Jason Love is both a cellist and conductor, presently leading the Columbia Orchestra in Columbia, MD. Jason just celebrated his 20th Anniversary as Artistic Director and Conductor of the Columbia Orchestra.
The Mission of the Columbia Orchestra and Jazz Band is to foster a lifelong appreciation of, enthusiasm for, and participation in music. This is accomplished by providing the community with high-quality musical performances, providing musical resources tailored to the needs of students, teachers, and educational institution and providing local musicians with an opportunity to explore and perform great orchestral, chamber, and jazz music.
The orchestra began in the fall of 1977 when a handful of local string players began playing classical music as the Columbia Chamber Orchestra. Current Music Director Jason Love took the podium in 1999, quickly winning the hearts of orchestra members and audience alike with his humor, generosity, and consummate musicianship. Under his baton, The Baltimore Sun named the Columbia Orchestra “Howard County’s premier ensemble for instrumental music.”
Now in its fourth decade, the orchestra continues to perform not only the masterworks of the classical repertoire but also works by today’s new generation of composers. The orchestra also continues its annual Young Artist Competition, its biannual American Composer Competition, and free chamber music series featuring members of the orchestra. They also have informative lectures before many of their shows as well as giving the audience a vast amount of background on composers and the musical compositions.
I had a chance to do a quick interview with the very busy Jason Love. Jason Love is the fourth person to have held the post of Artistic Director and Conductor in its forty-one seasons. He has received many recognitions including the American Prize for Orchestral Programming, a Peabody Alumni Award for Outstanding Contributions to Music in Maryland, and a “Howie” Award recognizing achievement in the arts in Howard County, Maryland.
Love was Artistic Director of the Greater Baltimore Youth Orchestras (now the Baltimore Symphony Youth Orchestras) for thirteen years, and Music Director of the New Horizons Chamber Ensemble, a new-music group, for five. He has guest conducted a wide variety of ensembles such as the Baltimore Symphony, Washington Sinfonietta, Hopkins Chamber Orchestra, Bismarck-Mandan Symphony, Maryland Classic Youth Chamber Orchestra, and RUCKUS, a contemporary music ensemble at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County where he taught conducting for seven years.
As a cellist, Mr. Love has performed a wide array of concertos with orchestras including the North Carolina premiere of Tan Dun’s multi-media work, The Map. In February, he was a soloist for the U.S. premiere of Guillaume Connesson’s Cello Concerto.
A highly respected educator, Mr. Love spends part of each summer conducting at the Baltimore String Orchestra Camp. In his eleven years on the faculty of the Governor’s School of North Carolina, he taught Twentieth-Century music, philosophy, and other subjects to academically gifted high school students. He led the McDaniel Orchestra Camp in Westminster, MD for five years and conducted the Repertory Orchestra of the Chesapeake Youth Symphony in Annapolis, MD for four.
Born in Burlington, North Carolina, Love studied violoncello with Ronald Thomas and conducting with Frederik Prausnitz at the Peabody Conservatory. He is a Past President of the Peabody Alumni Association. He has adjudicated and guest conducted at music festivals around the country.
The orchestra’s innovative programming led to Music Director Jason Love and the orchestra winning the third annual American Prize in Orchestral Programming in 2013.
- Would you rather conduct or perform on the cello and why?
If I absolutely had to choose, I’d have to pick conducting. Playing the cello allows me to express myself and connect to an audience very directly, and I love the “voice” of the cello and the pieces written for it. But as a conductor, you are collaborating with phenomenal musicians who are each bringing their own talents to the musical conversation – there’s nothing else like it.
- How many hours of rehearsal do you have for a typical concert?
It works out to be around 15 hours together (7 rehearsal) to prepare about 70-80 minutes of music for a classical concert. In addition, the players spend several hours every week practicing their parts on their own, and as the conductor, I’m expected to spend about an hour of study for every minute of music on a concert. That all really adds up behind the scenes!
- Do you encourage young talent to join the Columbia Orchestra? If so, how do you reach out to them?
We do have members who are in high school, and we are a “class” for college students through Howard Community College. Most high schoolers choose one of the great youth orchestras in this area like the Baltimore Symphony Youth Orchestra, but for students who want to take on more, we’ve made a great home to them during formative years.
Too, we have about 50 students who participate in our Young Artist Competition each season. Past winners have gone on to huge musical careers – Baltimore Symphony Principal Oboist Katherine Needleman for example – and they cite that as a critical experience for them. We do Saturday children’s concerts, concerts for 3rd graders during the school day with the full orchestra, and tons of small-group concerts in elementary schools each year.
- Looking back over your 20 years with the Columbia Orchestra what changes have taken place for good or bad?
It’s a very different group! I remember in our first strategic plan we hoped to build to have 40 string players playing every concert, very ambitious at the time. Now we have about 65 each concert! The budget went from under $50,000 to about $300,000 and that’s helped us go from unpredictable attendance to playing mostly to full capacity.
We’ve become of the busiest community orchestras in the country – probably the busiest as far as number of concerts – and the fact that we work together so much has made this orchestra develop into a fantastic ensemble artistically.
- What was your favorite concert and why? Which one are you looking forward to most next season?
I can’t pick a favorite, but one really sums up what we do. “Creation and Destruction” featured a large classic work – Haydn’s oratorio “The Creation” – in collaboration with a Carroll County chorus, an amazing solo from an opera about the Manhattan Project by American composer John Adams, and a song by the band Radiohead with words by the (then) oldest surviving soldier from World War I. We bring classic and new works together to show how they are relevant to people’s lives and we collaborate with many groups to do it.
Next year on “Russian Dreams” we put Tchaikovsky’s 6th and final symphony on the bill with a great 20th-century violin concerto by Prokofiev featuring the BSO’s Ivan Stefanovic. Then we add a newer work by Sofia Gubaidulina that combines orchestra with a jazz band. Bringing together well-known masterpieces, exciting new works, and great collaborators are what we do best. I can’t wait to jump into next season!
Note: Jason Love will be conducting “The Columbia Orchestra at the Chrysalis” for a free summer pops concert as part of the Columbia Festival of the Arts on June 30th at the Chrysalis at Merriweather Post in Columbia. Although the concert is free, you should get tickets before they are gone. You can do this online.
Catch Jason Love and the Columbia Orchestra starting their next season on October 12, 2019, with “Russian Dreams: with Ivan Stefanovic, violin including work by Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev. Their 2019-2020 repertoire will feature artists from Mozart to Ellington, and it includes Symphonic Pops in March. Don’t forget they will have free Chamber Series concert on June 9, 2019, at the Howard County Center for the Arts Blackbox. For more information about shows and subscriptions go to their website.