Ward Stare entered Juilliard younger than most, carrying his trombone and a glistening resume that included a long run with the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra.
He had taken his seat in the RPYO younger than most too.
His career called just a year and a half into his time at Juilliard.
He had tried out for Lyric Opera of Chicago and got the gig.
Ward was just 18 years old. >
“When you go to a school like Juilliard, the goal when you get there is to get a big job, so you never know when those job opportunities are going to come along so the opportunity came,” Ward said.
More than six years went by when, as Ward puts it, he caught the conducting bug.That budding passion eventually delivered him to the St. Louis Philharmonic as resident conductor.
The Pittsford grad was tapped to be the next music director of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra – an orchestra about to celebrate its 100th anniversary.
“I didn’t have any idea I’d be back here, but then, Bang! Lo and behold, here I am and it’s been fantastic,” Ward said.
Ward walked into a sea of talent, but it was also a sea that had been tossed by internal strife.
“It’s definitely in the rearview mirror,” Ward said. “The nice thing about coming into a situation like that where people have been through some difficulty, as the new guy you don’t have any of that baggage so you help people move forward and I think we have completely moved forward in every way. Artistically the orchestra is sounding great, fiscally, we’re in better shape than we’ve been in in a very long time thanks to the very hard work of a lot of people in our administration, I think that the future is very, very bright for this orchestra.”
The future is also bright for Ward, who will make his debut with the MET orchestra this fall.
Back at home, he has big plans to attract a new and younger audience to the orchestra.
In November, the film Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone will be shown at Kodak Hall with the RPO performing the score live.
This follows the orchestra’s spring performances of a set of John Williams’ pieces, including parts of his Star Wars score.
To Ward, whatever the RPO plays, new or old, it has the potential to send electricity through the audience.
“There’s this sportive element, it’s almost athletic, it’s like going to watch a great basketball player or football team or great baseball player hit a home run in the bottom of the 9th. I mean, some of these passages are very difficult and these musicians have worked their entire lives to master them and bringing all that great energy, coming together in a performance is thrilling,” Ward said.
As for his age, Ward is finally older than some of the other musicians in the room and clearly commands the stage with baton in hand.
“Musicians have a very generous spirit,” Ward said. “It’s all about the music. It’s not so much about age or where you came from, that’s one of the beauties of music, it accepts people of sorts of backgrounds and different places in our lives and we all come together to make music.”
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