Since being announced as the Music Director of the Hamilton Philharmonic in May 2015, Maestra Gemma New‘s conducting career has skyrocketed. Already a conducting fellow with the Los Angeles Philharmonic when she took the reins in Hamilton, New has since been announced as the Resident Conductor of the St. Louis Symphony and the Principal Guest Conductor of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.
Gemma New will next be conducting the HPO’s holiday performance of The Snowman, on December 21 at the First Ontario Concert Hall.
I posed 60 questions to Gemma New and asked her to pick and choose a minimum of 15 to answer. The unedited responses formulate the interview below.
1. The first album that made you love music.
I fell in love with music while playing the violin in the youth orchestras of my hometown Wellington. The earliest album I remember listening to on repeat was Joshua Bell’s Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1 & Scottish Fantasy.
2. Name your favourite venue in Hamilton.
First Ontario Concert Hall! The HPO Musicians, audiences and I have enjoyed some fantastic musical evenings there.
3. Name your favourite venue anywhere.
Every venue has its unique character and collection of stories. I felt deeply moved during a concert of Shostakovich and Mussorgsky with talented and passionate young musicians from all over the Baltic region (Baltic Youth Philharmonic), with the great Maestro Kurt Masur and fellow conducting students on the podium. The venue was the Peenemünde rocket factory, where the V2 rocket had been created. Together we experienced so much goodness in a venue that had witnessed so much darkness.
4. Who are your role models?
There are so many people I admire and look up to, but at the top of that list is my Dad!
5. What makes you the happiest?
A good cup of tea.
6. What is your favourite sound?
A happy dog barking.
7. What is your least favourite sound?
Cracking finger joints.
8. What is your favourite animal?
I would love to own a Bernese Mountain Dog or Newfoundland. With all the travel it’s a bit tough at the moment, but it is a long term goal!
9. Name three pieces or songs that you could listen to on repeat for an hour.
There are several Mahler symphonies that I’d love to listen to that go beyond an hour in duration! But if I was to listen to music on repeat I’d probably go for something energizing by John Williams.
10. Name the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Hamilton?
The Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra! And all the wonderful friends and colleagues I’ve made during my years here so far.
11. What is the title and author of the book closest to you right now?
Symphony No. 2 by Brahms.
12. Where was the last place you traveled for work or pleasure?
San Diego, California.
13. What is the game you are best at?
If you call “finding your way around a new city” a game, I am best at that.
14. Where did you go to school?
I really enjoyed my 12 years at Samuel Marsden Collegiate School, in Wellington New Zealand.
15. Different career path you could have gone on?
I studied Mathematics on the side throughout my music degree, if I hadn’t gotten the opportunity to study in North America I would have probably completed that degree and pursued a related path.
16. What are you most proud of?
I am really proud of what we have achieved at the HPO over the past 5 years. Our orchestra has grown in size, musical depth and strength, and we have incredible energy and excitement.
17. What was the luckiest moment in your life?
Every week I spend in Hamilton does make me feel very lucky to have this job with the best musicians, staff, audiences and supporters an orchestra could wish for.
18. What was the unluckiest moment in your life?
I have a knack for losing things.
19. What is the best thing about your work?
The people and the music.
20. What is the worst thing about your work?
Airports and planes.
21. Name three things that have no monetary value that you own, but you love dearly and will keep forever.
All of my dog-eared, graffitied, coffee-stained orchestral scores.
Feature photo by Roy Cox.