Conducting for the Head and Heart
Nov 03, 2011
The current fall tour of The Concordia Orchestra is the debut of Foster Beyers as only the third conductor in the 40-year history of the ensemble.
To celebrate this occasion, Beyers has chosen to perform compositions from some of his favorite composers, such as Johannes Brahms, Edward Elgar and Ralph Vaughan Williams.
“I choose to perform music that I love, and these composers share a good balance of music that is intellectually and emotionally appealing,” Beyers says.
Beyers, 36, began thinking of becoming a conductor while majoring in music education at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire.
“I had aspirations of becoming a professional trumpet player,” he says. “But I realized what I wanted to do while performing in the orchestra. I became curious about the music and hungry for the sound.”
After teaching at a middle school in Green Bay, Wis., for five years, Beyers earned a master’s degree from Northwestern University, and this spring will complete his doctorate in conducting at the University of Minnesota.
His conducting experience includes leading the 120-piece Campus Orchestra at the University Minnesota, where he also started a string orchestra and a summer orchestra, and directing the Buffalo (Minn.) Community Orchestra.
His choice of the Brahms and Elgar pieces require diversity and flexibility from the musicians, which Beyers says is his way of getting the orchestra to know him and what he will demand of them as a performing ensemble.
“We’re ready. Our audiences will experience music performed with great commitment and skill,” he says.
Members of the orchestra say they like the energy Beyers brings to conducting.
“We just love him,” says Emily Swedberg ’12, Moorhead, a four-year member of the violin section. “He really engages us. He’s always talking about making good phrases. He wants us to bring the emotion in each piece.”
Beyers’ choice of ensembles to emulate is the Minnesota Orchestra, a group he’s heard perform at least 200 times.
“Their sound is what I have in my head and my ears as the ideal,” he says. “I admire the Minnesota Orchestra so much because I’ve never heard them do a bad concert. They always play at a high level.”
The conductor Beyers most admires is Leonard Bernstein, who he appreciates for the great balance he brought to conducting.
“Bernstein understood intellectually how every piece should be conducted, but he was also totally emotionally invested in every performance," he says. "For me, he’s the ideal.”
Beyers is most eager to perform in the Concordia Christmas Concert.
“It’s famous. It’s one of the signature events of the college," he says, "and it’s why Concordia is really associated with music like no other place.”