Along with the premiere (for Tampa Bay) performances of several beloved classical works, during its 2022-23 season (announced today) The Florida Orchestra is introducing a new Assistant Conductor, Chelsea Gallo.
She will lead TFO’s youth and community concerts, conduct select Pops and Morning Coffee concerts, and regularly assist Music Director Michael Francis and other conductors.
A resident of Detroit, Gallo is an accomplished musician with a more-than-impressive resume. She is a Staff Conductor with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Assistant Conductor with the Louisiana Philharmonic and with Opera Orlando, Music Director of Loyola Symphony in New Orleans, and has guest conducted for dozens of orchestras all over the country and around the world.
Francis met Gallo several years ago, when he was guest conducting in Detroit. “I was really impressed with how she was really seeking to go deep into the music,” he said. “We had a lot of very good conversations and we kept in contact over the years.”
Gallo flew to Tampa Bay to audition for the TFO committee assembled to fill the vacancy. “She won it because she was the best candidate,” Francis explained.
“I was very pleased because I knew her already. She is a very fine conductor, marvelous communicator, a very, very keen intellect and someone who’s going to add a huge amount both to The Florida Orchestra and to our Tampa Bay community.”
St. Pete Catalyst: What exactly does it mean to be an assistant conductor? Other than a lot of travel?
Chelsea Gallo: When you get the opportunity to be an Assistant, you’re kind of in that absorption period, where you get to observe people at their highest form in our artistic pursuits. People like Michael Francis.
The first time I met Michael was when I assisted him at the Detroit Symphony and I thought ‘Wow, this is an exceptional conductor.’ It’s through assisting, and it’s through being present in the orchestra paradigm, how our infrastructure is managed, that you come in contact with different identities in classical music. And you find out where you want to go. You find out what you want to do. You find a repertoire that suits you. You learn about programming. You engage with musicians in a very special way.
A very forgiving way! We as conductors, we have to learn our art form in front of others. We of course study at our desks, in private, but the execution of our craft has to be with others. So to me, being an Assistant means to grow in classical music, at the expense of others, truly.
It’s a really wonderful transitional time before becoming a music director.
Maestro Francis has described you as ‘musically inquisitive.’ What does he mean?
During his week at the DSO, we ended up having read some of the same books for references about the pieces. There are more books written about Beethoven’s 5th Symphony than perhaps there need to be! But there are some that definitely are the ones you talk about and think about. And then there’s the stuff that isn’t in the books yet, that you discover on your own.
So what he does, and what I would like to emulate about him, is he’s so in tune with where the field is. And where the field sits. That he’s aware of how progress can happen. And I think he realized that I was interested in learning more about the art of what we do, more than just conducting.
Regardless of how we market, regardless of how well we conduct, this music is exceptional. Regardless of us. Classical music taps into something that we try to achieve through the infrastructure of the organization, but that greatness is something we strive for. And you can only do that by realizing where you are in the field.
Tell us about the concert and lecture you brought to the University of Michigan in 2021. Combining art and science.
It was proposed by a faculty member in the Nuclear Engineering Department. Who realized that students coming into his program, while they’re exceptionally gifted and talented and smart, and they can memorize anything, they were lacking a level of creativity.
I told him, sometimes at the conservatory level we have the most creative students, but they sometimes lack the discipline to actually become acquainted with the art form in all of its variety.
This program was curated around highlighting the similarities between our two worlds. The subtitle was How Running a Nuclear Reactor and Running a Symphony Orchestra Are Similar. And one of the things was, in order to know how to create progress in your field, you have to understand where the field currently is. And you do that through being engaged in the whole art form, not just what orchestra you’re with. Likewise not just your one subject of study, but really keeping an eye on the whole industry.
Learn more about Chelsea Gallo on her website.