The Youth Symphony Orchestra (YSO), Santa Fe Youth Symphony Association’s (SFYSA) flagship ensemble welcomes its new conductor, William Reece Waag.
He hails most recently from Anchorage, Alaska, where he conducted a youth orchestra. He arrived in Santa Fe early August to prepare for student auditions and the start of the 2014/2015 term.
Prior to his arrival in Santa Fe, William was the music director of the Anchorage Youth Philharmonic and Director of Bands, Percussion, Music Theory and Special Education Music at Robert Service High School in Anchorage, Alaska. Raised primarily in Boise, Idaho, he received a Bachelor of Music in Music Education from Boise State University. During that time he had a chance to teach in the Boise public schools system and was Assistant Conductor of the Boise State All-Campus Band. He then received a Master of Music in Orchestral Conducting from Central Washington University, where he served as the Graduate Assistant Conductor of the Symphony, Chamber, and Opera Orchestras.
William’s love for working with youth orchestras was born in Washington when he took over the music directorship of the Kittitas Valley Youth Orchestra. Since then, his passion for leading full high school orchestras has grown exponentially.
When did you decide to be a conductor?
(Smiles) “When I was a kid, there were five things I thought I could be: a musician, a teacher, a baseball player, a pilot and a truck driver. Well, I discovered my eyes were bad as a kid, so ‘pilot’ didn’t work out. I struck out on the Tee-ball team all the time, so I found out I wasn’t good for baseball either. And finally, I was probably overly romanticizing being a truck driver. So that left me with musician and teacher, and when you combine those you get conductor.”
What drew you to the position at SFYSA?
“I wanted a chance to become wholly invested in a flagship ensemble. In May, when I auditioned for the job, I was very impressed working with the orchestra. They made great eye-contact—even better than any ensemble I had worked with in the past… and I just felt that they had a great attitude….and even though this may seem like a small thing, it’s a huge factor for me when working with a group. I felt a strong chemistry with the students and the chemistry with the staff was also exceptional. ”
What is the hardest thing about being a conductor?
“The hardest thing is also the most exciting thing… that is balancing and engaging musicians of various levels and interests and drawing them together for one common purpose.”
How do you achieve that balance and engaging experience?
“I try to make my rehearsals a collaborative experience with all musicians. For example, by engaging a brass player to help him detect what could be better in the violin section. Music making is a full mind and body experience; I try to engage the groups physically and mentally. Sometimes we do different stretches before we do anything else. I believe playing music should also be a physical experience, not just aural. The result of that is that the group becomes more engaged.”
What is your vision for the Youth Symphony Orchestra?
“I look forward to building and developing an orchestra that engages the community in creative ways. I want to build an orchestra from the vision I’ve developed after working at other organizations for years. An orchestra that is active in the community, that collaborates with other organizations. I want it to be a household name in the city. It’s important that it is high caliber artistically, as I would more importantly want it to be something that impacts the musician and helps them develop a life-long relationship with music regardless of their life aspirations.”
How do you feel about Santa Fe?
“I’ve always loved Santa Fe for its art, music and outdoor recreational opportunities. I’ve never known a town with such vivid character. It’s unique—like no other place I’ve been. And there is so much going on musically for a town this size.”
Any last words?
“I want this to be a very active ensemble in the community. I’m excited to have this opportunity and I want to push the students to do as much as possible. I have a vision for the group and the program and I feel there is room to fulfill the potential. I feel like the right person for the group.”
William will officially begin working with the group on Sunday, September 7th, when weekly YSO rehearsals start for the year.
A LITTLE MORE...
William loves hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, coffee, baseball, and especially road trips in his 70s Volkswagen Bus. This is his second 1972 Volkswagen Camp Mobile with a Westfalia top. His last one was a 1979 model. William says that between the two VW vans he’s put in thousands of miles.
Won't be hard to miss this one driving around in Santa Fe...