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A Conversation with Conductor Julian Pellicano

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Julian Pellicano Conducts the Vermont Symphony Orchestra's 2022 Summer Tour

Helen Lyons: After a two year hiatus, the Vermont Symphony Orchestra's summer tour is back, with performances throughout the state. Julian Pellicano will be conducting this year's tour, and he is also the VSOs fourth candidate as the orchestra continues its search for a new music director. Julian is currently the associate conductor of Canada's Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and principal conductor of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

Let's get to know Julian Pellicano.

Julian Pellicano: I started playing music when I was five years old and very early on, I knew that I wanted to be a musician, but didn't really go through the typical training. I ended up playing a lot of different kinds of instruments. My musical journey at that point, as a young person was very free, let's put it that way. And I played a lot of different kinds of music, a lot of improvised music, and it, it was a very interesting way to grow up as a musician. My main instrument, I'm a percussionist. So when I went to conservatory, we play contemporary music, and many of my professors were really on the fringe of the most avant-garde music being played. So, I've had that experience and really love and appreciate what's new and never been heard before. I listen and really appreciate all different kinds of music. Really, it's hard for me to hear something that I don't think is kind of cool.

Helen: How has your own musical journey influenced your interest in bringing younger audiences to classical music?

Julian: Well, I think that interest has come from some opportunities that I was given. Being an artist-in-residence with the Norfolk Chamber Festival since 2008, working with some of the most talented young composers from around the country, and helping to guide them with my colleagues in writing pieces, and what it means to be a composer today. Another part of that is my work with the Winnipeg Symphony. During my time there, I've had a lot of opportunities to create concerts and experiences for young listeners and to go out into the community and educate, expose them to what we do and try to do that in a fun and engaging way. It's essential for any symphony orchestra. It's becoming a part of every orchestra's repertoire of what they do, and it should be done well, with seriousness in its preparation, but in fun and engagement in its execution.

Helen: Tell us about your interest in the integration of music and dance and the visual element of the dance medium.

Julian: If you listen to classical repertoire going back several hundred years, what you'll hear is a foundation in dance music. Feeling and understanding those dance movements is of the utmost importance to getting the meter correct, to getting the tempo correct, to getting the interpretation in the vicinity of what the composer was probably thinking about. That's something I had been thinking about before I started working with a ballet company, and now it's only made my symphonic conducting more focused on trying to get to the essence of what's behind all of these notes, which is often something either danced or sung.

My mother is an artist, and so when I was younger, I spent a lot more time in museums than I did in concert halls. When I listen to music, I often just naturally create some imagery. So even if I'm not working with a ballet or a film or some sort of other collaboration, often there's some, some kind of image-related narrative running through my mind when I'm conducting a purely symphonic work.

Helen: You'll be leading the VSOs very popular 4th of July Summer Tour. What can audiences expect this year on the program?

Julian: The concert is called “Celebrate.” We're celebrating birth of our nation, but we're also celebrating coming back and doing the tour once again. I was first expected to do the tour in the summer of 2020, but now we're back, it's 2022 and it is a thing to celebrate that we can all come back together and experience this wonderful concert in so many different cities throughout the state of Vermont. I really wanted to create a program of American music and a couple of classic favorites, explore some different landscapes of what's going on in American composition today with pieces that would be great for a concert that's outdoors, a concert that will have families involved in it.

We have some really legendary composers on the program like John Williams and Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein. We also have some other composers who the audience may not have heard of: Quinn Mason, a wonderful young American composer. We're playing some music by Florence Price who is one of the early African American composers who is now gaining notoriety in the sense of what a prolific composer she actually was and the great quality of her output. And so we would love the audience to experience her music. We also have some music by Nancy Bloomer Deussen, another American composer who wrote a really beautiful piece called American Hymn. And so it's a bit eclectic, a lot of American music and just a lot of fun.

I'm really looking forward to my time with the Vermont Symphony. I'm looking forward to my time in Vermont, it's such a beautiful place. And one of the things that I really love to do is conduct concerts where we really have an opportunity to connect and communicate and talk to the audience. And this is one of those concerts and I couldn't be more excited to be a part of it.

Helen: That was conductor Julian Pellicano, the Vermont Symphony Orchestra's latest music director candidate. He joins the orchestra to conduct the VSO’s Summer Tour July 1st through 10th. Find out more about performance dates and locations at vso.org.

VPR Classical’s morning host, Helen Lyons, is a Williston native. She holds a BA in Music from Wellesley College and Artist Diplomas from the Royal Academy of Music in London, and College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. She has enjoyed an international singing career spanning three continents, performing in Europe, China, The Philippines and the USA.