Music Director Dina Gilbert was recently featured in an article in a Chinese publication. Look through the original article, and read the translation below.

Dina Gilbert: Career of A Young Conductor

He Yuxuan

The elder conductor has an unparalleled life experiences accumulation and understanding on music, but there are advantages while in the early age of the conductor: the rare active, pride and fearless, thought the younger one may lack of poise, deliberation, or capacity to strategize after the long game with the orchestra. These characteristics are also the conductor who in the late years could not seize even he or she has a deep longing for.

People often loves the deep temperament who has been accumulate for a long time, but forget the precious of fledgling.

“What could a young conductor do?”

Asked excitedly by Felix Weingartner, a 24-year-old conductor who is dueling with the elder master Hans von Bulow in 1887. In his opinion, there’s nothing could a young conductor do while having lesser and lesser opportunities, depressing and maligning by the elders step by step.

Of course, it was the end of the nineteenth century, and his time was still in the early stages of the professionalization of conducting, and there weren't that many conductors in the world.

By the time of 21st century, Weingartner has already become an elder one. But how could a fresh blood answer the question of “What could a young conductor do?” while facing thousands of colleagues.

“The young conductors should always work, work, work.” Quoted sincerely by Mariss Jansons, with his own experiences. “Most importantly, you could never ever have self-satisfaction, you should keep reminding yourself that you could always do better.” Bernard Hatink also said: “Young conductors should not be self-absorbed, must have an open mind, and must take the initiative to meet different musicians and improve themselves in works.”

I am not sure that if the suggestions above apply to everyone, as there are so many very different circumstances and choices faced by the young practitioners these days. But as far as I know, following such the good suggestions could lead them to good results, for some people at least. Dina Gilbert might be one of the good example on this, I am no sure if she has heard the saying by Jansons or Hatink, but I am sure she’s working positively, being bold, open-minded and willing to working with any kinds of artists, which lead her to the huge success and widely praised.

In April of 2016, as the young assistance conductor of Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Dina Gilbert who born in a small city of Québec, got a mission out of blue: she needed to conduct The Planets  by Holst, in place of Alain Altinoglu. To everyone’s surprise, the concert was in huge success and with enthusiastic response, and Dina was rose to fame. Invitations keep coming afterwards, Dina Gilbert is now regularly invited by leading Canadian orchestras including the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, the Orchestre métropolitain, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Hamilton Philharmonic and the Orchestre symphonique de Québec. And she is currently the Music Director of the Kamloops Symphony (British-Columbia) and of the Orchestre symphonique de l'Estuaire (Québec). Meanwhile, she’s also the founder of Ensemble Arkea, an influential ensemble in the recent years.

However, the career of Dina Gilbert did not take off as quick as the media claimed. Her achievements were the result of her down to earth studying and hard-working. In my interview, Dina made it clear that how each stage of her childhood education had influenced her artistic life, and it was the accumulation and opportunities that led her to the career as a professional conductor.

I come from a little town in Québec province where there was no orchestra around, nor music conservatory, but thanks to my parents, I started piano lessons and singing in children's choir at age 5. When I got the chance to play the clarinet in high school at 12 years old, I was really excited to play music with other people. Quite early on, my teachers noticed I had an aptitude for leading groups and proposed me to conduct choirs and wind ensembles.
It was only several years later, when I moved to Montreal to pursue my musical studies that I finally had access to attend classical concerts. This sudden access had a major impact on my musical path and I quickly found my way from pianist, to clarinetist to conductor. The decisive moment came in my undergraduate years when I took an optional conducting class. After one of the classes the teacher, Paolo Bellomia, took me aside and mentioned that he had noticed that I had a good ear and was at ease expressing what I wanted through gestures. He asked me whether I had thought of becoming a conductor and it was kind of an epiphany moment for me. I had never thought about this before but it made perfect sense as I knew I loved music but I also knew that a career as a clarinetist or pianist was not for me. After that lesson, he proposed to mentor me in preparation for the Master Conducting programme audition. The moment I got in, I realized that everything I had done so far had happened for a reason and I was eager to start my life as a conductor.
From this experience, I understood that the opportunities and the people you meet can have tremendous impact on your life, or on your career. Everyday I am grateful to these mentors and I feel it's my turn now, to share my passion for music to all audiences.

In 2013, Dina Gilbert was selected by Maestro Kent Nagano to be the assistant conductor of Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, where she has been working for four years, while learning how to conduct and practice with Kent Nagano. She has a vivid memory of it.

Maestro Kent Nagano has been and is still an inspiring and supportive mentor. He’s indefatigable and you get the impression that every second of his life is devoted to music. I obviously learn a lot regarding the broad orchestral repertoire, but what impressed me the most was his overall vision of the role of a Music Director toward its community. He always has audacious projects in mind, and under his leadership with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal wonderful projects came to life such as the construction of the world-class Maison symphonique and its Grand Orgue Pierre-Béique; the implementation of the annual Classical Spree Festival and most recently the educational project La musique aux enfants.

