Meet Christian Reif: [BATCH]elor Ambassador and SF Symphony Conductor
What inspired you to become a conductor?
The first thing that drew me in was the music, and I wanted to become a conductor in order to share these substantial and impactful works with musicians and with each individual in the audience.
What does your work for San Francisco Symphony entail?
It’s a dual position of Resident Conductor with the San Francisco Symphony and Music Director of the SFS Youth Orchestra. I conduct the SFS in many different concerts, such as education concerts, Soundbox events, even an Oktoberfest concert last year, and this season I’m conducting them again in Subscription Concerts in January 2019. I also assist and cover the Music Director of the Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas. The Youth Orchestra is one of the best in the country, and I absolutely love working with them!
How do you prepare for a performance?
I study the music, play it on the piano, sing, analyze and internalize it, so that I have a clear reading of the material in my head and body. I also research a lot about the composer and the historical context of the piece, in order to ground myself more deeply in the material. On the day of the performance, after the week’s rehearsals are done, I usually take a nap in the afternoon, do some stretching and get my mind focused into the sound world of the repertoire.
What are some of your greatest influences as a conductor?
There are many, in all different parts of life. Most often, it is the musicians I’m surrounded by who inspire me the most and who I learn so much from. Also, Michael Tilson Thomas (SFS Music Director) has been my mentor for the past 4 years. I really admire his ability to look at music with the eyes of a theater director and bring out the drama and storyline in each piece.
My teachers at Juilliard and at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, among them Alan Gilbert, have also been an important influence and support throughout my career. My first piano teacher was my mom, and she definitely passed on her enthusiasm for music!
I am also inspired by various other art forms and mediums, primarily by visual artists. Of course there’s also my wife, a phenomenal artist herself, who likes to have influence on what I do and how to do it... ;)
How do you feel the musical landscape has changed since you first entered the industry?
Given that in many countries arts education is being cut back in schools, it has become more and more important for arts organizations to do community outreach and actively educate children, foster their creativity and humanity, and engage the community at large. Luckily, San Francisco Symphony has a fantastic education department and is a frontrunner in the country, providing access to music education to all neighborhoods of the city.
Community outreach is something I prioritize and believe that more organizations could focus their energies on.
How do you envision the symphony orchestra 50 years from now?
I think, 50 years from now, or 100 years from now, audiences will still always want to hear the great classical orchestral pieces, and I’d hope that many many new works will be added to the repertoire. I would also hope that symphony orchestras are embedded in their community more and continue to inspire, challenge, as well as entertain their audiences. Wouldn’t it be so nice, if every orchestra owned a hall that could be as innovative as the imagination of those inhabiting it? As artists, we have the opportunity and responsibility to be the reflection of our time and be a critical and humanistic entity in the world.
How does music influence creativity and design?
Sound, resonance, vibrations, impact on the body, aesthetics, timing, open space, presence
What is something you like to do in your spare time outside of music?
Hang out with friends, experiencing concerts of any genre, going out for great meals, read, ride my bike, go to museum/art galleries, work out, hiking.
How would you describe the style of your home? What do you look for when picking furniture and accessories?
Right now I’m renting, and traveling a lot, and am very respectful of the space I’m occupying and the items I’m living amongst, who belonged to the owner (a composer) who lived here. When I do have the opportunity to build/furnish my home, I would look for simple, clean, aesthetically pleasing design, and open and light spaces.
To learn more about Christian, visit his [BATCH]elor Ambassador profile here!