Guest Interview: Gary Sheldon

Principal Conductor and Music Director.

How do you prepare for a new season? Are there any particular scores this season that you are looking forward to?
Looking forward to a new season invariably involves catching up with “old friends”. Old friends like Serenade, Nutcracker, Firebird and Swan Lake, all ballets that I’ve conducted dozens and dozens of times. There is always something new to discover in these masterpieces and working with different casts for the same work always breathes new life into my interpretation of the music.

Preparing scores that are new to me however is another thing, such as this season’s performances of Agon. Much preparation on my own has been needed in advance of attending rehearsals in the studio. Stravinsky created an atonal musical language far different than Serenade and Firebird. So first comes analyzing the music, and then attending numerous rehearsals in the studio to learn the choreography and see how exactly it relates to the music.

You mentor up and coming conductors particularly for dance as that is quite different to opera or orchestral work. Could you talk us through the nuances and sensitivities needed when it comes to dance conducting?
Conducting for dance requires a different approach than say, conducting for opera or an orchestral concert. The issue of tempo is the overarching concern for conducting dance – replicating tempos that complement the choreographer’s vision, while adjusting musical nuances and sensitivities within that framework to make it all a natural blend. To do this, there is no better way than attending rehearsals in the studio, where one can get the best sense from the choreographer, repetiteur or stager, exactly how the music and movement coalesce.

This year there has been exciting news of the Opus 1 Orchestra becoming the Miami City Ballet Orchestra. Could you speak about the impact of this move and the importance of live music at Miami City Ballet?
The musicians of our recently renamed “Miami City Ballet Orchestra” are deeply honored. They are more than ever prioritizing their commitment to our company, which has in turn led to the fine performances we are hearing. And it’s always great to hear from the dancers how much live music inspires them and enlivens their performances.

What would you like donors to know about the impact of their gifts?
It’s hard to say a big enough thank you to the donors who have helped make live music possible. Their generosity has not only enriched the performance experience for the audience but also for the dancers. They have also helped perpetuate the profound relationship between the choreographer and the composer. For in their careful selection of the music, choreographers not only have a vision in mind, but a sound too.