The Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra is tired. The ensemble has rehearsed intensely in preparation for their concert, which was held this past Saturday, and the next item on their agenda, a tour of Italy, is this upcoming interim period. At the concert, the DSO, under the direction of the Florentine-born conductor Filippo Ciabatti, played Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide Overture,” Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 and William Grant Still’s “Romance for Trombone and Orchestra” in Spaulding Auditorium.
According to Ciabatti, he was most excited to conduct Still’s piece. Still, who composed during the Harlem Renaissance and performed the oboe in the Harlem Orchestra, was the first African-American composer to gain widespread recognition, Ciabatti said.
“I am happy to be playing a composer [who is] unjustly not played enough,” Ciabatti said.
Ciabatti added that the Mahler piece, Symphony No. 5, is a “gigantic, monumental piece” that he would have the DSO perform on their 10-day tour of Italy as well. On the tour, the DSO will be playing with the Orchestra of Tucson Conservatories, which is comprised of selected best students from Tuscany’s four music conservatories, Ciabatti said. The two groups will travel to the Italian cities of Florence, Montepulciano, Lucca and Siena.
DSO viola player Katherine Hoover ’22 said that Ciabatti has been clear that the tour is not a vacation, but nonetheless she is excited to be around “good people [in a] great place.”
However, Ciabatti is perhaps even more eager than his musicians. According to Ciabatti, he sees the trip to Italy as an opportunity to bring two disparate cultures together and make music. Ciabatti added that this cultural exchange is very important to him, particularly because the stop in his hometown of Florence will evoke “big emotion [due] to [bringing] the orchestra back home.” In addition to must-see cultural sites, Ciabatti said that the place he is most excited to show his musicians is his mother’s bed and breakfast. The group will be eating at his mother’s restaurant, which boasts, according to Ciabatti, the best food in Italy. Furthermore, Ciabatti said that he wants the students to learn about Italian culture in a more personal way than many tourists are able to by rehearsing or performing for the majority of their time in Italy, but as they are performing with Italian students of similar ages, Ciabatti said.
In the past, the DSO has gone on international tours in 2009 and 2014, and it remains committed to taking students abroad every four years, in order to expose musicians to the true worldliness of symphonic orchestra. Past locations include Germany, the Czech Republic and a larger tour going through Austria, Bosnia, Hungary and Serbia.
According to Hoover, for this upcoming tour of Italy, the DSO will not be traveling with the community members who are usually part of their ensemble, but this vacancy allows for a new collaboration with the Orchestra of Tuscan Conservatories. Not only are the community members valuable players in the ensemble, the DSO’s community involvement also gives the ensemble experience with collaboration. For instance, Hoover said that working with her stand partner, earth sciences professor Leslie Sonder, in addition to being enjoyable, allowed her learning experience to expand beyond just the music. The DSO is lauded as a familial experience for the musicians, creating a valuable community at Dartmouth.
The students and Ciabatti have a lot to look forward to. The DSO’s tour of Italy is an excellent example of experiential learning.
“I hope they will gain, first of all, a world-class [musical] experience, exchange with another culture through music and I hope they will explore new places and opportunities to make music together,” Ciabatti said.