Theater District Open House

The Houston Symphony’s Amanda Dinitz Shares Fun Facts About The 2017-18 Season And More

A mini-profile of the orchestra and its new season through the eyes and ears of a music-lover, mom and Houston Symphony executive.

 

For over two decades, the Theater District Open House has been Houston’s way of kicking off the downtown performing arts season with an event that is part arts sampler, part street fair, and part family festival.

The annual Open House offers the public a chance to meet local arts groups and experience music, dance and theater through free performances, back-stage tours, and demonstrations, along with arts and crafts activities, special ticket offers, food trucks, and more – on the streets and inside the venues of Houston’s theater district.

As part of our “Theater District Open House” series, we’re profiling some of the arts organizations participating in the 24th Annual TransCanada Theater District Open House this Sunday, August 27.

In this installment, we feature the Houston Symphony, which is about to kick off its 104th season!

Meet Amanda Dinitz, Interim Co-Executive Director, in the sound portrait, above, as she talks about her passion for the Houston Symphony.

Then, read on as she shares fun facts about the Houston Symphony’s 2017-2018 season, below:

 

How would you describe your season in three words?

Collaborative. Innovative. Exciting.

Could you give a few examples of classical music superstars coming this season?

The classical season includes return appearances by violin virtuosos James Ehnes and Augustin Hadelich, as well as pianists Jonathan Biss, Kirill Gerstein, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, and Emanuel Ax. Dynamic cellist Johannes Moser will return with Haydn’s Cello Concerto No. 1, and percussionist Colin Currie will join the orchestra for the third time. Also returning this season is Grammy Award-winning violinist Hilary Hahn, who will perform Bernstein’s Serenade for Violin and Orchestra in celebration of Bernstein’s 100th birthday. 

Could you give a few examples of rising stars coming this season and a few fun facts about them?

We’re very excited for Leticia Moreno’s debut this fall – she’ll be performing the world premiere of a violin concerto written by our new Composer-in-Residence, Jimmy López.  Another rising star making his Houston Symphony debut this season is Benjamin Beilman, a 26-year old American violinist who is quickly making a name for himself in the industry, winning praise for his unique sound and technique.

Are there any guest artists that have come back so frequently and have such a close relationship with the Symphony that they feel like family?

Absolutely. Emanuel Ax, for example, is a great friend of the orchestra and will be returning for the very last concert of the season. Another good friend of the Symphony family is Augustin Hadelich, who has been with us a few times in recent years. Denis Kozhukhin, James Ehnes, and Hilary Hahn – all good friends of the orchestra and fan favorites – will return this upcoming season as well.

How are you opening the season?

In style! The 2017-18 Opening Night Concert and Gala Dinner, “La Vie en Rose,” will be held on September 9.  The concert at Jones Hall features the orchestra, guest conductor Gustavo Gimeno, and Grammy Award-winning mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, one of the world’s leading opera singers and a native Texan.

In addition to the classical series, you also have a pops series and family series.  What is special about those series this season?

2017-18 is Steven Reineke’s inaugural season as Principal POPS Conductor, so that’s very special for us.  Steve is energetic, charismatic, and is an extremely talented musical composer and arranger. We have an awesome lineup of POPS guest artists, including Megan Hilty, star of NBC’s “Smash,” who will join Steven, the orchestra and Houston Symphony Chorus on Very Merry Pops. We’re opening the POPS season on Labor Day weekend with Ella at 100 – a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald’s 100th birthday.  

I love our Family Series – this year is Associate Conductor Robert Franz’s 10th anniversary at its helm! Robert always dresses up in costume and makes listening to great orchestral music both fun and educational for kids.

How does this season “top” last season?  Are you challenging yourself or trying anything new?

Last season, our Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada led our semi-staged production of Fidelio, and this year, he leads a spectacular and innovative production of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Andrés and the orchestra have teamed up with acclaimed choreographer Klaus Obermaier and Ars Electronica Futurelab to create a multisensory experience of music, dance, and 3-D visual effects. We’re all incredibly excited to watch it come to life.

One big element that is new to 2018 is Andrés and the orchestra’s highly anticipated tour to eight European cities in March 2018. In advance of the tour, the orchestra will perform some of the tour repertoire in concert at Jones Hall, so audiences in Houston will be able to hear that music first before it’s played in some of Europe’s most prestigious concert halls.

What would people be surprised to know about the Houston Symphony?

That we’ve been presenting student matinee concerts for 80 years now in partnership with Houston Independent School District! Today, the Robbins Foundation Student Concert Series serves K-8 students with hour-long concerts. Collectively, they serve more than 55,000 students from across Greater Houston.

What does the Houston Symphony have planned for the Theater District Open House?

The orchestra will perform a free concert at 4pm at Jones Hall, led by Associate Conductor Robert Franz, featuring music from next year’s classical, pops and family series. Also, the Houston Symphony’s Instrument Petting Zoo will be on hand for children to get up close and personal with the orchestral instruments they see played on stage.

Besides getting people to come to your concerts, what are your hopes for the 2017-18 season?

We always strive to reach a wide and diverse audience in Greater Houston and beyond, so we will definitely do that when the orchestra goes on tour next year! We also introduced new, lower prices on the classical season, making the same world-class artistic experiences more accessible than ever.

Hosted by Theater District Houston, the 24th Annual TransCanada Theater District Open House is Sunday, August 27, 2017 from 12 – 5pm at the Alley Theatre, the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, Jones Hall, Revention Music Center, and Wortham Theater Center.

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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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