Music I Am #37 – David Bernard, Conductor

The moment when you knew you wanted to be a musician:

This is actually a tough question, because there were SO MANY moments that pulled me in at an extremely young age. When I was little, my heart would race when I listened to Toscanini’s recording of the first movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. This was an incredible feeling, and that kicked off many hours of listening in our local public library. Later, Wendy Carlos’ Switched-on-Bach had a profound impact on me–with its exquisite phrasing, attention to line and absolute brilliance. Most profound was the feeling I had when attending a rehearsal of my local orchestra as a teenager that featured Emanuel Ax performing Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto.  There was a moment when the beauty of the music overwhelmed me. I could barely breathe or move. I think that was the moment I knew.

An important skill for a career in music that does not have anything to do with an instrument or making music:

It would certainly be the ability to speak and write about music to audiences. As musicians, it is important to draw in our audience by sharing what is so incredible about the music we perform. It would be nice if the music could just speak for itself, but audiences need to know why they should invest their time, and what they should listen for.

This is not an easy task, because you need to speak in a way that doesn’t raise barriers (like talking about music theory or music history), but that does encourage the listener to experience music viscerally.

This skill is the basis for marketing to audiences, and when combined with more technical skills such as web design and email marketing, a musician can have a formidable toolbox that will be very helpful to them.

Two ways you stay motivated:

I am always focused on the listener–the audience, and conceiving of the score in such a way so the listener can experience the full breadth of the narrative and layering. Bringing music to the listener/audience in this way is an obsession!

Latest Project:

Mahler Symphony No. 5 with the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony (listen)








What inspired it:

The Park Avenue Chamber Symphony has a history of releasing recordings, but with COVID, many of our activities were cancelled. The biggest obstacle for all performing arts organizations during COVID was finding venues to perform and record in, and as the Pandemic waned, our venue, the DiMenna Center for Classical Music found ways to allow ensembles to play safely. At first, it opened its large space to no more than 35 people socially distanced, and then opened up fully.

We wanted our first post-pandemic recording to be a bold statement. We selected Mahler Symphony No. 5 to make that statement, and through this process, the musicians were not only elated to be making music on that grand scale, but also determined to make it great. It was an absolutely incredible experience for everyone, and a proud moment for me to see it unfold.

Who’s on it:

The Park Avenue Chamber Symphony is a New York-Based orchestra. Since 2017, we’ve been featuring a new approach I’ve developed called InsideOut Concerts, which was recently awarded a US patent. The focus is on maximizing the audience immersive experience throughout the event, which is structured to seat audience members alongside the musicians on stage rather than separate them into audience seats. InsideOut Concerts has brought in new authentic audience members to classical music—it is extraordinary to watch!

How do you discover new music?

Composers send me scores, and I listen a lot online. I am inspired by the narratives composers bring to their music.

One living and one dead musician that deserves more attention:

I would say Johann Sebastian Bach, and Wendy Carlos. They are actually related, as Wendy Carlos produced Switched-on-Bach in the late 1960s. Obviously Bach IS well known, but  what I am seeing is that study of Bach has waned, and I believe that will have a negative impact on music making in the future. Through Bach, we hone our skills in weaving a lyrical narrative in a compelling and balanced way. We develop our ability to conceive of the horizontal dimension to music, and convey the contrapuntal dimension of the music to our listeners. These skills apply to ALL music–whether it is Beethoven, Stravinsky, Florence Price or William Grant Still. 

Wendy Carlos is one of the greatest Bach interpreters, and there is so much learn listening to her conception of Bach. Unfortunately, her Switched-on-Bach album is out of print, keeping her incredible interpretations hidden.  Also, since she performs using a Moog Synthesizer, many dismiss her Bach as “inauthentic”– which is a shame.

Where can we find you online?

Upcoming Event you’d like to share? 

November 18 – Park Avenue Chamber Symphony “Transcendent Triumph” featuring Rachmaninoff Symphony No. 2.  It is an InsideOut Concerts program, so you will be able to experience this incredible music sitting inside the orchestra. Tickets are available online at:






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