June 22, 2018
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Guest conductor has world experience

Contributed | BDN
Contributed | BDN
By Emily Burnham, BDN Staff

David Itkin has been around the world and back a few times. The last of the five finalists for the position of Bangor Symphony Orchestra music director, Itkin has conducted more than 20 orchestras around the world. They range vastly in place and size, from his current tenures as music director of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, the Abilene Philharmonic Orchestra in Texas, and the Las Vegas Philharmonic, to stints in China, South Korea and Slovenia.

“I think, if there is a unifying element to all the orchestras I’ve conducted, there’s a kind of uniformity of purpose,” said Itkin, who will conduct Sunday’s BSO concert. “Wherever we are, whether it’s Shanghai or Texas or Bangor, there is this wonderful comfort that we all have, as professional musicians. We understand the process, we understand our jobs, and yet in that process we always surprise each other. We always find something new and exciting.”

In addition to his skills as a conductor, Itkin is also a composer, having written a number of pieces, many of which feature choral elements and narration. In 2005, Itkin premiered his 50-minute oratorio, “Exodus,” based on the book in the Bible. When his narrator dropped out at the last minute, he and his colleagues at the Arkansas Symphony scrambled to find a replacement. None other than William Shatner took the job.

“That was when ‘Boston Legal’ was so popular, and as Bill walked out on stage, someone in the balcony yelled ‘Denny Crane!’” recalled Itkin, referring to Shatner’s character on the show. “[Shatner] was totally professional, though.”

Despite his world travels, Itkin has never been to Maine. When the position of music director for the BSO was advertised, he jumped at the chance.

“Much like the Abilene Orchestra, Bangor is one of those regional orchestras in a smaller city that has been functioning at a very successful level for many, many years,” said Itkin. “It’s far beyond the size of the city. It’s one of those pockets of artistic longevity. It’s ingrained in the community.”

For Sunday’s concert, Itkin has the opportunity to conduct one of his favorite pieces, to which he has a very personal connection: Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade.”

“It’s very special to me, for family reasons. It was one of my mother’s very favorite pieces,” he said. “I was lucky to be brought up by people who weren’t musicians, but thought that it was very important to take children to museums and the symphony and things like that. It is very important.”

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