This month’s BOOM! profile is Thomas Hinds. You know him as the Maestro and conductor of the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra (MSO). Thomas has been presenting lively music to audiences in the River Region for 31 years. In fact, Broadway Under The Stars and the Jubilee Pops Concert, are two of the best attended concerts of the year. They are a gift for our community and a pleasure to enjoy whether you have a ticket or not because they are free to everyone. The music of the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra has made a lasting impact on the quality of life in the River Region and that musical impact has been led by Thomas Hinds. We hope you’ll take time to enjoy many of the concerts performed by MSO and experience one of the qualities of life here in the River Region. Thomas is also a new daddy! His wife Katerina and new son Christopher bring much joy to our experienced Maestro. He recently shared some of his life’s journey with us at Troy University’s Davis Theatre, which Thomas referred to as his “Living Room” because he has conducted more than 150 concerts from that historic stage. We hope you enjoy getting to know Thomas as much as we have.
BOOM!: Please give us a brief biography, i.e. where you’re from, education, what brought you to the Montgomery area, married, family, schools, etc?
Thomas: As a small boy I lived in the country in northern Minnesota; we moved to North Carolina in 1957, and I went to school there, graduating from UNC-CH in 1970. In 1972, after graduate school and freelancing, I joined the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, where I worked until 1982. During the late 1970’s, I went to summer institutes in the US and Germany to study conducting and after a “long and winding road”, found myself in Montgomery beginning in 1983, when I became Music Director of the MSO. I am married to Katerina Juraskova, a Canadian of Czech origin, and we have a son, Christopher, now all of 6 months old.
BOOM!: Music seems to be part of your DNA, could you describe your musical journey, and what it means to lead the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra (MSO)?
Thomas: It seems as if music came to me; I discovered classical music almost by accident, later than most who end up in the profession, but it became clear, step by step, that it was what I was to do. It was a long, rather consuming pursuit to become a conductor, and it is an extraordinary thing to be here, doing this, for this community. It is a great gift to be given a chance to be part of something bigger than I am, and I think I might be the luckiest man I ever met.
BOOM!: Under your leadership, you have made the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra (MSO) an important part of the quality of life in the River Region, especially with your free concerts like Broadway Under The Stars and the Jubilee Pops Concert. Would you share how rewarding some of these special events have been to you and MSO? Are you having as much fun as it looks?
Thomas: Actually, there are hundreds of people who have made the MSO a part of our quality of life, and I’m happy to have had a hand in it. As to our outdoor concerts, I think we all enjoy the music of course, but it is the people of the Montgomery area who have made these concerts into really significant community events. We have thousands of people who get up from their living rooms and come together in order to enjoy something fun and beautiful in the company of friends and neighbors. THAT’s what makes these concerts into community events, and it is just excellent to be part of it all. And yes, I have a great time!
BOOM!: One of the more exciting innovations of MSO is how you have reached out to the youth in the River Region. Would you describe some of the ways you have connected MSO to students in our community and the benefits of their experience? What is the Montgomery Music Project and how are you involved?
Thomas: The first way we connect with young people is the same way we do with old people and everyone in between; we offer music that has moved people for generation upon generation. The measure of this singular music is not where it came from, but to whom it speaks, and there are thousands of people here in Montgomery, young and old, that would love this music and don’t yet know it. We have to present it, present it well, and help people “get there”, past all the preconceptions and image issues. And so it’s good to start early, like it is anything worthwhile. And remembering that we are a volunteer community orchestra, we do quite a lot; we have the Montgomery Youth Orchestra, the Stringfellows Summer Music Camp, the 6th grade Children’s Concerts, the Vann Vocal Institute, the Blount/Slawson Competition, and the Montgomery Music Project. The MMP is our outreach program for elementary school children and is enormously important; we introduce children to playing string instruments, along with basic music skills like pitch, rhythm, etc. It is understood quite well by now that studying an instrument, particularly a stringed instrument, has huge benefits for a child’s development in terms of later academic achievement, spatial relationships, coordination, perseverance, self- discipline, social skills, self-esteem and more. And in the process, the kids have a terrific time. It’s worth every dime and every minute we put into it. I am involved as a supporter, a member of their Board of Advisers, and all the advocacy I can offer.
