It may seem like a conductor's job is to spend all their time rehearsing musicians and conducting concerts, but according to Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra resident conductor Daniel Brier, that's only 10% of the work. The other 90% is studying and interpreting the scores. So when the COVID-19 crisis prevented Brier from conducting, he found new ways to be productive.
Brier says when the final concerts of the season were canceled in April, his first impulse was to corral with KSO staff to adjust and plan for what they soon realized would be a very different upcoming season. But he continued to spend a significant part of his time doing what is normal for him: studying scores. They can be masterpieces he's known for years, or less-performed compositions, or even brand-new works. With people in the global classical community again questioning the slow progress of diversity in their ranks, Brier returned to a personal project he started four years ago: to identify and perform Black American music on KSO programs.
George Walker is one of those composers. A brilliant concert pianist, Brier says his long composing career culminated in a Pulitzer Prize in 1996. Brier singles out Walker's Lyric for Strings (1941) as a great introduction to his music.