Brett Mitchell shares his aspirations and insights as he prepares to take on the role of Music Director in the Colorado Symphony's 2017/18 Concert Season.
"No one should feel like they're hearing or playing 'just another' Beethoven 9. Every time should be something special."
Personalizing the concert experience—for musicians, for audiences, for guest artists—is just one aspect of Brett Mitchell's signature approach to leading orchestras and planning seasons. "My job is to make sure that the journey the composer wants to take us on, and the message he's trying to convey, are as clear and compelling as possible."
Mitchell's about to embark on his own journey: on July 1, 2017, he'll assume the role of Colorado Symphony's Music Director. Of course, every arrival must begin with a departure; Mitchell will leave behind his current dual-posts as Associate Conductor at the Cleveland Orchestra and Music Director of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra.
"The Cleveland Orchestra has unquestionably made me a better conductor. It's been an honor to have been a part of it," Mitchell fondly recalls of working with the esteemed ensemble.
Before he takes the helm as Music Director at the start of the Symphony's 2017/18 Season, Mitchell will command the stage of Boettcher Concert Hall three more times in this current season to lead the Colorado Symphony through programs that range from perennial favorites to new, groundbreaking works.
"What I love about our remaining concerts this season is how different they are from each other," says Mitchell. In January, Mitchell conducts a new American symphony by Kevin Puts alongside Beethoven's revered Ninth Symphony. In February, he returns to take the stage alongside Stewart Copeland, former drummer of The Police, to conduct Tyrant's Crush, Copeland's original composition for orchestra.
"I'm excited to work with Stewart Copeland. I grew up listening to The Police," says Mitchell, "and the chance to perform with someone I idolized as a kid is a real treat."
Mitchell will lead the orchestra while Copeland drums on his own trapset onstage. It's an uncommon program in two ways: composers rarely join the orchestra during a performance of their own composition—let alone on a drum kit.
Mitchell's final concert of the 2016/17 Season is in April, when he leads the orchestra with Principal Clarinetist Jason Shafer in Mozart's Clarinet Concerto, and Concertmaster Yumi Hwang-Williams in Rimsky-Korsakov's evocative Scheherazade.
Variety is Mitchell's hallmark as he plans the Colorado Symphony's 2017/18 Season, as well.
"What's important to me is that the audience and our musicians get a varied diet of composers, styles, eras, and so on, so that over the course of any given season, we've all had the broadest exposure possible to this magnificent art form that is orchestral music."
So much goes into the planning and piecing together of a Symphony's concert season, yet Mitchell's first order of business that carries him through the planning process is the sum of the whole: "I never think piece-by-piece when I'm planning a season," explains Mitchell. "I start with what I want the overall experience of the season to be."
To begin this process, Mitchell started working closely with the Colorado Symphony's leadership and artistic committee—Chief Artistic Officer Anthony Pierce, a host of orchestra musicians, and Symphony staff—over the summer in a series of collaborative sessions. "As with everything at the Colorado Symphony, it's a team process, and I couldn't be happier with it."
One exciting program born of this blossoming collaboration is the opening concert of the Symphony's 2017/18 Season: world-renowned soprano Renée Fleming takes the stage with the orchestra for a one-night-only performance on September 9, 2017.
Fleming—often lovingly referred to as "the people's diva"—is an international opera phenomenon with whom Mitchell has worked several times throughout his career, making his inaugural concert as the Colorado Symphony's Music Director that much more meaningful.
Mitchell first met Fleming in 2009 when he was Assistant Conductor at the Orchestre National de France. "I was just a staff conductor, but Renée couldn't have been nicer," recalls Mitchell. "I've worked with her several times since then, and she always brings that same commitment and artistry to every project she does, which is one of many reasons I'm thrilled to have her with us in September."
September will be here before we know it, but Mitchell's journey to the Colorado Symphony's podium has a few more stops yet: he'll be conducting concerts in Ohio, Texas, Florida, Illinois, and Colorado this summer before he and his wife, classically-trained soprano and radio host Angela Mitchell, move across the country from Cleveland to Denver in August.
Mitchell's inventiveness, musical mastery, and contagious enthusiasm will no doubt create a lasting imprint on the Colorado Symphony's repertoire and creative growth.
While the Colorado Symphony eagerly awaits his return-for-good as Music Director, it's safe to say, in many ways, Brett Mitchell's already arrived.