Mark Russell Smith is the artistic director of orchestral studies at the U — that means he conducts the ensembles, pulls together programs and mentors conducting students.
What makes him so special is that he makes great music happen, but also he brings a relevance to music and helps knock down that wall between audience and orchestra.
Mark and I got to talking recently when we realized his wife — Third Horn of the Minnesota Orchestra Ellen Smith — and I were pals way back in college days playing at a summer festival. After a few laughs and realizing we had all grown up considerably, he told me what the U students were doing for their final concert this school year and I immediately said come on the radio and talk about that, but for sure share a couple of desert island discs as well so we can get to know you.
Of course, a conductor likes long songs, so it was hard to cut things down into manageable bites, but we found a few of the great moments in orchestral literature that at first entices someone to become a professional musician and later to stay a professional musician.
You don't want to miss this dynamic personality present and conduct music this weekend. Repertoire features Mahler's Totenfeier, a performance of Glitter and Be Gay from Leonard Bernstein's Candide and Non, Monsieur, mon mari from Francis Poulenc's Les Mamelles De Tiresias by Laura Hynes, the U of M School of Music concerto competition winner, and one of the most sublime moments in all of music — Strauss's Suite and Final Scene from Der Rosenkavalier.