Fresno Beehive

Lunch talk with Daniel Meyer: killer roller coasters, Radiohead, tacos and the Fresno Philharmonic

Daniel Meyer conducts the Fresno Philharmonic Nov. 6, 2016.
Daniel Meyer conducts the Fresno Philharmonic Nov. 6, 2016. Special to The Bee

Daniel Meyer, the second candidate to come to Fresno to audition for the role of music director/conductor of the Fresno Philharmonic, brings a wealth of experience. He is music director of the Asheville Symphony Orchestra in North Carolina and the Erie Philharmonic in Pennsylvania.

North Carolina and Pennsylvania? Just call him our swing-state conductor.

(Sorry, Daniel, but if you move to California you won’t feel as loved come election time.)

Once again, The Bee arranged for a get-to-know-the-candidate lunch not at a swanky downtown eatery but at an authentic culinary experience. That’s how we ended up (again) at Tacos Tijuana.

Our little lunch group with Meyer on Wednesday included me, features editor Kathy Mahan, orchestra executive director Stephen Wilson and a special guest: Chris Carreon, a Fresno State music composition major. We talked about everything from Meyers’ programming selections (“I wanted to choose music I love and that I believe in”) to his love of roller coasters (“I scream like a little girl.”)

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

Here are a few highlights:

Classical road rage: “I definitely can’t drive and listen to classical music at the same time. If I don’t agree with a particularly interpretive choice, it drives me crazy. If I listen to classical music when I drive, it can be very dangerous.”

On meeting an orchestra for the first time: “It’s equally terrifying and exhilarating … You frankly don’t know how you’re going to react to your ideas and your style, the way you work. My strategy has always been to go in with a clearly delineated musical concept. I tend to find people will go with that even if they don’t agree with that. On Monday morning, when I head home, they might say, ‘I’m glad he’s gone.’ Or: ‘He had some very interesting ideas about the music and got us to play really well.’ But at the very least there’s been a dialogue, and an interplay between orchestra and conductor.”

On appealing to new listeners: “Any audience that’s new and unfamiliar to classical music, there’s going to be some reticence. Part of it has to do with the externalities, like what do I wear, when do I clap, how to I behave? Once you get past that (and frankly it’s very easy: clap when other people clap, and wear what makes you comfortable), classical music is something that you can be completely absorbed in. I think it’s a positive you get to turn your cell phone off and you’re not bothered by the outside world. This music is so passionate, so rich in detail, you can invest yourself in a performance and revel in how wonderful this music is. As soon as you can turn someone onto that, I don’t think it’s a difficult sell.”

On appealing to younger listeners: “Turn them into music makers.” Meyer makes sure he conducts all his orchestra’s concerts for young people because he has a passion for it.

Does music transcend other art forms? For Meyer, it does. “It’s an intellectual pursuit; it takes brainpower to engage. It’s an emotional pursuit … and there’s a spiritual dimension that resonates with people. Those three things make music so special to me.”

Favorite cuisine: Korean.

What would we find on your streaming device? “Last night on the plane ride in, what was really extraordinary was my flight to Phoenix was an extended sunset. I thought: This is a perfect Radiohead moment.” He’s also a huge Prince fan.

Favorite ride at Disneyland? “I think the rides at Disneyland are a little too tame for me ... I love roller coasters that take your stomach out of your gut and put it back when they finish up. My wife would tell you I scream like a little girl on those roller coasters. It’s true, but I love the thrill of those rides.”

Details: The concert is 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2, Saroyan Theatre, 700 M St. Tickets are $25-$79, www.fresnophil.org, 559-261-0600. Meyer will speak at “Inside the Music” at 2 p.m.

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