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James Sedares

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By Barry Kluger 

Some kids want to grow up to be musicians while others want to grow up and conduct musicians. Such is the case with Chicago-born James Sedares, (affectionately known as The Maestro to his Cigar King pals), who served with the Phoenix Symphony for 10 years, 7 of those as its Music Director and Principal Conductor from 1986-1996. During his tenure, the Phoenix Symphony produced four commercially sold CD's, including Editorial Director Barry Kluger's favorite, "the Magnificent Seven, which for those of you unfamiliar, think "the Marlboro man" advertisement.

Jim Sedares currently conducts throughout the world with a long association with New Zealand and its orchestras, including the Wellington Orchestra where he has been Principal Guest Conductor, and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra with whom he has over 30 recordings, as well as many concerts over the years. Recent activities include his debut with the Rotterdam Philharmonic, a concert in St. James in London, and his debut CD on the prestigious Deutsche Grammophon label with the Prague Philharmonia. Sedares, who enjoys a fine cigar now and then, sat down with Editorial Director Barry Kluger to answer a few probing--and not so probing--questions.

Q. The line we all hear from actors is "what I really want to do is direct." Do people with musical passions always want to "conduct?"

A. I think conducting a symphony orchestra is a number one fantasy for many people. They may desire that feeling of power and control in making the music sound the way they want it to sound. It's the ultimate thrill ride for people seriously into music, both amateur and professional.

Q. I know this sounds like a really silly question but what does a conductor really do?

A. Originally conductors were there to keep the beat. As the concept of the artist/conductor evolved in the early to mid 19th century through today, the conductor's role became much more comprehensive regarding the overall conception, interpretation, and execution related to performance. Conducting is a comprehensive art combining many musical, stylistic, historical, and philosophical aspects.

Q. Great music has come from films over the past 80 years. What are some of your favorite scores and favorite composers?

A. Naturally, Elmer Bernstein's The Magnificent Seven, and Aaron Copeland's The Red Pony, both award winning CDs which I recorded with the Phoenix Symphony. The Copland won the INDIE Award for best classical album of the year from the National Association of Independent Record Distributors (NAIRD) and the Bernstein won the prestigious Echo Award ( Deutschen Schallplattenkritik Preise-- Germany's version of the Grammy). Also the Korngold scores to the great Errol Flynn swashbucklers, Captain Blood, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and The Sea Hawk.

Q. Here's the set up. You're standing in front of the world's greatest symphony of which you have been asked by royalty to conduct. They have lifted the no-smoking ban. The first half of the program is Bach, the second half, Bernard Herrmann. What two cigars fit the mood?

A. Well, Bach had 20 children; he didn't have any time to smoke. For Herrmann, something spicy and pungent like a Punch Maduro Robusto.

Q. What advice do you have for someone who first takes up an instrument and they are on the cusp of the road to rock n' roll or the road to the great composers?

A. You must have deeply felt convictions concerning your art and your musical identity. My advice is to listen to a lot of music, in your field and outside of it. You need to find your own voice.

Q. Final question: Is there one piece of music that moves you to tears?

A. Haydn's Farewell Symphony---I just hate to say good-bye.

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