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February 17, 2010

Glimpsing the future of classical music; five-year-old conducts 'Rite of Spring'

Thanks to Brian Sacawa (of Mobtown Modern fame and, darn it, fresh competition as a provocative blogger in Baltimore) for alerting me to this recent YouTube clip of a five-year-old conducting a recording of Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring."

I have vague, humiliating memories of doing something like this kid when I was his age, but the records I pretended to conduct contained Ravel's "Bolero" and Tchaikovsky's "Marche Slave" -- much easier in the rhythm department. Oddly enough, they're still two of my favorite pieces, which reminds me: how come no one ever puts that Tchaikovsky rouser on a concert program? It beats "1812 Overture" for quality any day, and you even get to hear the one of the same tunes.

Ah, but I digress. Back to this wunderkind. He's really cool, very into the drama and sound of the "Rite of Spring," and impressively alert to cueing. (UPDATE: The budding conductor is the son of Larry Loh, associate conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra; it obviously runs in the family.) Maybe this is how Gustavo Dudamel started. With all the doom and gloom about classical music in some corners, this little demomstration of how young ears can be excited by and connected to this venerable art form has got to give you at least a teeny bit of hope for the future. It's also just a lot of fun, especially the finale:

Posted by Tim Smith at 8:17 AM | | Comments (6)


I would really love to see this kid conducting an orchestra 20 years from now. :)

His daddy's a conductor in real life. And a good one. It must run in the genes.

Nothing like a good role model. TIM

What a great article, and thanks for calling more peoples attention to that PRICELESS youtube post, that has so many of us in the music community asking ourselves "what does this kid get that conservative audiences do not?" Your thoughts can be added to the mountain of evidence supporting a necessary return to heavier emphasis of arts training in our schools, communities and families! Clearly, EXPOSURE IS EVERYTHING.BRAVO!

Odin Rathnam, Concertmaster of the Harrisburg Symphony and Artistic Director of the West Branch International Music Festival and Academy

Thanks for commenting. It's always amazing how easily the young can handle just about any kind of music. Too bad they can't teach the older generation how to keep ears open. Imagine the results around the country if all kids were immersed in meaningful, challenging music (and other) arts education from a tender age. TIM

You can tell he's seen an actual conductor lots of times. I wonder how much he understands what a conductor is for.

Since the conductor in question is his father, he's probably got a lot figured out. TIM

We're performing Marche Slav at the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra this weekend with Larry Rachleff!

(But it's probably too late to catch a flight.)

Cool! TIM

What a joy to see Larry's talented boy!

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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