It is the early experiences made Dina Gilbert know the importance of artistic education. Generally, for most the professional conductors (especially the famous ones), they focus only in their career while in the early age but the educational problems in their middle and late ages. But Dina Gilbert is totally different, she has been actively engaged in many musical education activities since the beginning of her conducting career, she played an important role in the MSO-Education project of Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, and another example is Conductor 101 project, which she co-founded with the Kamloops Symphony and of the Orchestre symphonique de l'Estuaire, gives the children intimate access to orchestras, instruments, performers and conductors, let them experience the charm of music in the light atmosphere in games.

As Music Director, I think it's extremely important to provide opportunities for all the children of our communities in Kamloops and Rimouski to discover classical music. This is why I started the Conducting 101 workshops with both my orchestras, and these give the children the chance to discover the instruments of the orchestra and the role of the conductor. I am always excited to see their reaction when they first hear the sound of the bassoon, when they realize they spontaneously understand the meaning and the emotions carried by a piece of music, or when they hear the result of their conducting when I am calling some of kids to conduct our musicians. These activities prove that children can naturally understand various notions of music whilst having fun.

As the musical director of Kamloops Symphony Orchestra and of the Orchestre symphonique de l'Estuaire, every idea she thoughts music consider the artistic characters of these orchestras. In her opinions, every orchestra has their unique tradition and roots, and these aspects could not be separated from the cultural atmosphere around the orchestra.

Each of these orchestras is unique because they represent and serve their own community. The most obvious difference is that the cultural references of the public are different as one audience is English-speaking and the other is French-speaking. This has implications on the programming, especially when collaborating with guest artists from other genres because what is popular in Quebec is not necessarily in British Columbia.

With that, let’s talk about the question at the very beginning: “What could a young conductor do?”

At least for the example of Dina GIbert, there is so much thing that a young conductor could do, even he or she has neither secured a high enough position nor a top orchestra, but there’s no longer narrow-minded and stuck ways as previous generations claimed.

In the minds of many, a conductor must be of a certain age to have sufficient leadership experience and artistic depth, to conduct a top orchestra, or to conduct a classic piece. But I want to say something opposite: The elder conductor has an unparalleled life experiences accumulation and understanding on music, but there are advantages while in the early age of the conductor: the rare active, pride and fearless, thought the younger one may lack of poise, deliberation, or capacity to strategize after the long game with the orchestra. These characteristics are also the conductor who in the late years could not seize even he or she has a deep longing for. Is Maturity what art cares most about? Part of it is, but there’s a precious part of its instinct and innocence. People often loves the deep temperament who has been accumulate for a long time, but forget the precious of fledgling.

From my personal point of view, Dina Gilbert has these rare qualities of a young artist. People often think that her musical interpretations have a strong energy, and I think she is naturally aware of those qualities and expresses them fearlessly. During the interview, I’ve came across her fearless personality. When I asked her which conductor she most admired, Tina's response was one of clarity and individuality.

I would have so many conductors in mind. To just name a few, I admire the interpretive depth of Kent Nagano, the spontaneity on the podium of Sir Roger Norrington, the magnetic communication of Zubin Mehta, and the energy of Barbara Hannigan. All these qualities are inspiring but I wouldn't say that they influence me directly since every conductor should be original and authentic in their approach to music.

The Programing of Dina’s concert are audacious, with surprisingly openness of a young man as well. She has conducted the world premiere of the film The Red Violin with orchestra at the Festival de Lanaudière, and she has conducted the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and the Orchestre national de Lyon in several Hip Hop Symphonic programmes collaborating with renowned Hip hop artists I AM, MC Solaar, Youssoupha, Arsenik and Bigflo & Oli. Many traditionalist critics and listeners has questioned and argued that classical music should be kept "pure" and that other types of music should not be mixed in. And Dina's response to such questions has been blunt.

I don't agree with this notion of "pure" music. When comes the time to considered a project that is outside of the standard classical formula, I ask myself two questions: is this project meaningful to an audience and; will this artistic project be of a high artistry level. So far, I have been lucky getting involve in audacious projects where I was surrounded by outstanding composers, arrangers and performers, be it for some Hip Hop Symphonic concerts in France, for the presentation of the Montreal Video Game Symphony, or for the live presentation of films like The Red Violin.

Dina Gilbert has her style on concert programing. She often strings the pieces together with a meaningful title to make them whole and share a same meaning. For example, in a Kamloops Symphony Orchestra concert which was titled “For the love of Clara" on February 28th, 2020, the program includes the works by Schumann, Brahms and Clara Schumann; and on March 6th and 7th, she combined the works by Beethoven, Ethel Smyth and Canadian contemporary composer Katia Makdissi-Warren under the heading of "Heroes And Heroines”.

