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Music-Theater-Dance

Symphony's incoming music director gives a peek at what's to come

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    Alain Trudel, the incoming music director and principal conductor of the Toledo Symphony, left, poses for a portrait with Zak Vassar, the group's president and CEO.

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    Alain Trudel

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    Alain Trudel, the new music director and principal conductor of the Toledo Symphony Orchestra, answers a question during an interview at the Toledo Symphony Office in June.

    THE BLADE
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On Saturday afternoon, Alain Trudel will conduct his first concert since being appointed the music director of the Toledo Symphony. Although not officially in residence until 2018, the weekend marks one of three programs he will offer this season.

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Alain Trudel

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The affable French-Canadian, much in demand, turned down two other major offers to accept the position at the Toledo Symphony’s helm.

His reasoning?

“I wanted to conduct an orchestra where I would actually be in residence,” he said. Very often, conductors of ensembles such as the Toledo Symphony fly in for a handful of concerts every season. They arrive a week or so before a concert, hold a couple of rehearsals, conduct the concert, and then fly off to another job.

“What I found exciting about the [Toledo] position was that the orchestra was looking for someone who would take up residence in Toledo,” Trudel said. “They wanted someone who would become an active part of the community and the daily life of the symphony. It was exactly the type of relationship for which I was hoping.”

Toledo Symphony CEO and President Zak Vassar shares Trudel’s excitement.

“We need to let the people of northwest Ohio know that this is their symphony,” Vassar said. “Both the players and the music need to be an active part of what happens in our community. We have been good at this in the past; with Alain in residence, we can make this happen even more.”

Trudel brings a three-pronged plan to Toledo.

“First, we need to continue the tradition of musical excellence that has already been established,” he said. “The [Toledo Symphony] has a reputation for delivering amazing aesthetic experiences characteristic of orchestras at a much higher professional level. I hope I can bring my own experience to the table offering new insights and artistic vision, continuing the established path.

“Second, we must serve the community by playing for as many experiences and occasions as possible. This means I, personally, need to be involved in every series the [symphony] offers, not just the classics. I need to do pops; I need to do opera; I need to do Mozart. This will help me to understand how I can better serve the surrounding community; to help the symphony impact the largest audience possible.

“Finally, we must be involved in education. Teachers and schools have the hardest and often most-thankless jobs. They are tasked with helping our children become good citizens. We at the orchestra can be a part of that. We can use our music to help mold lives; to enrich and improve the artistic well-being of our children.”

Trudel began his own musical career in high school as a trombonist. 

“At the same time, I was also playing trombone in a local community band,” he said. “It seems I was somewhat of a natural. At 17, I started playing as a substitute for the Montreal Symphony.

“I went on to study at the conservatory in Montreal and spent the next 10 years playing trombone. I was even the first Canadian to be named a Yamaha international artist. This continued until my 30s when I shifted to conducting.”

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Alain Trudel, the new music director and principal conductor of the Toledo Symphony Orchestra, answers a question during an interview at the Toledo Symphony Office in June.

THE BLADE
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His life became a story of working up through the ranks, moving between several major orchestras in Canada.

“I often heard it said that I should have a manager,” he said. “I never got around to that. I just made my way by working hard. I did auditions; sometimes I got the jobs, sometimes I didn’t. I just kept going, learning as I went, and new things kept coming my way.”

Eventually, he was named the principal youth and family conductor of the National Arts Centre Orchestra and musical adviser of the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra in the Canadian capital. He is also music director of L’Orchestre Symphonique de Laval.

Now, he will call Toledo home, officially beginning residence in April or May. He has, however, already begun behind the scenes. Planning for the 2018-19 season is well under way, although he isn’t revealing any secrets about what is in store.

This season, he will visit Toledo every couple of weeks.

“My goal is to get to know the orchestra, the art community, and the business community as well,” he said. “I can’t wait to be here. This year of transition will allow me to prepare, so that when I am finally here, I will have hit the ground running.

“In fact, I have already said no to most of my guest appearance offerings and stopped my work at the University of Ottawa to create space for Toledo,” he continued. “I want to be an active part of this Toledo community. “

Asked about his artistic vision for the Toledo Symphony, Trudel said: “Symphony concerts are like a meal. They must be balanced. Repertoire that is safe and familiar paired with [material] that stretches the mind. This way, even the challenging can be presented in a manner that still ensures a good symphonic experience for the listener.

“I also want to feature new American composers. In Canada, I sought to advocate for Canadian composers; here in America, I should do the same for American composers.”

Trudel will conduct the opening concert of the Welltower Mozart and More Series at its new time, 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the Franciscan Center, Lourdes University, 6832 Convert Blvd., Sylvania. Soloist for the program is pianist Frances Renzi performing Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 6 in Bb major and Piano Concerto no. 21 in C Major. Tickets and more information 419-246-8000 or toledosymphony.com.

Contact Wayne F. Anthony at classics@theblade.com.

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