A Journey Without Words: Rogue Valley Symphony Masterworks
“I always say, hearing a symphony is like reading a novel,” says Conductor and Music Director of Rogue Valley Symphony Martin Majkut. Following that line of logic, the 50-year-old symphony has produced and performed tomes of music.
Born in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, he says music was “sort of omnipresent.” He learned how to play piano at the age of six and was continuously encouraged and inspired by music. “I was always fascinated by people who came on stage and enchanted the audience.” In his ninth year with Rogue Valley Symphony, he also serves as Music Director of Queens Symphony Orchestra in New York, but his resume doesn’t stop there. His music career has also taken him to the University of Arizona, Austria, and Italy. Something he is most proud of is doubling RVS since his arrival.
“Everything is more,” he says. “We offer more concerts, we have more musicians on stage, we have really expanded our educational program. When I came to this valley, I found this orchestra to be a real gem, and I thought, ‘Wow, everyone in the Rogue Valley needs to know how accomplished this orchestra they have.’ ” Even for those less inclined to attend a RVS performance, Majkut has focused on the educational programs offered, making sure everyone in the area has an opportunity to participate and learn.
Last year the symphony celebrated its 50th year. Majkut put together and orchestrated massive pieces, brought together big musicians, and put on impressive shows. When this current year rolled around, he was ready to have fun. “Let’s just play now,” he expresses.
Having fun this year doesn’t mean hard work and thoughtful calculation hasn’t been put into this season. Majkut plans his programs several years out, giving himself, musicians, and soloists ample time to prepare.
“What it starts with is I have some ideas and some feel for what I want to the season to be. If I want my pick of source and we’re getting some really accomplished musicians, I have to start early on it,” he explains. “I like to commission pieces and bring new works. I have to start talking to these composers several years ahead to start writing things.”
Sometimes programs are built around a particular soloist. Majkut stresses, “Every program needs to have its own flavor. They all need to make sense, preferably with one piece with 100 musicians and the next one with 40.” He also emphasizes weaving in new original pieces along with reviving classics. For pieces written for a specific program, he says, “They reflect our time and who we are, what we think. They make us look in the mirror and see what’s important to us. It’s sort of a message in a bottle for future generations.”
Upcoming Masterworks shows in the 2018-2019 season will feature Alexander Sitkovetsy on violin, Jeffery Biegel on piano, Alexander Tutunov on piano, and more. Along with Masterworks concerts, the season will play “The Composer is Dead,” a story by Lemony Snitcket and a Candlelight concert in December featuring Christmas classics and featuring Kristin Kessler on oboe.
Majkut and his orchestra brings the best talent and music they can to each performance. “I think a region without an orchestra is truly a poorer region,” he says. “There’s such a depth of feeling. For those who are intellectually curious or who want to have a really powerful experience, there’s nothing quite like music. A good song to me is like reading a short article, but if you want to go for a journey without words, I think that’s where something like a symphony orchestra really fulfills this role. I think that’s specifically with those masterworks projects.”
He considers music on a spiritual plane. “It uplifts you, it makes you reflect on the world, who you are. Hopefully you will be filled with joy and satisfaction. You will feel a little richer person than you were before you went to the concert.”
Rogue Valley Symphony, Masterworks 3
7:30 pm, Friday, November 30
Craterian Theatre, 23 S. Central Avenue, Medford
7:30 pm, Saturday, December 1
Southern Oregon University Music Recital Hall, 450 S. Mountain Avenue, Ashland
3 pm, Sunday, December 2
Grants Pass Performing Arts Center, 303 NE Olive Street, Grants Pass
$15 – $53