Devin Patrick Hughes credits his father with sparking his love of classical and orchestral music from an early age.
Growing up in Springfield, Ill., Hughes said his father, who died last year at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, traveled to Chicago frequently to “see all the great symphonies.”
“Two of his favorite pieces were Dvorak’s ‘New World Symphony’ and (Bruch’s) ‘Scottish Fantasy,’” Hughes said.
When Hughes, a Colorado-based orchestral and operatic conductor of Irish and Guatemalan descent, was given the opportunity to conduct these two symphonic works for his upcoming music director audition concert for the Salina Symphony, “that sealed the deal for me.”
“It’s a really cool, uplifting program to bring to the community,” he said. “I believe symphonic music has importance in all of our lives, that an orchestra is the heart and soul of a community. I feel that music binds us all together.”
Hughes is the first of five candidates vying for the position of permanent conductor/music director of the Salina Symphony. The first concert in the “Pass the Baton!” music director search season of 2021-2022 begins at 4 p.m. Oct. 3 at the Stiefel Theatre for the Performing Arts, 151 S. Santa Fe.
“We are so delighted to present our five music director finalists to our patrons and the community this season,” said Adrienne Allen executive director of the Salina Symphony. “Our search begins an exciting new chapter for the Symphony.”
Hughes’ program, entitled “Musical Landscapes,” is intended to take the audience on a musical journey inspired by American landscapes and cultures, anchored by Dvorak’s challenging “New World Symphony.” The composition is known for having one of the most beautiful melodies in all of classical music, inspired by both Native American music and African American spirituals that Dvorak heard in North America.
“It embodies the idea that the greatest music of society usually comes from its most oppressed people,” Hughes said. “I wanted to celebrate American ingenuity and the ability to triumph against all odds.”
Also on the program are performances of Victor Herbert’s rousing “American Fantasia” and Bruch’s soul-stirring “Scottish Fantasy,” the latter of which features guest violinist Siwoo Kim, who previously performed with the Salina Symphony in 2012 as the grand prize winner of the King Award for Young Artists Competition, sponsored by Salinans Craig and Brenda King.
Prior to each concert this season, all music director candidates will present a pre-concert talk at 3 p.m. in the Watson Room of the Stiefel Theatre. Patrons also can provide their own input on each candidate, Allen said.
“Patrons will be invited to input for the search committee via a survey directly following the concert(s),” she said.
Highly regarded conductor
Hughes is highly regarded for his music score interpretations, advocacy for music accessibility, passion for music of all genres and entrepreneurial vigor. He currently serves as music director and conductor of the Boulder Symphony and Arapahoe Philharmonic, both located in the Denver metro area.
Hughes previously held artistic leadership positions with the Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra, Santa Fe Youth Association, Denver Young Artists Orchestra and Denver Philharmonic Orchestra. He also was the only American selected with 11 other conductors worldwide to compete in the Toscanini International Conducting Competition.
He has conducted orchestras across North America and Europe, including the Winnipeg Symphony, Colorado Symphony, Des Moines Symphony, San Antonio Symphony, Green Bay Symphony and Orchestra of the Hungarian State Opera.
Equally active in choral and operatic repertoire, Hughes has combined local orchestras, businesses and nonprofits to begin a community-based opera program featuring seasoned opera professionals with aspiring artists and community members to create unique opera and operetta experiences.
Hughes also has partnered with various organizations to make music more accessible, including the “Glow Project,” which are sensory-friendly performances geared those with autism and dementia.
Hughes said he was impressed by the Salina Symphony’s emphasis on both performance and education, especially through its Youth Symphony.
“I love when youth is a part of the orchestra and experiencing these great composers,” he said. “I also love the incredible programming the orchestra has done. The musicians love what they do so much and want to create something they’re all proud of.”
Hughes said his main goal as a conductor and music director is to bring out the best in everyone he works with.
“I lend inspiration where it’s needed,” he said. “I think I’m the most successful when orchestra members can bring their entire selves to the performance. One of the jobs of the conductor is to be a light in the middle of darkness, corralling the ensemble together, bringing the music to life and then transferring that to the audience.”
Kim, a New York City-based musician, was born in South Korea to parents who ran a music school and began playing the violin at age two-and-a-half. He received a graduate degree from the famed Juilliard School in New York City. He performs solo and chamber music throughout the world and is co-founding artistic director of the VIVO Music Festival in his adopted hometown of Columbus, Ohio.
“We are really looking forward to having Siwoo back,” Allen said. “He is an incredibly talented musician, and we’re honored that we get to be the first orchestra he plays Bruch’s ‘Scottish Fantasy’ with.”
Other concerts in the “Pass the Baton!” series will include “Give Birth to the Dream,” featuring Melisse Brunet and guest soprano Janie Brokenicky (Nov. 7); “Take Flight,” featuring Yaniv Segal and cellistHannah Collins (Jan. 30); “Melodic Journey,” featuring Yaniv Attar with guest guitarist Daniel Bolshoy (March 27); and “Symphonic Dances,” featuring Vlad Vizireanu and guest pianist Lorraine Min (May 1).
Tickets for the opening concert can be purchased at the Stiefel Theatre box office by calling 827-1998 or online at www.salinasymphony.org. Single admission tickets are $29 and $39 for adults and $20 for students.
Season tickets, which includes the five music director search concerts and the annual Christmas Festival concert (Dec. 11-12), may be ordered by phone at 823-8309 or in person at the Salina Symphony office on the second floor of the Stiefel Theatre.
To address current COVID-19 public health concerns, the Stiefel Theatre is requiring, effective Oct. 1, proof of full vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the show date for entry into all shows, including all Salina Symphony concerts. Acceptable proof of vaccination includes an original immunization card, photocopy of the vaccination card or photo of the card on an electronic device.
Children under 18 will not be required to show proof of vaccination or negative test but will be required to be masked during all performances. Masks are strongly encouraged for all patrons.
For more information, contact Allen at 823-8309 or visit salinasymphony.org.