In our last Q & A session with our auditioning conductors, we are proud to introduce you to Rei Hotoda, Associate Conductor of the Utah Symphony Orchestra. Maestro Hotoda will conduct our season finale on Saturday, May 6th.
Q: What is your first recollection of music?
A: Music and the visual arts have always been a part of my life—my mother was a singer and a piano teacher, and my father was a visual artist. I can vividly remember, when I was very young, sitting in our living room while my dad was sculpting in the basement blasting Schubert and Beethoven symphonies and my mother teaching piano in the other room. I used to think this was normal and everyone's childhood was just like this. I realized later in life just how lucky I was.
Q: When did you decide to make music your career?
A: When I was three, my mother started me on piano lessons. I ate it up, I couldn’t get enough. I think the combination of my laser focus on music and my love for piano really drove me to make the decision, pretty early on, that I would become a musician. But, while I started my graduate studies in piano at University of Southern California, I discovered a love for conducting. I decided to marry the two and pursued conducting as well as piano performance. I love being on both sides of the podium! In fact, I recently made my debut as the Associate Conductor of the Utah Symphony leading the orchestra from the piano. It was the perfect way to start my tenure.
Q: Do you have a mentor or influence?
A: I wholeheartedly believe in mentors, and I have been so fortunate to have several in my life. I would say that two of my biggest influences and mentors would be Marin Alsop and my conducting professor at Peabody, Gustav Meier. Marin and I became well acquainted when I won the 2006 Taki Concordia Conducting Fellowship, which was established by Marin. Ever since, she has become a sounding board and inspiration for me. Gustav, who passed away in 2016, was someone who not only gave me the encouragement I needed to follow my passion, but the room to explore who I was as a musician. In addition to these two very important people in my life, I would also include the music directors that I have worked closely with: Jaap van Zweden and Thierry Fischer, they have been a major influence on my life as a conductor.
Q: What do you know of San Luis Obispo?
A: Breathtaking, beauty, and serenity are three words that spring to mind when I think of the physical aspects of San Luis Obispo. When I look closer, I see people who are inspired by their stunning surroundings and who have a deep connection with their community. It really is a spectacular place and I would welcome the opportunity to learn more about this wonderful part of the country and become an active part of its community.
Q: What are the top three tunes you listen to on your iPod?
A: It’s probably not what you think. While Mahler, Beethoven and Brahms and about 200 other classical music composers make the list, I also have a wide and diverse collection of music from world to jazz to rock to pop to hip hop—have I mentioned that I love music? However, right now I'm really enjoying listening to Ed Sheerhan and Chance the Rapper.
Q: What book(s) are you currently reading?
A: Right now I'm reading a fascinating book called Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Israeli author Yuval Noah Harari. It's an interesting and frighteningly poignant exploration into our next stage of human evolution. I strongly recommend it!