Q&A: Maestro Robert Moody

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Maestro Robert Moody finishes his tenure as music director of the Winston-Salem Symphony this month. (courtesy photo)

Maestro Robert Moody, now music director for the Memphis Symphony in Tennessee, concludes his 13-year tenure as music director of the Winston-Salem Symphony with Classics Series concerts titled “Maestro’s Farewell: Mahler Symphony No. 2” on Saturday, May 20 and May 22.

What fills you with pride when you consider your tenure as director?
It’s been an incredible ride but the thing I’m most proud of is we’ve broken down a lot of barriers. There does continue to be a sort of Victorian era, ivory tower ways of thinking about orchestras and it couldn’t be further from the truth. I didn’t grow up in a classical-music household; I grew up with country music and ’80s pop. My message from the beginning has been: Great music is great music is great music. It doesn’t matter about genre — live music is where it’s at.

What is one of your fondest memories with the symphony?
A couple years ago, a concert fell on my birthday and I began conducting the opening piece of music but the orchestra was playing something that was not on my stand. I freaked out but after about two seconds I realized they were playing “Happy Birthday” to me. They had a good laugh watching the panic on my face.

Which programs and community partnerships did you most enjoy?
Certainly, when we brought in some key superstars both in the world of classical and popular music like with Yo Yo Ma, with Renee Fleming, with Van Cliburn, also with Amy Grant and Chris Botti — those will long stand out in my mind. We partnered a lot with the North Carolina School of the Arts, which maybe people would presume, but we also partnered a great deal with Winston Salem State University. I’m extremely proud that that’s a much stronger relationship now.

What makes the Winston-Salem Symphony unique in your eyes?
Winston-Salem plays at a level much greater than the size of the city, which is to say many cities the size of Winston-Salem don’t have even a fraction of this level of an orchestra. It’s both the fact that the School of the Arts is in residence in Winston but also a century-plus long dedication to the arts. It’s not just a moniker that we are the City of Arts and Innovation. People really roll their sleeves up and I’m mammothly grateful to Winston-Salem for going the extra 10 miles to support the arts.

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