Classical Music

A Day In The Life Of An Artist: Linus Lerner

The conductor describes a day filled with beautiful weather, friends, music…and cats…at the 2017 Round Top Music Festival.

What do artists do in their free time? What inspires them in their everyday life? How do they start their day, tackle their creative processes, balance work-life, and then unwind – all within 24 hours?

In this series, "A Day in the Life of an Artist," we'll invite artists to answer those questions by pulling back the curtain on one day in their lives.

Internationally-acclaimed conductor Linus Lerner speaks five languages and serves as the Artistic Director of four musical organizations: the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra (Tucson, AZ) and the Symphony Orchestra of Rio Grande do Norte (Natal, Brazil), as well as the San Luis Opera Festival and the International Linus Lerner Voice Competition both based in San Luis Potosí (Mexico).

This week, Linus Lerner is in residence at the 2017 Round Top Music Festival, where he is preparing to conduct Verdi's Requiem. Now in its 47th season, the Round Top Music Festival is considered the "Tanglewood" of the Lone Star State. A summer conservatory for young professional musicians, distinguished faculty artists and guest conductors, the festival is also famous for its 210-acre campus in the Texas Hill Country, set amidst country roads, forests, gardens, Victorian homes and architecture.

Here is how conductor Linus Lerner spent June 14, 2017:


6:35 am

I woke up with the phone ringing. Although I like to wake up early every day, it is not unusual to be woken up like that since I work in different countries and the hours are slightly different. In this case, it was a call from Brazil, which is two hours ahead of Texas. I had to make some corrections on the program and discuss a few things about some members of the orchestra I conduct there. After that I went right into checking emails, reading the news and planing my day and all the things I need to accomplish.


8:08 am

Once I got out of my room, I realized what a beautiful day it was. This year the weather has been really nice and not as humid as last year. I felt really blessed to be part of this amazing festival and to do music during the summer in this beautiful setting. I took a walk to have breakfast at the Menke House and also to pick the brain of my friend and the festival's program director, Alain Déclert, who is an amazing organizer, musician and human being (and a very funny guy, too). We discussed some points of the previous day's rehearsal and details for the coming rehearsals.



As I started to walk back to my room at the beautiful Log House, I was followed by one of the beautiful cats (a female cat) that lives here. I absolutely love cats and can't resist petting them anytime I have the opportunity. As I was approaching the Log House, I decided to take a quick walk around to see this beautiful pond and a stone bridge that is breathtaking. The cat followed me and sat on the bridge to be pet. I took so many pictures! The problem was going back to the house and trying to tell the cat that she could not come in with me...she did not seem to like that!

Once back to my room, I went to work on planning my next concerts and principally studying my scores for the next performances I have. This summer I am really busy conducting six operas in four different countries and in a short period of time (two months), plus other concerts with orchestras, so I have to take advantage to study any minute I have.



Took a little break from studying and went to the office to print a report that the American Embassy in Russia requested from a concert I did there in April. At the office, I was well received as usual by interns Colin Jenkins, Samuel Phillips and Yuji Kano, who do such a great job organizing the daily activities. On my way back to my room, I stopped to listen to a little bit of the double bass sectionals' rehearsal and was quite impressed by how much sound and how well-tuned they were playing together. James VanDemark, their double bass professor for this week, is an absolutely impressive musician and did such a great job with these young musicians, who seemed so eager to learn as much as they can. In fact, one of the things that most impresses me about this festival is the amount of energy and dedication that these young players bring with them.



Back to my room to study more scores (cat is still following me!)



Back at the Menke House, I got a few minutes at the table with my friend and founder of the festival, James Dick, and other staff members. It was such a pleasure to have lunch and laugh with all of them.



Back at the Log House, I made some notes on my score and organized the rehearsal that would follow. Every time I look at the score of Verdi's Requiem I feel that there is still so much to be discovered. Such an amazing piece, really, and I don't regret the fact that I had to turn down a Carnegie Hall invitation as a clinician this weekend to be here for this masterwork!



I walked to the concert hall for my rehearsal. Does not matter how many times I have been inside this wonderful theater, I still feel overwhelmed by its beauty. I just learned the day before that it took about 20 years to finish the details of its wood art craft. No doubt a tremendous achievement!



Finished the rehearsal and felt extremely happy with what we accomplished. After all, this was only the second rehearsal, and I left full of energy that I received from these talented young musicians. We were able to work on so many details, and I got the feeling that it would be an amazing performance on Saturday. I just can't wait! As I left the theater and was going directly to dinner back at the Menke House, some players, who wanted to learn more about conducting, approached me and I scheduled some time with them for the next day. I had also a good conversation with a double bass player from Spain, Daniel Sanz, who plays at the Opera in Valencia, and we discovered that we have some friends in common. The world of music is such a small world in so many ways! I also could not waste the opportunity to speak my best Spanish with this kid. I love the Valenciano accent!



After dinner, phone calls, emails and a bit more of studying scores, I went to Alain Déclert's house with flute professor Gretchen Pusch, who is doing such impressive work with the flute students and whom I got to know a bit more this festival. We had a good bottle of Champagne and a great time talking about music and so many other things. And yes, I had time also to play with Alain's cat!



Once I left Alain's house, I went downtown to the Mexican restaurant Los Patrones to join other faculty members and students, but unfortunately they were about to close, so I gave a ride to some students back to the Institute. A few minutes later, I joined some of them at the pool. As I was walking in the dark to get to the pool, I had this terrific split-second idea: to turn on my phone light to see where I was stepping... well, guess what? I am so thankful I did because I was about to step on a Copperhead snake...I don't think that would be a good idea right?

Some students at the pool told me they had seen a few of them around and even one of the cats brought a Copperhead snake to them the other day. Such a nice gift!!



Finally back at my room to go to bed after a busy and productive day. As I am about to turn of the light, I can't help but be thankful for such an amazing life I have and feel so blessed that I can travel the world and do what I love the most and with such wonderful people!!

Linus Lerner conducts the Texas Festival Orchestra, Houston Masterworks Chorus and soloists in Verdi's Requiem on Saturday, June 17, 7:30pm at the 2017 Round Top Music Festival.


Catherine Lu

Catherine Lu

Content Producer & Announcer

While growing up in Chicago and Houston, Catherine’s love for art, music and creative writing was influenced by her teachers and parents. She was once concertmaster of the Clear Lake High School Orchestra and a four-time violinist of the Texas All-State Symphony. A graduate of the University of Chicago, Catherine...

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