After besting over 130 applicants for the job as music director of the Carmel Symphony Orchestra (CSO), Maestra Janna Hymes has taken the helm as the CSO’s first female conductor. Her journey to the podium began as a teenager when a music teacher was tardy for orchestra practice. Reading her classmates’ restlessness and boredom during the wait, Hymes seized the opportunity to pick up the baton and lead. The moment the orchestra followed, her heart’s desire was revealed. Adapted from Classical Music Indy’s NOTE Magazine.
Focusing on the music, Janna Hymes inspires the next generation of conductors
By Jan Dowling
Born in New York City, Hymes came from a creative family steeped in the arts. Her father was a lighting consultant on popular shows such as Saturday Night Live, and her mother coordinated public relations for the American Ballet Theatre.
Early in her career, female conductors were often limited to the role of guest conductor. Hymes was aware that she needed to shine brighter than her male counterparts, but that knowledge was less of a distraction than an energizing force. A Fulbright Scholar who trained with Leonard Bernstein, Hymes kept her focus on the music.
Undaunted by the obstacle of breaking into a male-dominated field, she plunged into musical scores, analyzing how the pieces were put together and the relationship between the instruments. While Hymes honed her baton technique, she reflected on the lives and careers of the master composers, hoping to honor their vision for each arrangement.
“We’re not there yet when it comes to equal treatment,” says Hymes of women in the music industry. The number of enthusiastic, young women who approach her about their ambition to become the next preeminent conductor is heartening. She encourages them to study their craft and sharpen their skills, but also to enjoy the journey as much as she has.
While becoming a world-class conductor, Hymes became a role model for women who balance a career with family life. Raising two sons only enhanced her work by bringing out motherhood’s enormous range of emotions. “Love expands when you have children,” say Hymes. She maintains a balanced life by hiking, biking, knitting and enjoying a dog named Winston.
Known for being tough on the podium, Hymes is treasured by audiences in the United States and abroad for her intensity and graceful artistry. She feels blessed to co-create with the Palladium and to be welcomed by the Carmel community, where she sees a great opportunity to build bridges between cultures, collaborate with other artists and create new possibilities for artistic expression.
Authentic and passionate, she is brimming with ideas to “rev up” the program and give back to the community. Playing side by side with high school orchestras, giving music lessons to children, showcasing different composers, crossing genres and elevating performances through creative use of light and color are just a few of the possibilities she sees for growing an already exceptional program.
It’s always a challenge to get and keep 75 gifted musicians on the same page, but Hymes says she inherited a talented orchestra, as comfortable with a technically demanding piece as a lush, poetic classic. She aims to deliver vibrant performances by inspiring each musician to be their best in orchestra where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
“A community can’t live without an orchestra,” Hymes says. “Music is such a catalyst for changing people because it touches us at the deepest level. I want to play music for everyone. Let’s open the doors and make classical music available to everyone.”
Make time for the elegance and mastery of the Carmel Symphony Orchestra by attending performance this season. You’ll find their 2018-2019 concert calendar at www.carmelsymphony.org.