Music begins where words end.

 „Rapidly gained international acclaim after winning First Prize, the Golden Baton and the Orchestra’s Choice Prize in UNESCO’s Fitelberg International Conducting Competition”. Now, two years passed and he’s back to conduct the Silesian Philharmony Orchestra again.

Polish News journalist Grażyna Studzińska-Cavour talks with Daniel Smith, world renowned conductor about his life and brilliant career as well as the Gift of Music Foundation after the outstanding performance 13th March 2015.

Silesian Philharmonic Concert Hall. Daniel Smith – conductor.
Photo by: Tomasz Griessgrber

Grażyna Studzińska – Cavour: Pleasure to meet you in Katowice, Maestro. How does it happen that a young musician, or maybe even a boy, starts dreaming about becoming a famous conductor, not a fireman or sailor?

Daniel Smith : Fame doesn’t interest me. But, success, yes. When I was young, I wanted to be a train driver. Then, in high school, a scientist. However, when I started conducting, I found that time stood still and I became lost in the music. From the moment I start to conduct to the moment I finish, I don’t remember anything in between. It is the greatest elation. Could I imagine doing anything else? No.

G. S. C: To what extend The Fitelberg Competition you won in 2012 in Katowice, Poland opened the door for your professional development?

D. S: I was lucky that I had already studied conducting for 15 years before the competition. This enabled me to cope with the immediate demands of suddenly having many performances. After the competition, I returned to Australia to rest (as competitions are physically and mentally exhausting and I had also just competed in the Mancinelli and Solti competitions in the weeks before Fitelberg). As soon as I got off the plane, a phone call came for my immediate return to Europe to conduct. So, the competition opened a door immediately, and I am thankful that it is still open!

G.S.C: Your playful, open personality that is so appealing makes the immediate impact on both orchestra and audience. Is atmosphere on-stage important to you?

D. S: The atmosphere on stage and in the concert hall is perhaps the most important thing of all. It’s the main difference between live music and a recording. Real-time emotion. A moment in time that will be experienced and shared only once, bringing everyone together. I go to watch concerts to be taken on a journey and to be inspired. With a good performance, you can leave the hall joyful, upset or even angry from the emotion of live music. If I feel emotion, no matter what form, for me, it was a good concert!

Daniel Smith – conductor

Photo by: Tomasz Griessgrber

G. S.C.: The process of choosing certain repertoire is more on you or the orchestra you are conducting? Katowice evening was full of light, major scales, humour and positive energy…

D. S. : It’s a compromise between both myself and the orchestra. It’s not as straightforward as choosing your favourite pieces, in fact, I almost never do. You must take into account many things… acoustics of the hall, size of the orchestra, size of the hall, length of the concert, type of audience, culturally sensitive themes, quality and technical ability of the orchestra, how busy the surrounding concert period is for me and the orchestra, promotion of the concert, etc. You must make sure people will come to the concert. Yet, also to challenge both the audience and the orchestra at the same time and keep them on the edge of their seats! In the end, the audience and orchestra must be entertained and inspired!

G.S.C: You chose Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, opera buffa that automatically recollects to Polish people of my age the cult satirical radio programme being broadcasted in 80ties, when times here were tough. My memories were singing… Are there any favourite pieces that make you think about past?

D.S.: Of course! I have music which I associate when you break-up with a girlfriend, or also when you find a new girlfriend! The same with the birth or death of a loved one. Usually we associate music with the worst or the best periods of our lives. However, the most personal music for me are the pieces I have composed myself. One day, when they will be released to the public, you will see a window into my soul. Music begins where words end.

G.S.C: Is it any other music genre that you listen to while travelling or spending your free time (if you have any..)?

 D.S.: I cannot relax with classical music or opera. I was having a physiotherapy session on my shoulders recently and the massage therapist kept telling me to just relax. I told her that I couldn’t while Vivaldi was playing. I was concentrated on it like a conductor! So, I love to listen to any music that is good. Many genres… blues, electronic, folk, jazz, latin, pop, R&B, soul, rock… almost anything!

Daniel Smith – conductor

Krzysztof Jakowicz – violin
Photo by: Tomasz Griessgrber

G.S.C: On-stage you are very energetic, use characteristic body language that is easy to read to musicians, you keep eye contact, you smile a lot. How is it in your private life?

D.S.: Yes, for me, eye contact is the most important secret tool for a conductor (also for partners!). Offstage, I am quiet and often reserved. I wish that I was a superhero with endless energy, but I save it for the stage, where it is needed (and not always physical – also mental energy). At home alone, I’m quite boring! Doing the washing, cleaning, ironing, cooking, gardening. I am not so interesting!

G.S. C.: Two great personalities met in Katowice, you and Krzysztof Jakowicz, famous, world known violinist with the outstanding tune. The audience more than appreciated your common rapport. Would you please tell me more about the work with Polish musicians?

D.S. I have not the words to say how much of a privilege it was to work with Maestro Jakowicz. He is a real MUSICIAN. He inspires, creates fantasy and makes it a pleasure to be on stage, making music with him. Where I can, around the world, I love to program music by Polish composers and use Polish soloists or musicians in the orchestra. You have been too generous to take me into your country. Poland is now at the centre of my heart.

 Krzysztof Jakowicz and Daniel Smith.

Photo by: Tomasz Griessgrber

G.S.C.: You undoubtedly have the „gift of music”. Was it the reason to call your foundation with this name?

D.S.: Thank you for this beautiful compliment. For me, music is a gift of life. I would not be conducting if I didn’t have the support of my family, friends, teachers, musicians and audience members. The world is a better place when we support each other. Only with support, can we achieve a better life. The gift of music was given to me. Now, it’s my turn to give this gift of music to others.

G.S.C: Would you tell us more about the aims of the foundation?

D.S.: I believe that everyone should have the right and the opportunity to share in the inspiration of live music. It should not matter how much money they have, what nationality they are, their age, their beliefs, their health. Music is the only international language and when I look out from the stage to the audience and see everyone, together, it is the best example of peace in our world that I have witnessed. The aim of my foundation is to give music to those who need it most. To bring us together.


G.S.C.: You are active in social media. XXIst Century Man indeed. How important it is to keep contact with the audience online?

D.S.: Without the audience, I would not be on the stage. Every single audience member is part of my family and part of my journey. Journeys are best when they are shared.

G.S.C.: Maestro, last but not least, I asked fifteen year old twin sisters, Beata and Edyta from Gliwice who admired you in Katowice what would they like to know about you if they had a chance to make an interview and the question was: aren’t you tired with constant travelling? Katowice yesterday, London today, Kraków tomorrow…

D.S.: …and Rome the next day, and Milan and Moscow the days after that! When I stop, only then do I feel tired. Our world has so much to explore and I have so much to learn. Travelling, you gain understanding and respect of different cultures. I believe it makes you a better person. You must look after yourself by sleeping, eating and exercising well. Life is too exciting to sit and wait! Start now, follow your heart and dreams, and keep smiling always!

G.S. C.: Thank you very much for your time and the outstanding performance I had pleasure to enjoy.


 Photo by: Tomasz Griessgrber

 Grażyna Studzińska-Cavour  with Daniel Smith.

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