Executive Voice: His baton points to new path in Triangle
Dec 15, 2016, 12:32pm EST
Fans of orchestral music in the Triangle no doubt know of William Henry Curry – or at least know his work. After all, he has been a fixture in the area’s classical music scene now for two decades and has conducted hundreds of orchestra performances as resident conductor of the North Carolina Symphony and as music director of the Durham Symphony Orchestra.
The Pittsburgh native began composing and conducting music at the ripe old age of 14. Curry’s first professional gig as a conductor came at the age of 21 in Richmond, Virginia. And in February, he announced his retirement as longtime resident conductor at the North Carolina Symphony.
But he’s far from done. He remains music director and conductor of the Durham Symphony, where he’s served for the past eight years, and also lends his expertise to academia, where he teaches music appreciation at William Peace University.
Triangle Business Journal caught up with him during this holiday season to get his thoughts on his career and on the Triangle’s classical music prowess, as compared to others in the U.S.
You’ve been in and around the music scene since you were a youth and have conducted orchestras across the U.S., including two decades in the Triangle. How does the Triangle stack up to other parts of the country in terms of its commitment to quality orchestral performances? The Triangle offers a bountiful harvest of first-rate musical events every week. My feeling is that the devotion to creating and maintaining high musical standards in this area is second-to-none.
You recently stepped down as the resident conductor for the North Carolina Symphony. What was the impetus for that decision and what is your role with that organization going forward? My goal for the last 30 years has been to set aside more time for composing and teaching. Composing is an extraordinarily difficult and personal activity that allows you to express your humanity and to touch other people. I have said the two “God” professions are teaching and nursing. Like composing, the personal element in teaching is incredibly fulfilling. I teach music appreciation at William Peace University in Raleigh – and it has been challenging, but joyful. Especially satisfying has been the one-on-one contact with some extraordinarily articulate students. They give me hope for the future.
In recent years it became apparent to me that in order to pursue composition and teaching and to accept the offers to guest conduct around the world, it was imperative that I conclude my 20-year tenure with the North Carolina Symphony. I continue to work with them as a guest conductor and I will always view the orchestra with deep respect and affection.
What are your immediate and long-term goals for the Durham Symphony? The immediate goal is always to produce an exciting and polished concert centered on a variety of music that has a wide appeal for this community. As I have often said, “This is not your grandfather’s Durham Symphony.” Yes, we do play the European classics, but our musical mission also includes performing great American music, including jazz, Broadway, gospel and brand-new works written just for us.
My long-term goals include continuing this programming philosophy while collaborating with the many fine musical and theatrical ensembles in Durham. And now, in our 41st year, we are looking forward to a major campaign that will permanently secure the finances of our organization.