16 QUESTIONS FOR
In Marin / CURRENTS
1Your jacket? … Is so comfortable. I had it made in Thailand; the inscription on the collar is the Thai word for music.
2How many complete symphonies do you have memorized? A few dozen.
3Routine before a show? Earlier in the day, I try to take a nap and then two hours before the performance, I eat
something with carbs, preferably a bento box from Mifune
4Why carbs? I don’t want to run out of energy onstage. I’ve learned this the hard way.
5All-time favorite music to conduct? Whomever I am conducting at the moment.
6What instruments do you play? More like played. I played flute and the cello and I sang — still love singing —
and I can get around on the piano.
7What does it take to be in the orchestra? Talent isn’t enough — it takes discipline, practice and more practice.
8Favorite places you have conducted? So many great places: Amsterdam and Leipzig come to mind.
9Whom would you like to one day perform with? Berlin Philharmonic.
10Why is classical music timeless? It asks big questions of life. That’s why Mozart and Beethoven are still kicking around; they provided answers in extremely satisfying ways.
11Do you worry about losing your audience to the “graying” factor? Not at all. People
come to classical music at any stage of life, but
often once people reach a certain stage, they start
wondering about some bigger questions and looking for answers. Music can provide an insight into
12Are there go-to emotional notes? Minor keys are “more sad” than major keys. But to compare C minor to D minor — Spinal Tap notwithstanding
— there is no particularly sad key.
13Are you a fan of the mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap? I am. It’s one of the greatest movies ever
made. It’s brilliant.
14Favorite sports? The gym.
15Favorite things in Marin? Any time spent in the Headlands is inspirational, and if I have people visiting
I bring them to Muir Woods and Guaymas to look at the view.
16What is left this season at the Marin Symphony? In February, “Quintessential Beethoven, Chic
Tchaikovsky” with virtuoso cellist Austin Huntington; a family
concert Sunday, March 6, “The Magical Music of Disney”; the
Marin Symphony Chorus will perform “Sacred and Secular”
in June; and then finally June 8, Pirates of the Caribbean: The
Curse of the Black Pearl, a full-length film with our
orchestra performing the sound track live. M
While many 15-year-old boys were influence by Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird,” Alasdair
(pronounced Alister, it’s Gaelic) Neale’s defining teenage anthem was Igor Stravinsky’s
Firebird Suite, which he discovered while playing the flute with the National Youth
Orchestra of Great Britain. In fact, the moment he heard the first note of the “Infernal
Dance” he decided he could and would have a career in music. He likens
this musical epiphany to a bolt of lighting. Fast-forward 30 years, and
Neale’s musical resume includes many enviable conductorship positions
around the globe. He’s now in the middle of his 13th successful season with the Marin
Symphony; did previous stints across the bridge as associate conductor of the San
Francisco Symphony and music director of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra;
and has put in podium time in Amsterdam, Leipzig, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Madrid,
Paris, Prague, Dublin, Copenhagen and Vienna. Beyond music, the maestro of Marin loves
to travel, especially with his partner of 19 years, Lowell Tong. MIMI TO WLE