When I implement a program, I like to choose works that will give the audience an opportunity to discover or rediscover works through a common angle. This is one of the ways our repertoire can feel fresh and also stay relevant to any contemporary topics. These concert titles are also less intimidating for someone who would come experience for the first time a live concert.
With the Love of Clara, I exposed to the audience the impact and important leg Clara Wieck had on both her husband Robert Schumann, and the young Johannes Brahms. It was also an opportunity for the public to discover her talent as a composer and as one of the most virtuosic musician of her time by featuring her Piano Concerto with a young soloist. By introducing the piece to the audience, it was also important for me to rectify that Clara Wieck was not only a muse for Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms (which works were also featured in this program), but also, a recognized and respected musician who was totally audacious and intrepid for her time.
With Heroes and Heroines concert, I chose to present works by Beethoven, Ethel Smyth and Canadian composer Katia Makdissi-Warren who all overcame adversity and contributed to create a better world. From refusing deafness (Beethoven) to fighting for woman rights (Ethel Smyth) to creating connections by a new commission piece in collaboration with Canadian indigenous artist Csetkwe Fortier, all these works together created a meaningful concert for our audience. Music is for me is not an entertainment, but a conduit in which we can reflect on the past, present and future.

In 2010, Dina Gilbert founded Ensemble Arkea which form by 16 strings player as artistic director and principle conductor. She brought them to the stage of Verdun, Montreal and Ottwa, with the world premiere of dozens of new compositions by young Canadian composers.

When I asked her what motivated her to found this ensemble, Dina replied bluntly:

When I’d finished my doctorate it was important for me to have my own ensemble. After all, what would a conductor be without an orchestra? Since I had acquired experience by forming my own orchestra to present each of my annual concert exams while doing my Master and Doctorate, I decided to found Ensemble Arkea with musicians that were eager to pursue the presentation of concerts. From the difficulty of finding opportunities to grow as a conductor, I also realized that it’s even harder for an emerging composer. Therefore, from the beginning, several concerts of Ensemble Arkea featured works by young Canadian composers, and a few years later, we had commissioned several works through the five editions of our composition competition 'Accès Arkea'.
With Ensemble Arkea, the aesthetics of the contemporary works were really diverse. When the repertoire was not relatively accessible, such as a cine-concert or video game music, the idea was to make it more accessible by breaking the rules of the normal contemporary concert. We presented concerts in bars, introduced the pieces by chatting to the composer, and in the case of our composition competition, we involved our audience by inviting them to participate by choosing their "Coup de coeur". It's been great to see that in some editions, the audiences (not necessarily composed of connoisseurs) where choosing the same winner as our official jury formed by renowned composers. This is what is great about music, you can recognize quality, and you can be moved by a work, regardless of whether you have extensive knowledge. I think these different initiatives have helped us reach out to a diverse audience.

According to the interviews above, it seems that Dina is only active in Canada. But the truth is, she’s quite a world-wide conductor. She has been touring with the orchestra around the world as the assistant conductor of Orchestre symphonique de Montréal since 2013. In 2017, she made debut performances in the United States with the Eugene Symphony (Oregon) and the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra (North-Carolina) as well as in Asia conducting a series of five concerts with the Sinfonia Varsovia in Niigata and Tokyo. She also made her debuts in Spain conducting the Orquestra Simfonica del Gran Teatre Del Liceu. In 2020 She will conduct in South Korea with world acclaimed violinist Joshua Bell in a performance of The Red Violin.

With regard to her experience in recent years, she had felt firsthand the diversity of working in different countries and regions of the world.

Every orchestra has its own personality but I feel that the pace or working curve from the first rehearsal to the concert is different from a country to another one. In North-America, the schedules are usually more compact with fewer rehearsals, in comparison with what I have experienced in Europe. Both formulas give great results; you just need to be aware of these differences when you are used to one or the other.
Thus far my career, I've been very lucky to have the opportunity to work in Japan. The first time I worked in Japan was in October 2014 with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal when I was Assistant to Kent Nagano. It was wonderful to experience the stunning concert halls - especially Suntory Hall and Sapporo - and the warmth of the audiences. I was really amazed to discover the sound of the orchestra playing the repertoire they are famous for in such halls and how the halls enhanced the difference characteristics of the OSM personality. The second time I went to Japan was to conduct at the Folles journées, performing 5 different programs with a really condensed and hectic schedule. Again I was very touched by the enthusiasm and curiosity of the audiences, and how eager they were to discover new artists and repertoire.

Finally, when I asked when would be her Chinese premiere, Dina Gilbert expressed her expectations positively. Most interestingly, she even thought about what kind of program and concert subtitle she would bring to China in the future.

There could be so many possibilities. When I am programming, I am influenced a lot by all the components around the concert itself: what is the moment of the year, the city in which the concert is presented and to whom is this concert dedicated. After all the important global events we have been experienced recently, nothing will be the same. As an example, I would implement a program in which a masterpiece of music such as a symphony by Beethoven, Dvorak or Mahler, would be paired with newly commissioned pieces by Chinese composers to reflect on our new conception of an "Ode to Joy", a "New World" or "Das Lied von der Erde".