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A conductor's career, taking off

ChristieConductor Michael Christie, left, who grew up in Buffalo, is on the cover of the January/February issue of Symphony, the magazine of the League of American Orchestras. It is called "In Flight." Flying is one of Christie's hobbies.

It is quite a splashy story! You can read it on Christie's personal Web site here.

The 34-year-old Christie, a graduate of West Seneca East, is currently the conductor of the Brooklyn Philharmonic. He is also the music director of the Phoenix Symphony in Phoenix, Ariz., a post he assumed in 2005. And he is also music dirctor at the Colorado Music Festival in Boulder, Colo. At least the Boulder job is seasonal.

"It helps that he has a pilot's license," the story's headline reads.

In the story, Christie is quoted as saying, "I'm trying to slowly take the better attributes of the Brooklyn and Phoenix experiences and sort of blend them together." He also talks about his Buffalo background. At 14, he joined the Buffalo Youth Orchestra, and at 16, he went backstage at a Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra concert and made friends with the associate conductor, Eiji Oue. The discussions he had with Oue, he says, helped point him in the right direction.

The story spotlights a few initiatives Christie has taken in Phoenix to attract new listeners. One is "Intermission Insights." During intermission, a soloist or principal musician takes the stage and fields audience questions. Another is "Keeping Score." The program notes are coded with numbers. And while a performance is in progress, these numbers will flash onto the wall at the appropriate point, reminding the listeners where they are in the piece.

Christie's personal life has kept pace with his career. In 2006, he married Dr. Alexis McGrath, an Australian-born physician who works at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz. Last summer, they welcomed a daughter, Sinclair. Symphony magazine reports that Alexis has been able to take two years off, and the family often travels together.

Buffalo is scoring big with Symphony magazine these days. Just last summer they did a cover story on the BPO and its financial and artistic successes.

We can also lay claim to the conductor William Christie, who specializes in early music and leads the European early music ensemble Les Arts Florissants. (Amazingly, the two Christies are not related.)

The music world must be grateful to our town for giving them such good copy.

-- Mary Kunz Goldman

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