classical music to realize that maybe they already do know and like classical music,” Gilbert said. Gilbert also asked Leclerc to compose a new piece in tribute to military members and the experiences they go through. “You can feel from the music (Leclerc created) the aspiration of the soldier and also the sad and the fearful moments … and how it is to come back and what you’re so blessed with after all the experiences.”
Gilbert has included other musical delights that you’ll have to attend to find out about! Tickets can be purchased at https://squareup.com/market/fayetteville-symphony-orchestra. They cost $10.28 for children and students, $22.43 for military members and senior citizens and $25.23 for adults. The show will be held at Huff Concert Hall of Methodist University on March 25, starting at 7:30 p.m.