It’s telling when a conversation with Bangor Symphony Orchestra music director finalist David Amado starts with his love of coffee. Amado, who roasts his own beans and waxes eloquent on the fine art of espresso, is a man with a lot of energy.
“I’m definitely what you’d call a coffee geek,” said Amado, who sipped a cup of coffee from Frank’s Bakery in Bangor on Thursday morning. “I brought my own coffee press with me to Maine so I could make my own. It’s kind of a way of life.”
Regardless of the caffeine in his bloodstream, Amado has brought his energy and good humor to orchestras around the country — from his current position as conductor for the Delaware Symphony Orchestra, to his previous job as staff conductor and Youth Symphony director for the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.
The Pennsylvania native has a generations-long connection to Maine, thanks to his family’s longtime involvement with the Kneisel Hall Chamber Music Festival in Blue Hill. When he takes the podium at this Sunday’s BSO concert at the Collins Center for the Arts, he will have come full circle with his connection to the state.
“My family has gone to Kneisel for years. Both my grandmother and great-uncle taught there, and my mother and aunt were students,” said Amado, a native of Pennsylvania. “One of the reasons I love coming to Maine is that I associate it so strongly with music. Music has always been the context under which we came here. So it’s really a pleasure to come back here and do that with the Bangor Symphony.”
Amado’s family is deeply musical, and aside from some youthful experimenting, he has been playing piano for most of his life. As a child, music was so intrinsic to his life that he was surprised to find other families didn’t have instruments hanging around their homes.
“I remember as a 7-year-old kid, going to a friend’s house to play the pinball machine they had in their basement,” said Amado. “One time, I came up into the rest of the house and was shocked to find that they didn’t have a piano. I assumed everyone had a piano. Having a piano, to me, was like having a refrigerator. It was a part of life.”
He went on to study piano at Julliard, and later attended Indiana University, receiving a master’s degree in instrumental conducting. He returned to Julliard to study conducting further, and then began his career, first as an apprentice at the Oregon Symphony, before taking his position at the St. Louis Symphony.
At St. Louis, Amado was instrumental in orchestrating (pun intended) concert series for students from kindergarten through 12th grade. His approach to instilling in youth an interest in classical music and the arts in general is twofold. Firstly, that orchestras should engage youth throughout their school career. Secondly, that education and outreach is not a secondary concern for orchestra — it should be a primary concern.
“No one should be intimidated by classical music. When I worked in St. Louis, we exposed 62,000 kids each year to concerts,” said Amado. “I know that not every one of those kids will eventually become a musician — but they’ll understand that art is a crucial part of life. It will make them happier.”
Amado brought his youth concert series of Delaware, where a popular program for middle school students combines music with historical background on the lives of different composers. He feels that orchestras in general need to commit more time to reaching out to the community.
“Why have students seen just a handful of members of an orchestra? Let them experience the whole thing,” he said. “There’s nothing that compares to the experience of coming to a hall and hearing a full orchestra perform. Things like that make an enormous impact on the lives of kids.”
And he should know — he has three of his own, a pair of 5-year-old son and daughter twins, and a 1-year-old daughter with his wife, violinist Meredith Amado. Whether they will follow in the footsteps of their musician parents remains to be seen, naturally.
“My twins are showing some interest. My son plays a mean trumpet,” he said. “There’s plenty of time for them to figure out what they want to be. Music will always be a part of their lives, whether they choose to pursue it or not.”
David Amado will conduct the Bangor Symphony Orchestra, along with soloist Tai Murray, at the second concert of the season at 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 8 at the Collins Center for the Arts in Orono. For tickets, call 581-1755. For more information, visit www.bangorsymphony.org.