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Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra music director Marc David answers 20 Questions

Marc David is the music director and principal conductor for the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra. (Greg Locke Photo)
Marc David is the music director and principal conductor for the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra. (Greg Locke Photo) - Contributed
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Marc David comes from a musical family. He's the youngest of four siblings, all of whom took music lessons. He remembers receiving a ukulele from his mother at a young age, but it wasn't until he picked up the violin that he truly became serious about music.

David obtained a music degree at McGill University in Montreal and focused on sharpening his conducting skills, eventually earning a doctoral degree in new music conducting at l’Université de Montréal.

While serving as a music director and conductor with the Sherbrooke Symphony Orchestra in the early 1990s, he noticed an advertisement for the principal conductor position with the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra (NSO).

"I made the shortlist, I was invited to conduct a concert in the podium series," he said, recalling there were three finalists for the gig. "Further to that concert, they offered me the position, and

I'm still there 28 years later and still enjoying it as much as I did my first years."

These days, David is also the music director for the orchestra, which performs multiple concerts in the fall, winter and spring covering a wide spectrum of genres. The orchestra tackles the expected classical fare, but also delves into big band jazz, folk and contemporary music. The latter two styles are exemplified in a concert scheduled for next February in St. John's where the

NSO will join Newfoundland and Labrador recording artists The Once, The Fortunate Ones and Sherman Downey and Matthew Byrne for some collaborative performances.

David said he appreciates the willingness of NSO performers to tackle new projects and perform better and better with each new season and each new concert.

"There's really a desire there to continue to develop, and that for conductors is really inspiring," he said.


Marc David, dressed as Dracula, conducts the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra on Friday during the NSO’s celebration of Halloween. (Alick Tsui photo) - Contributed
Marc David, dressed as Dracula, conducts the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra on Friday during the NSO’s celebration of Halloween. (Alick Tsui photo) - Contributed

Twitter: @CBNAndrew


1. What is your full name?
Marc David.

2. Where were you born?
I was born in Kingston, Ont.

3. Where do you live today? 
Today I live on the south shore of Montreal in a city called Longueuil.

4. What is your favorite place in the world? 
My cottage in the Eastern Townships (in southeastern Quebec). Just the calmness of being in that environment. We're on a small lake. No motorboats, so it's quiet and comfortable. The view on the lake, the nature, the animals, the squirrels and all the other animals that come around the house. I can putter around. There's always something to be done at a cottage, some sort of renovation or fixing something, and I enjoy doing that sort of thing.

5. Who do you follow on social media?
Actually, no one, because I'm not really on social media. I have a Facebook account, but I'm very rarely (on it). I don't have a Twitter account or any of those.
 
6. What would people be surprised to learn about you? 

I'm shy. Having chosen to become a conductor has brought me to come out of that and to work on that. Obviously in the orchestral environment, I'm fine, but let's say by nature I'm a shy person.

7. What has been your favorite year and why? 
I'd say 2019, because I became a grandfather this year. My granddaughter is only two months old, so we're just at the onset of this. But the time I have spent with her up to now has been extraordinary. As they say, the grandfather is the best gig in town. You can spoil your grandchildren. You're not as busy as when you were having your own children, and there's no discipline either to be handed down. It's the ideal position.

8. What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done? 
Probably dismissing someone at work. I don't like being in those situations. 

9. Can you describe one experience that changed your life? 
Becoming a parent. That happened early in my professional life I would say. I was already working as the music director of orchestras, and it changed in the sense that when you have a family, you try to be at home as much as possible, and in this sort of career, it's a little more difficult. So, you find work that gives you stability and enables you to be at home too. It really had an impact on my career, but this is what I wanted.

10. What is your greatest indulgence? 

Snacking, munching. Anything that resembles chips or that sort of snack. Anything you have with a glass of beer or with a pint or after concerts.

11. What is your favorite movie or book? 
I'd say that my favourite movie would be the "Wizard of Oz," and my favourite book would be "Don Quixote" by Miguel de Cervantes, a Spanish author. My favourite song is "Over the Rainbow," so that's definitely part of it.
 
12. How do you like to relax? 
Playing hockey, doing crossword puzzles and Sudokus. It's funny to say, but mostly in the summer (I play hockey) because I have more down time. During the season, it's a little more difficult. I used to play in regular house leagues and that, but I can't anymore because of the travelling and I can't commit to a regular schedule on the ice. I sub in several leagues, and when I'm at home I'm able to play. I actually even brought my gear to Newfoundland a few times over the years to play with some members of the orchestra. We played at St. Bon's.

13. What are you reading or watching right now? 
I'm reading Louise Penny's latest Inspector Gamache novel. She's a Quebec author and she has this series of novels. The main character is an inspector with the Quebec police force, and the last one out is called "A Better Man."

14. What is your greatest fear? 
I'd say losing family. Losing my spouse, a child or a grandchild.

15. How would you describe your personal fashion? 
Classic. Conservative. Nothing too outgoing. I'd say traditional.

16. What is your most treasured possession? 

Probably my orchestral score library. It's in the thousands. And why they're my prized possessions is all the time I've spent marking these scores and putting information in that I use when I'm conducting these pieces. There's been a lot of work invested. Not only in purchasing the scores, but also in marking them.

17. What physical or personality trait are you most grateful to a parent for? 
I'd say two things coming from my father. First of all, his sense of integrity. And also, his abundant hair.

18. What three people would you invite to your dream dinner party? 
I went the classical music route here. There'd be Mozart. (Hector) Berlioz, the French composer. He's written memoirs and all sorts of books, and it's fantastic reading, so I'm sure he'd be lots of fun. And Nadia Boulanger. She's one of the foremost music theorists of 50 years ago or so.

19. What is your best and your worst quality? 
I'd say being meticulous and picky.

20. What is your biggest regret? 
Probably not having continued to play the violin. I stopped playing seriously at the beginning of my adulthood when I started conducting, and that's something I miss. Mostly in terms of having access to chamber music — playing string quartets or playing in small groups ... another dream is picking up the cello. If I do have time, that's probably what's going to happen. Instead of the violin, I'll go for the cello and have a new challenge.


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