Austrian-born linguist, author and award-winning documentary filmmaker Bernadette Wegenstein takes her audience on a powerful journey of the life, thus-far, of Marin Alsop in her latest documentary The Conductor. Alsop is the first woman to serve as music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, as well as, the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, and the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Along with this screening at the TriBeCa Film Festival, a live performance with orchestra and a discussion with conductor Marin Alsop, Bernadette Wegenstein, and Annette Porter, was a main festival event. For those in attendance, they were well aware the mission was to help empower women composers and encourage girls to pursue their dreams, if it is to be a conductor.
Born and raised in New York City, Marin Alsop often attended concerts at Lincoln Center with her parents. At nine-years-old, Marin attended a concert with her father, where Leonard Bernstein was the conductor. Impressed with his style of conducting an orchestra, his love of music, and his entertaining ability to converse with the audience, Marin knew she wanted to follow in Bernstein's footsteps as a conductor.
Marin was told that because she was a girl, she couldn't pursue her dream because the field was not open to hiring women. Marin's love for music, her tenacity, and hard work paid-off only to prove her critics wrong. Marin has become a forerunner in her field. Female conductors are currently more visible around the world.
Marin shares insights into Bernstein's mentorship and her journey as a conductor that sets her apart as a remarkably skilled performer. In her own words Marin shares what is happening to her when conducting, "I don't worry about anything regarding the music and the conducting because I try to exist in the moment, i.e., like jumping into the darkness and trusting you will land on your feet." Adding, "Until what I find, I call the magic key, to open this sort of abstract box. The key feels very real, the box itself is more abstract to me. The key can be any shape, any color, anything...if it opens up the box (or the door) to the moral of the musical story [the score], then it gives me access to why the composer wrote every note in this piece." Continuing, "It's almost like the key to someone's heart, until it becomes more than just conducting it's about the unspoken beauty of what we can have when we connect as human beings." It's at this connection when Marin feels that the orchestra she leads transcends music of hope for the planet, humanity, and kindness.
In a conversation she had with her son, who is a rock climber, she asked one day how he enjoys a sport that seems so risky. Marin wanted to understand why he loves it so much because it was something she never could imagine. He notes, "I'm so focused on what I am doing that I don't remember it [making reference to a rock-climbing path]." He continues, "It reminds me of your conducting...it's the same kind of passion, focus, and engagement."