After a lengthy search, the Sierra Vista Symphony Orchestra has selected its new permanent conductor. Violinist and conductor extraordinaire Toru Tagawa brings with him a lifetime of experience and a passion for not only music, but for people.
Toru Tagawa is a native of Hiroshima, Japan, and began playing the violin at 6 years old. By age 9, he was a member of the Kurashiki Junior Philharmonic Orchestra. He now lives in Tucson where he started the Tucson Repertory Orchestra in 2011.
Toru also teaches high school orchestra at Canyon del Oro High School in Tucson. As a violinist, he plays with ensembles such as the Tucson Repertory Orchestra and Tucson Pops Orchestra.
Toru is no stranger to Sierra Vista. Not only does his brother live in town, but many of the Sierra Vista Symphony musicians also perform with him in Tucson. In fact, it was a cello player with the Tucson Repertory Orchestra and board member of the Sierra Vista Symphony who first encouraged Toru to apply for the open conductor position.
As part of the selection process, Toru conducted the Sierra Vista Symphony for the first time in April.
“It was a great experience,” he says. “The musicians are hard workers and they enjoy the music. They are so talented and dedicated.”
Toru is devoted to bringing out the best in those dedicated musicians.
“It’s not just about notes and rhythm. The same piece can sound different depending on the conductor. My job is to communicate a feeling to the audience through the orchestra.”
Toru says programming a concert is more art than science. He must balance audience preference with the symphony’s budget and available musicians.
Toru explains, “For example, some orchestral music doesn’t include piano or bass clarinet or piccolo. But when I have these musicians, I want to use them.”
Theme is also a consideration. The theme of the January 2017 concert is “All-American.” Toru, who himself became an American citizen this spring, is programming music by well-known American composers like John Williams (“Star Wars” theme), Leonard Bernstein (“West Side Story”) and more.
By combining both beloved and lesser-known compositions, Toru hopes to ignite a passion in his audience.
“I want people to taste what live music is and think ‘I want to come again.’ … The Sierra Vista Symphony has been going for over 20 years,” he says. “It’s to be treasured, enjoyed and supported.”
The Sierra Vista Symphony plays three concerts a year — October, January and April. The theme of the October concert is “New Beginning” and will include compositions by Beethoven, Bruch and more. For more information, visit www.sierravistasymphony.org.