Music director ready for new symphony season
By Seth Leonard
Summer is a season of rest for many Americans, but some are on the clock virtually all the time.
That’s the case for David Hagy, who is the music director for the Salisbury Symphony.
His summer months are far from an off-season. Between applying for grants and teaching classes, Hagy must do serious preparation for the Salisbury Symphony’s 2009-2010 season.
Hagy said he spends a tremendous amount of time and effort putting together music and musicians for the concert series, which begins in October. He must consider as many as 10 different factors when compiling music for his shows. He weighs everything from musical fashion to pleasing both audiences and performers when making his decisions.
“It’s the single most fun thing I get to do,” he said recently. “To find what will really work is really a challenge. I like doing that. I like doing puzzles. … It becomes one giant puzzle, basically.”
Hagy said choosing just a handful of songs from a potential list of thousands is like being a child picking out sweets from a candy store. But he must be prudent with his choices, because his budget is not unlimited.
The symphony has an operational budget of around $300,000 this year. Hagy said that amount is going to drop next year, which will mean that several worthy musicians will be squeezed out of the program. Because the Salisbury Symphony shares the same pool of musicians that three other orchestras use, providing regular work helps the performers keep their craft alive.
“We have developed a fairly committed core of musicians that will play almost everything with us,” Hagy said. “Most of the people that perform in these orchestras, they’re not making a living simply by playing in these orchestras.”
Hagy said the only musicians in America getting rich are rock stars and recording artists. Others don’t necessarily live pauper’s lives, but they have to be dedicated to stay afloat. Salisbury Symphony members make from $1,000 to $2,000 for a show and may play 20 shows in a year. Members of a major metropolitan group may play six or seven shows in a week and therefore make more money.
Finding, scheduling and contracting these people is a large task that falls to Hagy. Each performance in the upcoming series requires at least 50 people. That means Hagy must identify possible candidates, contact them, provide them with music and then wait. Performers can accept all, part or none of the contract, which means that Hagy will need more than 50 people in order to fill all the slots necessary with the right instruments.
This is a process that takes all summer, and Hagy expected to present contracts to his musicians this week.
Hagy is also a musician, although he prefers to play in private.
“I don’t like to play in front of people because I don’t practice any more,” he said.
He can play piano, violin, some clarinet, percussion instruments, tried his hand at oboe and even dabbled in playing the fiddle.
When Hagy isn’t getting all the symphony’s ducks in a row, he does what most musicians do: teach.
Hagy’s a full-time professor at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, where he directs the orchestra. He commutes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and sometimes other days, depending on meetings.
He holds a doctorate in conducting from Yale University. He’s been asked to guest conduct an orchestra in Indiana in August as part of its 50th anniversary. He worked for that orchestra earlier in his career.
As for that career, Hagy doesn’t plan on laying down his conductor’s baton any time soon. He’s been with the Salisbury Symphony for 21 years so far.
“I’ve had the great pleasure to be invited to this summer music camp that’s a week long in Connecticut,” he said. “It was started by a 39-year-old woman who ran it until she was 89. I have toyed with this dream of being music director until age 89.”
Hagy said his mother, who is 92, is proof that his family can live long enough for him to fulfill his goals. He said it’s just a question of whether or not he can maintain the necessary skills and clarity to keep up his work.
For more information about the Salisbury Symphony and its upcoming season, log on to www.salisburysymphony.org.