Born in Colombia but trained and now based in Vienna, conductor Andrés Orozco-Estrada appreciates the necessity of straddling many worlds. As the music director of the Houston Symphony, he’s on a mission to attract new audiences to classical music. In Houston, he’s introduced post-concert Q&A sessions, short remarks from the podium, video interviews projected overhead between stage set-ups and other means of what he calls “building a relationship with the audience.”
His approach appears to be working. A writer for the Texas online site Arts & Culture observed that he met a Venezuelan couple who were first-time attendees at a Houston Symphony concert — and who had gone to a performance by Cuban-American hip-hop superstar Pitbull the night before. “That kind of feedback,” Orozco-Estrada told the writer, “is what gives me the energy to keep working hard and dreaming.”
This week, Orozco-Estrada makes his CSO debut in a diverse program of 20th-century music: Kodály’s Dances of Galánta, Sibelius’ Violin Concerto, Ives’ The Unanswered Question and Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra.
In an interview conducted for a future CSO Radio broadcast, Orozco-Estrada discussed the urgency of growing the classical music audience. “Building a diverse audience is an important job. It’s something I believe we have to do — all of us, the conductors, the musicians, the staff, marketing [departments]. But for me, the real question is how to build this audience. Because in one way, you could do, for example, light programs, with pieces that everybody somehow likes and knows anyway. And then in this way, you try to get a larger audience, bigger in terms of [mere] numbers. Which is good and also fine. But I like … the less simple but more interesting way of trying to convince audiences to get to that point where they really want to try the whole symphonic experience, even though they don’t know the pieces.”
He described the CSO’s wide-ranging program this week as a perfect entry point for new audiences. “It has a variety of different kind of colors, it’s a perfect program to experience different types of moods and styles,” he said. The first work, Kodály’s Dances of Galánta, though based on folkloric music from Hungary, “is kind of related to [other cultures]. Some of the rhythms, melodies, harmonies — you can find this everywhere in the world. Africa, South America, wherever.
“This might be the perfect piece for new audiences. Give yourself the chance to hear and experience the concert. You will see this is a experience that is worth trying and something worth continuing to develop.”
Note: Orozco-Estrada will appear at a reception, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 27, hosted by the CSO Latino Alliance. For details, click here.