DPO concert features Dayton debut of guest conductor Antoine Clark

‘Symphonie fantastique’ also spotlights violinist Vadim Gluzman.

With his star on the rise within the national classical music scene, Antoine Clark is excited to make his Dayton debut with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra Nov. 18 and 19 at the Schuster Center.

Clark, a resident of Worthington, Ohio, will oversee a trio of works on the DPO Masterworks Series program. The evening will open with Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Forza del destino” Overture followed by Dimitri Shostakovich’s “Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor,” featuring internationally recognized Israeli violinist Vadim Gluzman, and Hector Berlioz’s “Symphonie fantastique.”

“The Berlioz ‘Symphonie fantastique’ is a bucket list piece of mine,” said Clark, 45. “I’ve played it several times as a principal clarinetist of orchestras and as a conductor it has been something I’ve always wanted to conduct. I thought it would work really well with the drama found in the four-movement ‘Violin Concerto,’ which provides a contrast of emotions from stark and stoic to exuberance. ‘Symphonie fantastique’ and the ‘Violin Concerto’ also work well together in terms of instrumentation. When conductors put a program together, we want to get the bang for our buck in terms of the people we hire. A program should use the same kind of forces sometimes. The Verdi Overture, which is all about fate, has similar drama. I think it’ll be a very compelling program.”

Clark is the founding artistic and music director of the Worthington Chamber Orchestra. He was named assistant conductor of West Virginia’s Wheeling Symphony Orchestra in fall 2021. Guest engagements include Chicago Sinfonietta, the Chamber Orchestra of New York and Richmond Symphony. For his work with Chicago Sinfonietta, leading the premiere of Joel Thompson’s “breathe/burn: an elegy” for cello and orchestra, the Chicago Tribune noted he “led from the podium with balletic poise.”

Additionally he holds a Master of Music degree in orchestral conducting, a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in clarinet performance from Ohio State University, a Master of Music degree in clarinet performance from the University of Cincinnati – College Conservatory of Music, and a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from Virginia Commonwealth University. He also served as Cincinnati Symphony’s 2022 MAC Music Innovator, leading chamber music and orchestral performances in schools and throughout the community.

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Clark, who has upcoming engagements with Cincinnati Symphony and New Jersey Symphony, says he connected with music at a young age due to the power of storytelling, which has impacted his decisions as a conductor.

“The first time I saw an orchestra perform was on PBS as a kid,” he recalled. “The way the announcer described the work they were performing was all about stimulating the imagination. I felt like classical musical created a landscape in my mind. I often want to connect with programs that tell a story through the music.”

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

African American conductors are a rarity throughout the country which fuels the importance of diversity and progressive thinking within the classical realm from audience to administration. Clark recognizes the importance of representation in his craft in order to move classical music forward and inspire future patrons.

“I knew I wanted to be a conductor and I loved doing it as part of my musical training but I didn’t see a lot of people looking like me who were doing it,” he said. “I know I am one of few Black male or female conductors in the country getting the opportunity to travel across the country and have a platform. So it is important to me, as a conductor that happens to be Black, that I am a champion for representation in music, programming composers of color and being an educator to adults and children about what the African American experience has added to classical music in our country.”

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‘A little variety never hurts and always helps’

In 2018 DPO artistic director and conductor Neal Gittleman saw Clark while visiting the Pierre Monteux School, a summer program for young conductors and orchestral musicians, in Hancock, Maine. As a former student who did most of his conducting training there in the late 1970s and early 1980s, he was impressed by the budding conductor and felt he was someone to keep on his radar.

“The conductor who stood out to me above the others was Antoine Clark,” said Gittleman. “So when it came to choose a guest conductor to take the November 2022 Masterworks Series program, Antoine was at the top of my list. He’s an excellent musician, a great guy and I think he’ll give us a wonderful concert. For his program, he’s chosen one of my favorite overtures and one of my favorite symphonies. Plus he has one of my favorite soloists playing one of my favorite concertos. So if I’m not on the podium conducting this great show, then I want to be sitting in the Schuster Center enjoying it with the rest of our audience.”

As Gittleman carves a path to retirement in 2027, he’s mindful of how pivotal it is to allow Dayton audiences to see others at the podium in a guest capacity.

“It’s good for the orchestra and the audience to see (and) hear other people on the podium,” he said. “(It’s) even more important when the main conductor has been here for 25 (plus) years. A little variety never hurts and always helps. And with my retirement coming up somewhere over the horizon, it’s even more important for the orchestra and the audience to see some of what this Trekkie would call ‘The Next Generation.’”

“I’m very excited to be with the Dayton Philharmonic,” Clark added. “They are really a fantastic group. I’m ecstatic and it’s going to be a great program that I think the audience will enjoy.”

HOW TO GO

What: “Symphonie fantastique and Vadim Gluzman”

Where: Mead Theatre of the Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets, Dayton

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Cost: $5-$68

Tickets: Call 937-228-3630 or visit daytonperformingarts.org

FYI: The performance will include a 20-minute intermission; Also, patrons are invited to learn more about the featured works on the program at the pre-show, Take Note Talk slated at 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. from the Mead Theatre stage.

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