Xian Zhang 2015 - credit Benjamin Ealovega - banner - armchair2.jpg
Photo by Benjamin Ealovega.

A Q&A with NJSO Music Director, Xian Zhang

You have guest conducted the NJSO several times in the past few seasons. What has made your experiences with the Orchestra’s musicians and audiences special?

I have done various programs with the NJSO, ranging from flashy (Respighi’s Pines of Rome, Verdi’s Forza del destino Overture) to Russian to Classical core repertoire like Mozart and Brahms. I have enjoyed the flexibility and sensibility in the musicians’ playing and eagerness of wanting to sound good as a group, not personal heroism. I also loved interacting with the NJ audiences. They are very curious, open and supportive of the symphony.

What does it mean to you to become the NJSO’s next music director?

I take great pride in becoming music director of this historic orchestra, which has associated with a succession of respectable maestros.

The NJSO is unique in its mission as a state orchestra. What appeals to you about the opportunity to perform regularly in six different New Jersey cities?

New Jersey is a very diverse state in many aspects. The NJSO plays the role of the “musical messenger” of the state—I think that’s incredible. It makes this orchestra different and special in the United States, where most orchestras play in their home hall only and rarely do run-out concerts.

What role do you believe the NJSO’s education and community engagement programs can play in our state’s culture?

The “messenger” role of NJSO is crucial in the state’s culture. I’d love to give special effort to music education and involving even more children in our programs. Music education is one of the most important aspects of a professional orchestra. It is important to reach out to schools and to nurture the next generation.

How will you build connections with NJSO audiences and with New Jerseyans who have not yet experienced the NJSO?

For those who haven’t listened to much classical music, the term can intimidate them, and they might turn away in fear of not knowing how to behave in such a situation. We must bring music to them—perhaps in parks concerts or more casual settings. I always believe once you get the people to come and listen to the music, the music will do its magic and will work its own way to reach people’s hearts.

You and your family will make New Jersey your primary residence. Why is it important to you to live in one of our communities?

We have been living in Italy for six years. Every summer we spend time in our home in the United States; my family loves it and never has enough of it, so they are all very excited about the move. I think the NJSO music director is a social figure of the region. It is important to have the public recognize you as one of them, not just someone who flies in once in a while for concerts. That’s why I brought my family to Milan when I became music director there six years ago, when my first son was only nine months old. I believe a deeper commitment is a must in creating a deeper bond between the orchestra and the public.

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