Sep 21, 2022 - News

N.C. Symphony's new leader wants the orchestra to be for everyone

A conductor stands in front of an orchestra.
Carlos Miguel Prieto leads the Juilliard Orchestra at Alice Tully Hall on January 27, 2017. Photo: Hiroyuki Ito/Getty Images

Carlos Miguel Prieto begins his first season with the North Carolina Symphony's this week, promising to uphold the symphony's commitment to education and to reach new audiences.

  • The award-winning conductor will take charge of three performances of "Pictures at an Exhibition," Sept. 22-24, which he picked because "it's a showpiece that anyone who fears classical music should hear and then they will stop fearing classical music."

What's happening: Prieto will become the full-time music director next year, after accepting an initial four-year term earlier this year.

  • He comes to Raleigh after stints as music director of the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de México in Mexico City and the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra in New Orleans.

Why it matters: The N.C. Symphony is one of the state's great artistic treasures. Founded in 1932, the symphony not only brings world-class musicians to perform across North Carolina, but plays a vital role in music education in the state.

  • The symphony's home is Meymandi Concert Hall in Raleigh. It also travels for performances in Chapel Hill, Wilmington, New Bern, Southern Pines, and Fayetteville, and the outdoor Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary.

Prieto said he's long had a fascination with the state and admired its commitment to funding music education. He's been a guest conductor in North Carolina several times as well — and his connection to the state goes beyond music.

  • Growing up in Mexico City, he fine-tuned his grasp of the English language during summers at Camp Sea Gull near New Bern. He sends his children to the camp now.
  • His sister-in-law is also from Winston-Salem.

Prieto said the symphony needs to fight against what he believes are three stereotypes of classical music: that it's expensive, it's socially exclusive and that you need deep knowledge of its history to enjoy it.

  • "I'm going to a movie tomorrow and I have no clue what camera they use to film that movie," he added. "Yet, I sit there and can enjoy the product. It's the same with [an] orchestra."

🗓️ What's next: Though he will not join the N.C. Symphony full time until next year, Prieto is scheduled to conduct several more performances this season — including Mozart's Requiem in February and Mahler's Symphony No. 1 in May.

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