Enjoying music is a part of who we are as humans. (Part2)
Kevin Zakresky / Conductor
The Immeasurable Power of Music
In Part One, Kevin Zakresky told us about how he has spent his career savoring the joys of conducting, of creating music with others and sharing in a collective soul. As a lover of music of all genres, not just classical, he dreams of a world where music is open to everyone.
The beauty of music is that it’s endless, that there is no end goal.
Once I started learning I didn’t want to stop. I took two degrees in piano and singing, then went to Yale University for my master’s and doctoral degrees in conducting. Some conductors learn exclusively by doing, but I think there are some aspects to conducting you can only learn at school. So, I studied both at the university and with other important teachers outside of the university. This was for my career, yes, but also to satisfy my natural desire as a musician to learn.
I never expected to reach an end to music through study; there isn’t a point where you’re “done,” where you’ve learned everything. From my perspective, this absence of an end goal is one of the most beautiful things about music. Learning and experiencing music is an endless journey, and the joy is in the journey.
Jazz, folk, gospel… I want to be open to all kinds of music.
I’ve been very lucky, even blessed, in my life. Often when I want to try something new, an incredible opportunity sort of falls into my lap. Some people want to focus on one thing and be the best at it, whereas I like to branch out to different genres and different periods in time. One day I might play the cembalo because I like baroque music, and the next I might conduct for the Zelda Symphony, perform music from the Legend of Zelda video game with a full orchestra.
I was a bit baffled at first… video game music? But the genre is interesting. When you’re open to anything that comes your way, you encounter incredible opportunities. I also find it fun to create music with different kinds of people throughout the world, so I stay involved in events with children and amateur musicians.
When relaxing I listen to everything from jazz to folk to gospel, even Lady Gaga. I’m not qualified as a jazz or folk musician, but I’m qualified to enjoy it. The world is full of wonderful music; it’s a waste to restrict yourself to just one type. I want to be open and to learn from it all. There is so much to learn from rock, for example. When I conduct the Zelda Symphony, I want to cast off my conservative conductor persona and become a full-on rock star.
My dream is a world in which music is open to all people.
A life without music is unimaginable for me. I doubt there’s a single person in this world who hasn’t felt joy from music. Music is a part of who we are as humans, as a species. A conductor, I think, has the responsibility to serve as an ambassador for the music, to help people understand that music is necessary for life. When modern conductors walk off the stage, they have to climb down from their ivory towers and go back to being regular people. They have to communicate the wonder of music to as many people as possible, to democratize music in daily life. I say this because I dream of living in a world where music is open to all people.
Music has the power to connect all different kinds of people. Music is a common language that brings people of all different ages and nationalities together. I think we can amplify this unifying effect by communicating the value of music to as many people as possible.
I volunteer at a retirement home once a week, where I perform music from before the war. When I begin playing they start to sing along, even those with dementia and those unable to speak. They feel the rhythm and start tapping their feet—they remember the song! The experience is incredible. An immeasurable power lives in music. That’s the power I want to feel every day as I live my life hand in hand with music.
- Kevin Zakresky / Conductor
- Kevin Zakresky lives in Vancouver, where he directs “Players and Singers.” He has conducted many orchestras throughout North America and continues to conduct the Zelda Symphony around the world. He received his Doctorate at Yale University in 2012.