Hartford’s Hidden Gem: The Hartford Symphony Orchestra
By Dani Frank
Symphony orchestras, teeming with violins, violas, kettle drums and more, boast an immensely rich sound, a sound that can be truly captivating. The Hartford Symphony Orchestra, an award-winning organization, is a nationally known ensemble considered to be one of the premier orchestras of New England. While the Hartford Symphony Orchestra’s reputation certainly precedes itself, newly appointed musical director Carolyn Kuan emphasizes that in her new role, above all else, she wants to engage in community outreach.
“Since being named to the position, I see the world through the lenses of the music director of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra,” said Kuan. “I think will this be great for Hartford, and [the question I ask myself is] how will it serve this community?” Kuan, is the orchestra’s youngest musical director ever, at age 33, and is additionally the group’s first female director. She is uninterested in these distinctions however, citing that these are merely two facts about her, and her thorough experiences in music and conducting are what set her apart from other candidates for the position. Kuan has conducted everywhere from New York City to North Carolina and Seattle, inspiring youth along the way and finding her true passion for both conducting, and community engagement.
Kuan’s directorship began in October, and she has hit the ground running, organizing a free concert for the community in Bushnell Park, though it was later relocated to the Symphony Hall due to weather issues. “It was just as exciting to have people come to our home, where we play, for free. It was a true community event,” said Kuan. Working to break down the tired stereotypes of orchestral music, Kuan incorporated a marching band, a juggler, a beat boxer and more. Look for a future presentation of beatboxing in January, where Kuan will pair traditional compositions, such as Bram’s Symphony No. 1, with the opening sections replaced with the visceral blasts of a beatboxer.
The Hartford Symphony Orchestra will continue taking cues from younger and new listeners looking for symphony orchestra music to be presented as accessible. A performance of “Mahler’s Titans,” a favorite composer of Kuan’s, featured the energetic Mahler Symphony No. 1 and Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 2. The best-selling Holiday POPS! Spectacular is one event that Kuan is also looking forward to greatly.
“In addition to bringing back all of the holiday music that people love, we are taking them on a bit of a trip,” said Kuan. The spectacular will feature Strauss’ Radetzky March, pieces honoring Chinese New Year, and a children’s choir performing holiday songs held dear to various countries. The spectacular will be a multicultural extravaganza, boasting many different sounds and emotions. Kuan’s belief is that music can take the listener places. “For me it is about creating a new memory and formulating a special experience for the audience,” said Kuan. “I believe that the Hartford Symphony Orchestra is tremendous. Classical music is changing, and I hope to communicate that to the younger generation.”
For more information on the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, and for concert schedules and tickets, visit www.hartfordsymphony.org.
Dani Frank is a fashion, travel and culture enthusiast and writer living in Easton, Connecticut. A recent graduate of Hofstra University, she is most happy when traversing the East Coast and beyond and documenting it all for curious readers. Read her further work at http://offmanhattan.com/author/danielle-frank/