Timeline: A conversation with Akiko Fujimoto
VPR host James Stewart, interviews the Vermont Symphony Orchestra's first candidate for the music director position, conductor, Akiko Fujimoto.
James: Last year, the Vermont Symphony Orchestra’s long-time music director, Jaime Laredo, stepped down after over 20 years with the orchestra. Now, the VSO has several candidates to fill that position. They’ll be coming to Vermont, meeting with the orchestra and the audience, as well as conducting concerts this coming season.
The first, conductor, Akiko Fujimoto, will be conducting the orchestra’s October 30th concert that’s taking place at the Flynn Center in Burlington. I had a chance to chat with Akiko, via zoom. We talked about the upcoming concert, the future of the VSO and Akiko’s passion for musical education. We started by mentioning her impressive resume. Akiko Fujimoro has worked with many amazing conductors and orchestras. I asked how this experience has shaped her musicianship and conducting style.
Akiko: I think for any musician starting out, the most important thing is to hear other great musicians. It's the best textbook that there is. You absorb their sound and you take note of every little thing that happens in rehearsal and concert and the life of the orchestra. When you are in your own situation, you have a question, you're like, well, what would they do? Or how would they respond? Or what would this conductor do in this situation? To have that in my bag of tricks is so important, and I think it was really transformative, just to spend a significant amount of time with those orchestras, respectively.
James: Now, I also understand that you have a personal passion for inspiring young musicians, and I wanted to ask, where does that passion come from?
Akiko: I grew up a total music geek. I know how important it is to young people to have this in their lives. Anytime I have a chance to interface with young musicians, or orchestras made up of young musicians, I'm very excited. It just brings me back to my own youth, and I just want to share that joy and hope that I can conjure up the same joy that I felt back then for young people today.
James: What would be your vision for the VSO if you did get this position as artistic director?
Akiko: Well, my primary job and vision would be to build on its excellent tradition and have a bright, bright, sustainable future as a premier ensemble in the state and in the region. I think what I enjoy the most about symphonic music is to create emotional impact on the listeners; aside from being excellent musically, I would also hope that we are the kind of ensemble that creates great emotional impact on the people of Vermont.
James: Tell us about the October 30th concert that's taking place at the Flynn. You'll be conducting, of course, what's on the repertoire, and what can we expect?
Akiko: We're starting with Le Tombeau de Couperin by Maurice Ravel, French composer. It's his tribute to the Baroque composer Couperin as well as the fallen comrades from World War One in which he served. Then we go to a brand new piece by Suad Bushnaq. She has composed a cello concerto for the Vermont Symphony and their principal cellist John Dunlop, and we are premiering that work Sampson’s Walk on Air. I'm really excited to hear and play that. In the second half, we are starting with a string orchestra piece called Strum by Jessie Montgomery. She is one of the most exciting leading American composers today. She just started as composer in residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Then we're going to conclude with Beethoven's First Symphony, which is one of my favorite pieces ever.
James: Well, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us Akiko. Really appreciate it.
Akiko: Thank you, James.
James: That was Akiko Fujimoto, the first Music Director candidate for the Vermont Symphony Orchestra. Akiko is conducting the VSO in concert, Saturday, October 30th at 7:30pm at the Flynn Center for the Arts in Burlington. You can find out more about the concert and other activities taking place this week at VSO.org, get to know Akiko at her website, akikofujimoto.com and as always, follow the Timeline.