Fresno Beehive

Lunch talk with Sameer Patel: classic rock, tacos and looking ahead for Fresno Philharmonic

Sameer Patel conducts the Fresno Philharmonic on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016.
Sameer Patel conducts the Fresno Philharmonic on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016. Special to The Bee

When job candidates come to town, employers often try to impress them by taking them to a fancy restaurant.

For The Bee’s get-to-know-you meeting with Sameer Patel, the first candidate for music director of the Fresno Philharmonic, we decided for authenticity instead. That’s why we picked Tacos Tijauana.

(Besides, have you seen my expense account lately?)

Our little lunch group with Patel on Wednesday included me, features editor Kathy Mahan, orchestra executive director Stephen Wilson and a special guest: Anthony Arias, a Fresno City College clarinetist. We talked about everything from how today’s orchestras can appeal to younger patrons to what Patel’s guilty-pleasure food is. (Hint: It rhymes with Dorito.)

You can check out part of our discussion on the following Facebook Live video:

Here are a few highlights:

His visit: “Part of this week is really about getting to know Fresno a bit. To really get a sense of what Fresno is, and what the Fresno Philharmonic is. I’m really looking forward to the experience of making music with the orchestra.”

Does he get nervous? “I love meeting people. I’m a very extroverted person. I enjoy meeting people from all walks of life. I’m very much my mother’s son in that regard. I’m also very much a Midwesterner, in that I talk to just anyone I possibly can. That’s something we do, I guess.”

Attracting younger listeners: “There’s no one answer to this. Orchestras in general have an identity crisis. Nobody knows the fundamental answer.” He’s big on programming music by living composers: “Otherwise we become museums.”

Guilty-pleasure food: “Ever since moving to Southern California, I love California burritos. That changed my whole outlook on life.”

Music playing in his car: “I listen to about 60% classic rock on the radio and 40% NPR. I don’t listen to classical music in the car. It’s not the right environment. That’s my work.”

Music on his iPhone: Three albums right now: jazz pianist Brad Mehldau, Radiohead’s “A Moon-Shaped Pool”; and Johnny Greenwood’s “Junun.”

Last TV show he binge-watched: “House of Cards.”

Disneyland vs. Magic Mountain? “Disneyland. I’m not a roller coaster guy. I don’t like the feeling of the ‘drop.’ “

Thoughts on conductor job interviews: “It’s a long process. Overall it’s a two-year process. When I tell my non-musical friends about this, they say, are you crazy? It’s really a matchmaking process from the standpoint of who works best for what we are looking for. At that point it’s out of your control.”

If he got the position, what impact what he like to make on Fresno’s cultural scene? “What I’m hearing is that there’s a lot of music that’s happening in Fresno. There are a lot of institutions that are creating arts experiences. If this position were to work out for me, one of the hallmarks would be further collaborations: working with theaters, working with young musicians, to really see where that goes. I think that would be really exciting.”

Details: The concert is 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2, Saroyan Theatre, 700 M St. Tickets are $25-$79,, 559-261-0600.