On these two nights, Reno Philharmonic music director Barry Jekowsky will conduct two performances as a “grand finale” to his 10-year tenure with the philharmonic.
Jekowsky’s career started when he began studying the piano at the age of 5. He continued learning from there, ultimately studying at The Juilliard School at the age of 8. Jekowsky has been the conductor for the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington D.C. from 1994 to 1998 before becoming music director for the Reno Philharmonic.
“I fell in love with Reno,” Jekowsky said. “I was surprised at how the community embraced the arts.”
As music director, Jekowsky has helped the program grow and flourish.
“My work with the Reno Philharmonic has never been about me,” he said. “We I started the Reno Philharmonic was almost bankrupt. My second year there we had a surplus.”
In addition to securing a financial future for the philharmonic, Jekowsky was able to expand the musical group’s performances and create two youth programs: the Discover Music Ensembles and Young People Concerts.
Yearning for a matinee concert, Jekowsky also started Sunday afternoon shows — an effort that met with success.
“The Sunday concert is sold out all the time,” he said. “Our ticket sales have been growing when, around the country, they’ve been diminishing. We must be doing something right.”
Doing something right is an understatement. Under Jekowsky’s supervision, the Reno Philharmonic has been able to extend its reach and bring in diverse audiences to enjoy the season’s diverse music.
“The whole season is about music that the audience has loved and I’ve loved,” Jekowsky said. “When I thought about my final concert, I thought about American music.
“American music is a large part of my musical identity,” Jekowsky added. “American music is my passion.”
For his final performance, Jekowsky will lead the orchestra in two major pieces. The 1945 Pulitzer Prize-winning “Appalachian Spring,” composed by Aaron Copland, and “Carmina Burana,” composed by Carl Orff.
For music lovers, “Appalachian Spring” and “Carmina Burana” pose as a stark contrast to each other, but for Jekowsky, who seeks out interesting combinations, it is fascinating.
“I wanted to choose from the American work that defines what America is and was,” Jekowsky said about selecting Copland’s piece. “It takes a large place of my heart.”
“Carmina Burana” is practically a request from the audience. Jekowsky has lead the orchestra in sold-out performances of the piece in 2000 and 2004.
“I wanted to do a bombastic (piece),” Jekowsky said of his second choice. “It’s a real thrilling choral piece.”
For “Carmina Burana” a choir will join the Reno Philharmonic to bring the stage count to nearly 400 people.
“I wanted to include everyone I care about,” Jekowsky said of the massive arrangement. “That includes the philharmonic and the singers.
“I wanted to leave everyone on a high note,” Jekowsky added.
Jekowsky’s tenure as music director has focused on the Reno Philharmonic and Jekowsky has a lot to be proud of.
“It’s been just a great experience,” Jekowsky said. “As I leave the Reno Philharmonic, I’m very proud of the legacy I’ve left behind.”
Performances for Jekowsky’s grand finale will be Sunday at 4 p.m. and Tuesday at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $26 with a discount for seniors; “rush” tickets will be available to students for $8 a half hour before the show.
Jekowsky will speak a half hour before the performance as a “Preview from the Podium.” Also, if ticket holders show up at 3 p.m. on Sunday, they can be in a commercial for the philharmonic’s 40th season.
For more information or to buy tickets, visit www.renophil.com or call 323-6393.