Pass the Baton

courtney lewis JUN14

//photo by Agnes Lopez

In May, the Jacksonville Symphony Association introduced Courtney Lewis as its new music director. Lewis, who is from England (but was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland), is scheduled to conduct the Orchestra’s season opening concerts on September 26 and 27 and on May 14 and 15, 2015. His first full season of conducting engagements will begin in the 2015-2016 season. That Lewis is full of energy, optimistic about his new gig and incredibly talented is no surprise. That he’s just 30 years old might be. He recently sat down with Jax Mag to discuss the importance of getting young people interested in classical music, his favorite hobbies outside of the concert hall and what’s on his
Spotify playlist.

• Lewis has been interested in music since he was a young choruster growing up in England. He also studied clarinet and piano, but now sticks to conducting. “From the very beginning, music has been one of my interests. I went to university to study composition when I was 18 and that’s when I realized I wanted to be a conductor rather than a composer. I still play the piano, but strictly domestically. No one’s allowed to hear it anymore.”

• He was recently appointed Assistant Conductor at the New York Philharmonic and is co-founder and music director of Boston’s acclaimed Discovery Ensemble chamber orchestra. “It’s going to be really exciting for me to be involved with the New York Philharmonic, watching how a big orchestra like that functions and then being able to apply that to my work here.”

• In the future, expect the Orchestra to play more 18th-century music, like Haydn and Mozart, as well as late-20th and early 21st-century music. “There’s basically 100 years of music that doesn’t get played enough, from 1920 onwards, so that’s going to be a part of what
I do here.”

• At 30, Lewis isn’t the typical classical music fan—but he hopes to see more of his peers in the audience eventually. “One of the things we’ll be looking at is diversifying the kind of concert experiences we offer,” he says. “I’m looking forward to starting Symphony package nights where there will be a happy hour for young professionals before, a shorter concert and then an event afterwards. We present great classical music and we won’t stop doing that. But there are other ways to present it to make it more attractive for a broader range of people.”

• When asked what music is currently on his playlist, he counts David Guetta, Shuman, Kylie Minogue and Mahler among the artists currently on his playlists. “I listen to lots of pop music. I have a huge Pandora and Spotify library on my phone with every conceivable kind of trashy pop music. I’ve been listening to Pharrell Williams’ new album a lot recently.”