Exclusive Interview By: IRIDE APARICO

Photos Courtesy: Symphony San Jose.

SILICON VALLEY, CA- Symphony San José announces to the press that, starting in June of 2022, Robert Massey became the new General Director of Symphony San José, succeeding founding president Andrew Bales who lead the organization through its first 20 years. 

Mr. Massey was commissioned to the position based on his 25 years expertise in Arts Administration, where he had commissioned more  that 50 new compositions, choreographed stage productions. and  overseen two performing arts venue construction projects which led to a three multimillion-dollar fund raising campaigns. He also cofounded the Opera Festival of Chicago, the Iris Orchestra, and Opus Concert Café. His credits also included turning around the fortunes of symphonies in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and Jacksonville, Florida, where he helped with fund raising and attendance

With the purpose to introduce the New General Director of Symphony San José to his future audience, in his own words, Cultural World Bilingual solicited him the following interview.

R.M: "I am Robert Massey and I am very honored to have been selected General Director of Symphony San José. I am only the second person to hold this position, because my predecessor, who founded this organization and ran it for twenty-one years, just retired last Summer. I come from a long background of Classic Symphonic Music. I started as a trumpet player and for the first ten years in my career I was a performer, but in all this time, I always found other positions that gave me the opportunity of doing something else in the offices where I was working during the time and I realized that what I really liked was working back stage and make all that music happen and connect with audience."

"This happened when I was working at the Performing Arts Center, and one opening night I looked out, from the stage, and saw about 18,000 people in the audience, because the concert was sold out. At that moment, I said to myself: "Wow, I made this happen" and in a flash, I knew that making things happen was what I was meant to do."

C.W.B: So, you start doing it?
R.M. "Yes. For the last twenty years I have been running Symphony Orchestras and Opera Companies across the United States in Iowa, Washington, D.C., Florida and Chicago. So, when this position came open, I took it because one of the unique things about Symphony San José is that we don't have a permanent Music Director like other orchestras in the country, which means that I will serve as the Executive Director of the Company and as Artistic Director of the organization.  I really enjoy the "artistic planning" which is planning what are the musicians are going to play, how can we sell tickets to the community, and how can we, logistically, carry out.  I came here, because this is a very unique job."

C.W.B: In your Resume, you have the title of Art Administrator. What is an Art Administrator?
R.M." We all know that the Arts, and all the stuff that is happening on the stage are not happening on a vacuum. So what Art Administration is, is the mechanism of everything else, that is happening behind the scenes to help to bring art of the people.  The planning of the event, the working with the creative artists in what they are going to do, the planning with the production team back stage. the learning if we have enough lights chairs or stands for the orchestra. We also need to plan how are we going to prepare the musicians to play, learn if we we selling enough tickets, how to plan Fund raising, and determine if have the people who are going to support this act.  It is a business like any other business. It also includes Office space and payroll. So, one can define Art Administration as the highest structure required to make the ARTS that people see, happen."

C.W.B: That is fascinating! I never realized how much is required to present a show to an audience.

R.M. "A lot of planning."

C.W.B. And now, to get to my most important question, Mr. Massey, what is your vision for our symphony?

R.M. "Symphony San José serves this community so everybody knows that they have a great resource and that they have a relationship with it because it is relevant to the community. So we will speak about it in how we will perform from now, and where we will perform. In the past, it always had a Classical Series, so you will see that the series will continue with the Conductors, the Soloists and the Composers but it is going to be more broad and diverse, and very exciting. It will have something in it, for everyone."
"In the Season that we will be announcing for next year, we will offer things going back to the Baroque Music: Bach Concerto No.5 .  But we also will have symphonic pieces that have not been performed a lot.  So, for my first year, I wanted to bring pieces to the stage of San José that will be performed by their symphonic Orchestra for the first time, like Wagner's Prelude from Liebestod (Love/Death)  from Tristan and Isolda, which is one of the most masterful  pieces of music. That will be on our opening night. That in itself, will create a mood of a challenge for every one, but it makes me very excited because we have never done it before. We will also have some "modern" music for the newer composers.

Composer Arturo Marquez

Composer Michael Thomas

"We will also be a doing films with orchestra, which we had done for ten years with great success because people get introduced to the symphony that way. I do not think that people realize that they have heard a lot of symphonic music. Every time they go to the movie, the Sound Track is performed by a symphonic orchestra. We are also going to be  launching "Popular Concerts." They will be less classic. So we will be offering a different kind of programming. "Family concerts" which will be performances where people could bring their children. And we also are looking at how people could get "out of their hole" occasionally and get to see a concert in their own neighborhoods. So we are looking in how we could create an increase access and understanding to the art form.  We are also considering taking the orchestra to other communities. So my vision may be described as: We are really important to this community and I want to give San José the pride of having a first class Symphony orchestra."

C.W.B. What type of music are we expected to hear from the new composers? 
R.M. "The arts usually offer a diversity of programs, from Classical Masterpieces to some lesser known new pieces.  I see Symphonic Music as a "Living Art Form"  not as a museum playing just music of the past, and from the present. As an example, we will hear a cello concerto next year that it is a modern composition but it was composed a few years ago. In composing it, the composer used elements of AI which as you know, stands for Artificial Intelligence in creating it, and when performed life, the AI forms a hologram on stage, and the hologram has another hologram showing a cello, and then the two holograms, the cello and the solo cello start a cello battle on stage. It is visually very stimulating, and something that our audience had never heard or seen before. "

Yves Dhar..halldorophone copy.jpg
Soloist Yves Dhar on Halldorophone

C.W.B: And to end our interview, Mr. Massey,  have you thought of bringing the symphony to the schools in San José?
R.M: "Yes. We all have our taste of music well defined as adults, but we have to   have a good relationship with schools. We have a musical education program where every year we bring about five thousand fourth graders to the California Theatre to see a Symphony performance as part of their education curriculum and next year we will be expanding that. Next year we will
start looking for School partnerships, and a deeper educational program where we will send Ensembles into the schools. Let's say the Brass instruments will visit the first grade in school and the students will learn about the brass instruments.  And then the String quartet will visit the second graders, and on the third grade a quintet, and it will go on. That way, when they come to the California Theater, it won't be the first time the school children had heard the symphony, because during their previous years they had been increasing their knowledge of the art form. So, later on in school, when the students start learning music, they will be familiar with it. I believe that the more people who want to learn to play a musical instrument, the better that the world will be."