Yaniv Attar takes the podium Oct. 6 for first time with Whatcom Symphony Orchestra


Yaniv Attar, Whatcom Symphony Orchestra

Whatcom Symphony Orchestra's debut concert with new music director Yaniv Attar is at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013 at Mount Baker Theatre, 104 N. Commercial St.


Yaniv Attar makes his debut as conductor of Whatcom Symphony Orchestra at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 6, at Mount Baker Theatre. Here's a behind-the-scenes peek at his background and thoughts.

Question: Since you're a classical guitarist, will you be performing in Whatcom County?

Answer: For a long time I tried to keep up both my guitar playing and my conducting studies. But, unfortunately, I couldn't make it happen once I started to get more busy with conducting.

After quite a long break from playing, I am slowly bringing my guitar back into my daily life and hoping to collaborate with some WSO musicians for chamber music concerts this year.

He will perform in a "Night Beat" concert sponsored by Bellingham Music Club with cellist Nick Strobel at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 14 at Firehouse Performing Arts Center, in Fairhaven.

Q: Do you have a favorite guitarist?

A: My favorite guitarist is Julian Bream. He belongs to a generation of musicians that I find so inspiring but are, unfortunately, fading away.

Q: Do you plan to talk about the works at the concerts, or will that be left to the pre-concert lectures?

A: I love learning about the stories behind the music we play and sharing those stories with our audiences. I enjoy talking to the audience from the stage, telling them a little bit about the pieces they are about to hear, especially if they are pieces that are not so familiar.

The pre-concert talks are a wonderful opportunity to get more detailed and insightful comments about the program. Edward Rutschman is a brilliant man, and I encourage everyone to hear his pre-concert talks. I know I will be there.

Q: Did you set the program for the upcoming season or have any input?

A: As far as programming goes, the guest artists were booked a long time ago, before I was announced as music director. Together with a programming committee, we came up with the program for this season, and we are currently working on the program for the next two seasons. I am very excited about all the music in our future.

Q: How do you hope to involve young people in attending more WSO concerts?

A: Outreach and education is such important work. A great program we are running for the second year is our "Take a Teen" program. Basically, you get a free ticket if you bring a teen, and that's a wonderful way to help expose younger audiences to classical music.

We reach thousands of kids in the school through various education and outreach programs, such as Beethoven in the Schools, Musicians in the Schools, and our annual family concert, which I am very excited about.

Q: Who encouraged you to pursue music professionally?

A: My mom bought the guitar for me, hoping that I would play a few songs and have some exposure to music. We joke that if she knew that I would take it so seriously, she would have never bought the instrument. I am only joking, though. She loves and supports what I do and I am grateful to her for setting me on this path.

When I was just beginning to play the guitar, I heard my teacher, Shalom Ganon, play some Bach and I was mesmerized. I became very passionate about classical music and to this very day I consider Bach as my favorite composer.

My never-ending affair with orchestral music came when I was about 13 and my sister was analyzing the soundtrack of "A Clockwork Orange" for a Tel Aviv University assignment. The sounds of Beethoven's Ninth caught my ears. I am so excited for this season's finale when we will be performing Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. It has been a dream of mine to conduct it for a very long time.

Q: Who has been inspirational in your life?

A: I have been very lucky to study with wonderful teachers and work with great conductors, but there are two great mentors who are still mentors to me today. My conducting teacher from McGill University, Alexis Hauser, as well as two other conductors, Justin Brown and Donald Thulean. All three of these men are first-class musicians and human beings on top of being very fine conductors.

Q: As a Jewish native of Israel, what are your impressions are of the Jewish community in Bellingham?

A: The Jewish community in Bellingham is small and therefore very tight. They embraced us even before we set foot here, and we are already active in the life of the synagogue. I even played guitar in the High Holiday services. We love the warmth of the Jewish community and feel very lucky to have it as part of our life in Bellingham.

Q: How do you and your family spend leisure time?

A: Being a conductor and a father, I tend to forget the definition of personal leisure time. Having said that, though, we have so enjoyed getting to know our new home this summer as a family.

We have never lived in an area where you can do so much outdoors. Bellingham and Whatcom County are stunning, and we love hiking, spending time at the lakes, visiting all the beautiful parks and playgrounds, and just being in our yard with our neighbors. We love Bellingham and hope that it is our home for many years to come.

For a preview of this Sunday's concert from Yaniv, watch this video:

Concert Preview - October 6, 2013; First Concert of 2013-2014 Season from Whatcom Symphony Orchestra on Vimeo.


In other music news, after a year on sabbatical, The Mike Allen Quartet, comprised of Western Washington University faculty members Mike Allen, Miles Black, Adam Thomas and Julian MacDonough, will play at 7:30 p.m. at the Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth, 1059 N. State St., one Wednesday each month through June.

The kickoff will be Wednesday, Oct. 9, with Allen on saxophone, Black on piano, Thomas on bass and MacDonough on drums.

On Nov. 6, they'll be joined by renowned trombonist Julian Priester, who began his career touring with Sun Ra and Lionel Hampton and spent many years on the faculty of Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle.

The quartet's gig after that will be Dec. 4. On Jan. 8, the quartet will be rounded out with vocals from BAAY director David Post. Dates for future performances will be released once finalized.

The monthly series is presented by Western in conjunction with the Jazz Project, a Bellingham nonprofit organization formed in 1997 by drummer Jud Sherwood and dedicated to increasing performance opportunities for local, regional, national and international jazz musicians.

Admission is $10 general, $8 for Jazz Project members, and free for WWU students and any student 18 and younger with a valid student ID. A series pass is available for $55 from the Jazz Project. Details: jazzproject.org, 360-650-1066.

Reach Margaret Bikman at 360-715-2273 or margaret.bikman@bellinghamherald.com. Read her Entertainment Blog at bellinghamherald.com/entertainment-blog or follow her on Bellingham Entertainment on Facebook or @bhamentertainme on Twitter.

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