BOOM!: You are celebrating your 31st season as the Music Director and Conductor of the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra. What is it about living in the Montgomery/River Region that has kept you here since 1983?
Thomas: First of all, of course, it is the opportunity to lead this orchestra and everything that goes with that. But Montgomery is a remarkable place. I have seen so many people chip in to make this a better place to live; from the support we give the arts to sponsoring kid’s activities, to civic events and charities. There seems to be something about the people here – we are willing to take responsibility for the quality of our community’s life and that doesn’t happen everywhere. On a personal level, I know and have known the most remarkable people here, from all walks of life, that I admire and care for.
BOOM!: Many Boomers are experiencing a renewed sense of purpose, new goals, and new challenges. How would you describe this sense of renewal in your life? Any advice for the rest of us seeking renewal?
Thomas: The biggest sense of renewal I’ve found is in my family from day to day – becoming a parent late in life is quite an adventure. And in the rest of it all, the sense of renewal for me comes more from a deepening of understanding or involvement than from novelty. It’s a quieter sort of renewal, perhaps..
BOOM!: What are you most passionate about?
Thomas: My family, first. Then, the significance and importance of the music we make and the institution we have here in the MSO.
BOOM!: How do you like to relax and wind down from a long day of rehearsal?
Thomas: I read, mostly non-fiction and current events. I play with Christopher. I go to Pintlala or to Cecil and ride my bike, either solo or with a friend – good way to spend a few hours. I take walks with Katerina and Christopher, usually at ASF or Oak Park.
BOOM!: Favorite vacation spot? Any travel dreams planned for the future?
Thomas: We love going down to the beach, and for a big trip we save up and go to visit family in the Czech Republic every couple years. It will be fun this next time – Christopher will meet cousins and his Grandmother.
BOOM!: As someone who is very involved with the arts community, do you have time to serve in other areas of Montgomery?
Thomas: For years I was a member of Rotary, and was involved with the Laubach Literacy program and the Montgomery Literacy Council. Nowadays, family and MSO keep me busy.
BOOM!: If you weren’t conducting the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra, what kind of work would you be doing? Dream Job?
Thomas: I have no idea what I would do if not this; there are so incredibly many utterly fascinating things out there to learn and become involved with. My dream job? I have it already.
BOOM!: As you’ve aged, how have your ambitions changed?
Thomas: They have become less about externals and more about internal work and experience.
BOOM!: Give us three words that describe you?
Thomas: Grateful, persistent, amazed.
BOOM!: Do you have any hobbies or other activities that grab your attention?
Thomas: Cycling, when I can find the time. Woodworking with a friend of mine with a shop. Reading, always. Conversation with people smarter than I am (there are many!).
BOOM!: Many BOOM! readers are seeking new experiences as they age and music appreciation is one of those experiences. Would the upcoming Holiday Pops Concert on December 15th be a good one to experience?
Thomas: Well, of course it would (did you expect me to say anything else?)! We’ll have pops music, a touch of classical, and a really fine singer. Should be fun. But do try out our classical concerts – that’s the music for which they invented the orchestra, and it’s there for us all if we want it.
BOOM!: Do you have a favorite classical composer or composition? What kind of music do you enjoy listening too? Do you sing?
Thomas: When the field is this big and rich, it’s hard to pick one. Bach? Debussy? Arvo Part? Bartok? Too many! I enjoy many styles, including some old pop music (I lost interest pretty much when the Beatles broke up). I do sing – badly.
If you have any questions for Thomas, give him a call at MSO, 334.240.4004 or email email@example.com. To learn more about MSO concerts and projects visit montgomerysymphony.org. As always, thanks to Kim Bethea from The Studio @ Eastchase for her professional cover photos. If you have questions, comments or suggestions, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
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