A symphony comes to the valley | PostIndependent.com

A symphony comes to the valley

Chad Spangler Post Independent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado For all you die-hard fans of Symphony in the Valley, this weekend is full of suspense. For the first time in 14 years, the group has a new artistic director and conductor, and you must be wondering what kind of a turn the symphony will take.The conductor himself is planning on an exciting one.Carlos Elias, you see, is all about emotion. Or at least the music he loves is. So hes loaded up this, his first show of the Symphony in the Valley season, with pieces from his favorite musical genre. The Romantic period is very dramatic, very extroverted lines, he explained, which is kind of the way I am myself, so I can relate to it better.This weekends shows include the works of Beethoven, Scbler and Strauss. But thats just a taste of Elias classical knowledge. Now 42, hes been steeped in music for nearly as long as he can remember.His career really began with his mother, who grew up in Elias home country of El Salvador. She was enamored with classical piano, and even went to school for it, but was yanked out as soon as her father realized there were co-ed classes.She said, My kids are going to study music, Elias recalled.So they did. At five, Elias was taken to El Salvadors National Center for the Arts. Since there were no piano classes for children his age, he was told to chose another instrument. Trying to be macho, he grabbed the biggest one, a cello. Yet, when a girl started crying, wishing she had the cello too, Elias teacher persuaded him to switch with her.And thats how I got stuck on violin, he said, with a laugh.

That was 37 years ago. At 14, he traveled to Costa Rica to study. At 15, he did the same in the United States. At 16, he entered his countrys national symphony. Not long after that, he was given a free ride scholarship at Biola University in Southern California. In quick succession, he got a masters degree at the University of Cincinnati, then took a job in Japan, where he played in the Sendai City Philharmonic, a few hours north of Tokyo. With music, what had started as an obligation completely became his life.Now, he cant imagine his world any other way.Eventually, Elias left Japan for the States again. After earning an artist diploma from Pittsburghs Duquesne University, he decided to take a job at some Coloradan city hed never heard of before. Hes now been the director of strings and orchestra at Grand Junctions Mesa State College for almost 10 years. And its the smallest town he, his wife, Ariana Arese-Elias, and their two young daughters have ever lived.There was definitely some adjusting process, he joked.Thats all part of conducting a community orchestra, too. There are no grades or paychecks given to players in Symphony in the Valley. These arent professionals. For Elias, thats the exciting part.Everybodys there because they love doing it, he said. They want to be there.As does he. This all began, he explained, because previous conductor Wendy Larson sold him on the idea. Heres a place where you can chose your own program, she urged, where the whole orchestra really cares. Elias seems excited that hed snapped up the opportunity. That doesnt mean, however, that hes about to treat this new symphony of his with kid gloves.Some of these pieces are a challenge for them. Youve got to pick some music that is not that easy, so you can push them to the limit, he said. Every concert has got to be better than the concert before.Larson grew the group, infused it with energy, and now Elias wants to refine it. Hes looking to do longer pieces, more serious ones. He wants to transmit his artistic vision, as well as the composers, through the instrument of the entire orchestra. More important than that, though, is simply that his symphony touches those in front of them. The audience, he knows, is what really matters.As long as we make them feel something, then we have succeeded, he said.And that, of course, is all up to you.

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