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A New Beginning with new VSO music director Andrew Crust

The VSO season opening concert "A New Beginning" is Saturday, September 30th. This is their first concert with new music director, Andrew Crust, plus it features Brahms' "Double Concerto for Violin and Cello" with violinist, Simone Porter and cellist, Joshua Roman.
Vermont Symphony Orchestra
The VSO season opening concert "A New Beginning" is Saturday, Sept. 30. This is their first concert with new music director Andrew Crust, plus it features Brahms' "Double Concerto for Violin and Cello" with violinist Simone Porter and cellist Joshua Roman.

Vermont Public Classical host James Stewart speaks with Andrew Crust, the new music director of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra. Andrew's first season with the VSO kicks off Saturday, Sept. 30 with a program aptly titled "A New Beginning."

Andrew Crust: Now is the time to come to the symphony if you've never been before, even if you are a veteran concertgoer. Because the orchestra sounds incredible. We're bringing world class guest artists. There's really no reason that everybody should not want to come and see this.

James Stewart: That’s the voice of Andrew Crust, the new music director of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, who is stepping into the shoes of longtime VSO director, Jamie Laredo…

Andrew Crust: …very big shoes, and I'm gonna tell the orchestra, just like Jamie, I promise not to work one year past my 80th birthday.

James Stewart: Andrew’s first season with the VSO kicks off Saturday, Sept. 30 with a program aptly titled “A New Beginning” featuring works by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Bedrich Smetana and Johannes Brahms. We’ll hear all about that performance in a moment, but first Andrew shares with us some of his vision for the future of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra.

Andrew Crust: Our goal, I think, is not just to increase our ticket sales, but on a larger level, I think we really want to increase music engagement and participation. I don't believe in the old adage, “If you build it, they will come.” I think it’s better to go to that community and provide some material that is familiar to them. As you know we are a statewide orchestra, one of the only ones in the country, so we do try and get out to every corner of the state in whatever way we can. We also want to get out to new venues as often as we can.

I feel like we're living in a time where a lot of people don't have that connection with music except for perhaps recorded music, and it's such an incredible thing that we do; these 70 musicians, virtuosic musicians, coming together and creating beautiful acoustic music spanning the range of hundreds of years. The content itself is never gonna get old, and I think there's a hope for a new wave of interest here. So, we're trying to create a welcoming environment with our programming, a lot of diverse programming.

We're trying to bring in people who have never been to the symphony before for whatever reason, and so, we're looking into pops offerings, jazz-fest collaborations, more contemporary music. We're also thinking about adding young persons concerts, perhaps family concerts. This is just really important to me as a person who's conducted a lot of youth orchestras and done a lot of teaching.

James Stewart: How does the Vermont Symphony Orchestra reach out to young musicians and encourage that musical engagement you’re talking about?

Andrew Crust: We do a side by side with the Vermont Youth Symphony where those kids actually get to play with the Vermont Symphony and have that modeling on the stage and try some new, beefier repertoire. But we also embed some of the Vermont Youth Symphony musicians, high-schoolers mostly, in the orchestra for select concerts and select pieces. The more advanced players have a chance to do that and they never forget that.

James Stewart: So back to the season opening concert, what’s on the program for Sept. 30?

Andrew Crust: I'm so excited to get started with this first program. First half, we start with Coleridge-Taylor who was a Black, British composer with a white, English mother and a Black father from Africa. We're doing a beautiful concert opener called “Ballade in A minor,” which is just a favorite of mine. Something I want to bring to our audience. We've never played his music before.

Then we follow that with better known music perhaps, Smetana’s Ma Vlast, or My Homeland. We're doing a few segments from that. The most popular of course is “The Moldau.” Smetana was a Czech composer. There are not very many from that time, so he's very proud of his homeland. The other movement we're doing is called “Bohemia's Fields and Meadows.” And this music is just so lush and romantic, and I think it pairs perfectly with the Coleridge-Taylor; right in that era, right in that time frame, setting the stage for the second half, which will be all about Brahms.

Brahms, for me, is one of my top three favorite composers. The same was true for Jamie Laredo, so we agree on that. The concerto was already programmed and that's similar for the rest of the season because we have to book our globe-trotting musicians far out in advance. So that's the Brahms “Double Concerto for Violin and Cello” with Simone Porter and Joshua Roman, world class young soloists, beautiful piece, last thing that he wrote for orchestra.

All of this music just creates such an effect. When you have the full orchestra playing this music from the romantic era, full rich sounds. It's like nothing you've ever heard in your life, these soaring melodies and the driving rhythm. And it does not compare to any music recording to have that room just reverberating with the live acoustic sound is absolutely incredible. And this is some of the most colorful and rich music ever written. It's a great way to start the season.

James Stewart: Don’t miss the season opening concert of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra under the direction of their new music director, Andrew Crust. The program “A New Beginning” takes place at the Flynn Center in Burlington on Sept. 30 at 7:30pm. For more details and tickets go to

James Stewart is Vermont Public Classical's afternoon host. As a composer, he is interested in many different genres of music; writing for rock bands, symphony orchestras and everything in between.