Ryan Dudenbostel, 32, an Aberdeen native and a Western Washington University graduate, returned to Bellingham as an assistant professor in Western’s music department. He conducts the WWU Orchestra in a free concert at 8 p.m. Monday, November 17, in WWU’s Performing Arts Center.
No stranger to Bellingham, Dudenbostel has conducted for the Marrowstone Music Festival, Western’s Summer Stock Theatre and the North Sound Youth Symphony.
It’s been absolutely wonderful to be able to come back to this beautiful place year after year for various projects, and now that I’ve had the honor of joining the faculty at Western, it feels like a very special homecoming. There is tremendous opportunity for growth and building at WWU, and I have bright visions of this university being the go-to destination for students hoping to pursue music in Washington.
I also had my first conducting experiences leading school musicals beginning when I was 16. I don’t know what anyone was thinking giving me that kind of responsibility at that age, but I’m so grateful they did! I was able to learn many lessons about conducting — and leadership generally — very early, which put me ahead of the game, I think.
I also think that seemingly disconnected areas of music often relate to each other in surprising ways. So, for example, you may learn something from that Mahler “ländler” that allows you to play that famous waltz in “Carousel” with just the right amount of lilt.
Also, I emphasize to my students that as musicians it is our responsibility — especially in academia — not only to curate the vast repertoire of the past 250 years, but also to further the discussion about where music is heading in the present day. Presenting new works is a critical part of that.
WWU faculty cellist John Friesen will be joining the orchestra to play the Saint-Saëns First Cello Concerto. The Saint-Saëns is a work he knows deeply, and this should be a treat for all of us.
The concert will conclude with Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony, a monumental work from the mid-1930s, following his public denunciation by the official Soviet Party newspaper. And due to its dramatic history, it’s also a piece that has long-suffered from attempts to “decode” its meaning by analysts on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
To discuss these issues of interpretation in Shostakovich, I will be hosting a panel discussion with faculty from the music, history, and language departments one hour before the concert in the PAC Concert Hall.
The downside of this is that this sort of depth often comes at the expense of breadth. Additionally, no matter how much you try to see, you will invariably miss at least 90 percent of it, simply because you can only be in one place at a time.
It’s also incredibly expensive. While Bellingham might present a more modest offering of options, the active concertgoer can still attend something different almost every evening, and often hear some very fine performances for little or no cost. I also think that because our local offerings tend to be quite eclectic from one night to the next, Bellingham audiences generally have broad musical appetites, and are willing to be adventurous in terms of exploring music that is unfamiliar to them. This is wonderfully freeing from the standpoint of a performer.