by Ron Oshima
At 8:05 pm on Saturday, May 18, sophomore Maliq Veal, guest student conductor, strode to the podium to take his bow before leading the Wind Ensemble through Caesar Giovannini’s Fanfare 2000.
Maliq was then the principal trombonist of the Wind Ensemble and a trombonist in the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra. This fall, he’ll be a junior at Ronald Reagan High School and play in our Senior Symphony. He joined MYSO in 2016 as an eighth grader, encouraged by his middle school band director, Michelle Miller.
How did this conducting appearance happen?
“My mom liked to play classical music on the radio or TV. She said there were several occasions when I was little where I would go up to the TV and try to follow what the conductor was doing–probably just waving my arms. She said it was something I always enjoyed doing as a kid. I actually started conducting to recordings of pieces we were playing in the seventh grade, in my room, with the door closed. If someone walked in, I’d be embarrassed. When I got to Professor Dvorak’s Wind Ensemble in the eighth grade, I saw conducting on a whole different level.”
“Then in a parent teacher conference with my high school band director, Adam Murphy, my mom said, ‘you know, he loves to conduct. Do you know how I can help him with that?’ He recommended that I ask Professor Dvorak (MYSO’s Conductor Laureate) for conducting lessons.”
“He (Prof. Dvorak) teaches you so much more than just conducting. It wasn’t just ‘this is an A over a D;’ it wasn’t just ‘this is what you do with your baton.’ He teaches me a lot of history behind music. He taught me that sometimes to get more of an emotional understanding, a deeper understanding of the piece, you must relate your own life experiences to it. He even teaches me about stage presence and posture.”
How did you prepare?
“Professor Dvorak gave me the piece in February. He then had to leave town in March and said ‘you’re going to have to start rehearsing without me.’ With the help of Mr. Hacker and Mr. Carlson who are music directors of the Wind Ensemble now, I started rehearsing. About two weeks before the concert, I started losing tempo. Professor Dvorak said, ‘Maliq, it’s turning from a fanfare to a dirge (a funeral march).’ So, it took a lot of work, going home with a metronome, playing it through on my trumpet, playing through it on my trombone, conducting with a metronome, just making sure I had everything solid, tempo solid.”
During the actual performance, Maliq talked about several adjustments he had to make as certain instruments came in a beat early. Eventually the conductor and ensemble got back in sync. “The whole time I just had the metronome in my head, just making sure I was on beat, on point,” he said. Remarkably, he had the presence of mind to instinctively react to a hiccup in timing while simultaneously looking ahead to figure out where he might bring the entire ensemble back together.
In balancing school, music, and his social life, Maliq is keeping tempo in his personal life as well.