In 1987 when I was five years old, a babysitter malfunction put me front and center at the new Wortham Center Brown Theater for a production of Aida with my parents. At intermission I announced to them that I wanted “to be that guy”. They assumed that I meant Amneris, played magnificently by Placido Domingo, but I meant “the guy that raises his arms and starts the music”. That was conductor, Emil Tchakarov, who was about the age that I am now. I wasn’t kidding. Cristoph Eschenbach began his career with the Houston Symphony shortly after that, and my love affair with classical music was ON in a major way.
As a young trombonist I studied with the inimitable late David Waters (I miss him dearly), and played with the Houston Youth Symphony. Larry Rachleff at the Shepherd School generously allowed me to audit his graduate conducting seminar when I was still in high school. And every moment of spare time I had was spent on the front row at Jones Hall listening to the Houston Symphony and dreaming of what it might be like one day to stand in front of them. It was while daydreaming in the front row that I heard my first everything from the Messiah to Mahler 3, and it was from the Houston Symphony that I learned what an orchestra was supposed to sound like.
I have always stated proudly that I am a product of our city’s rich culture and Texas’s incomparable music education system. For this reason, having the opportunity to give something back musically to Houston will be one of my greatest honors to date. I am coming home.