Reaching out: Markand Thakar feels obligation to share gift with new audiences

November 12, 1998

Markand ThakarBy KATE COLEMAN / Staff Writer

Listening to music is being open and absorbing the sounds, according to Markand Thakar, the second of four Maryland Symphony Orchestra music director candidates.

"Ideally, it's a transcending experience ... when you become the sounds," he says.

Thakar will conduct the MSO in performances at The Maryland Theatre Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon.

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The man has a doctorate in orchestral conducting but doesn't consider himself a scholar. You don't need to be a scholar to enjoy music, he says emphatically.

In fact, Thakar believes too much information can get in the way of the magical experience that listening to music should be. He describes critics and reviewers, pens poised above their notebooks, analyzing an orchestra's performance.


"A roomful of experts, and they all miss it," he says.

Thakar believes it is beneficial for a conductor to talk to the audience about the music the orchestra will perform, and he'll have a chance to do that during Prelude, the preconcert discussion beginning an hour before this weekend's performances.

Information about a piece can draw the listener in. He calls it an opportunity to break down some of the - not barriers - but perceptions of distance people have about the symphony.

"It's our obligation to reach out to new audiences," he says.

But he also says that there's danger in an audience being too educated. It changes the experience. Listening becomes an intellectual exercise, he says.

"It's our obligation and in our best interest to unfold the gamut of the repertoire - all the musical possibilities," Thakar says, speaking to the challenge of programming. But he also believes it's important to include music the audience will recognize. There's a reason that the popular chestnuts are the popular chestnuts, he says.

"This is superb music. ... Hey, this is the stuff that does the most for us."

Whatever the program, Thakar says his interest is not so much in the pieces that are played. "My concern is in the quality of the experience," he says.

He brings quite a bit to the experience. Although his family was not at all musical - one of his brothers works in computers, the other is an accountant - he had music lessons as a child and just took to it.

His training includes a bachelor's degree in composition and violin performance from The Juilliard School, a master's degree in music theory from Columbia University and a doctorate in orchestral conducting from Cincinnati College Conservatory. In 1994, he became associate conductor of Colorado Symphony in Denver.

Elizabeth Grady, former president of Colorado Symphony League, the orchestra's fund-raising organization, endorses Thakar with "uninhibited enthusiasm."

She recalls that Thakar was timid when he first arrived, but says he has come into his own. He has a confidence that she believes impresses the musicians. Grady describes Thakar as a constant student, willing to involve many kinds of music, and is amazed at his ability to conduct so many pieces scoreless.

"I wish that he could be here more than he is," she says.

Thakar also receives kudos from the renowned conductor Gustav Meier, visiting professor in graduate conducting and Thakar's faculty colleague at The Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore. Meier is serving as MSO's artistic adviser during the search for its new music director.

Meier saw Thakar in action in Denver and knew his work in New York. He calls him unique and says he has an outgoing personality.

"He is a very fine conductor," Meier says.

With Thakar, the composer always is first, Meier says. And he agrees with that philosophy.

"Who are we compared to Mozart?" Meier asks with a chuckle.

Thakar, 43, remembers when Maryland Symphony Orchestra started. He went to school with some of the musicians.

"MSO has a wonderful reputation as a superb performing ensemble," Thakar says.

He calls the search process energizing for an orchestra in a lot of ways.

In listening to music, Thakar says he's selfish. His question for the conductor and orchestra is "What can you do for me?"

He'll be offering his part of the answer with the MSO this weekend. He hopes people will come to listen. Maybe they'll experience a little musical magic.

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