As music director and conductor of the Nittany Valley Symphony since 1990, Michael Jinbo might see “teacher” as a more important title. “It’s not just leading rehearsal but trying to teach the musicians how to play better through concepts in music,” he says. “That’s particularly the case here because it is a community orchestra, so there’s a mix of levels — some professionals and some that are more amateur. There is more of that pedagogical aspect to it.” All that work will be on full display at the orchestra’s 50th anniversary Golden Jubilee concert on March 26 at Eisenhower Auditorium with a program featuring celebratory music. “The 50th anniversary gives us a chance to celebrate that we’ve survived those 50 years because a lot of groups don’t make it that far. It’s an appreciation for still being here and hoping to continue to be here as long as we can.” We caught up with the music man on a recent trip to town from Maine, where he lives with his partner, Joe, to see what five things keep the conductor on tempo.
ROOM TO GROW
“I do both vegetable and flower gardening. It’s a hobby that I started about 10 years ago when I moved to Maine. It was the first time I lived somewhere with a yard and a place to do that. Sometimes it’s a frustrating hobby, but what’s good and bad is the fact that you can always try again next year. It’s kind of a clean slate again.”
“Obviously music is a big thing for me, but specifically teaching is something that’s really important to me. I think one of the roles of a conductor is to be a teacher, but I also teach conducting at a summer program at the Pierre Monteux School in Maine for six weeks each summer. Teaching is a big part of my personality and, by association, learning. I’m just someone who likes to figure out how things work and I like to help people.”
“When I started cooking in college — the first time I had to cook for myself — I immediately started to do challenge things. One of the first cookbooks I bought was the two-volume Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. I had some failures but mostly successes. It goes with that learning thing; it never interests me to just do it at the lowest subsistence level – that applies to everything I do.”
“The first show I played violin for in high school was South Pacific. I really enjoyed that, not just playing in the orchestra but watching what was happening on stage and how they put it together. I would make trips to New York and cram as many shows as I could into that week. Then I also started getting interested in trying to do theater. Now I do some directing — I try to direct at least one thing a year.”
“I grew up in Hawaii. Like a lot of people, I think I got more appreciation for it after I grew up and got away from there. I was really excited when I was going to go to college In Chicago, and I’ve lived on the mainland since then. But going back to visit, things like local foods and stuff that I miss, the fruits and flowers that you can’t get here, and plus of course family. It is a part of who I am.”