Arts » Classical Music

New faces at the ISO: Austin Huntington, the youngest member



The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra opens their 2015-16 season with handful of new personalities.

“It’s been several years since we’ve seen this many new faces at the start of a season. It’s very exciting to welcome them to the family, says ISO Music Director Krzysztof Urbanski.

“Just like our entire orchestra, our new musicians and new associate conductor come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. It will be such a joy for me to lead all of these talented individuals. I hope our patrons notice the continued quality of our outstanding Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and are proud of what we present each and every week.”

NUVO took the opportunity to learn about the new ISO faces. In the mix you’ll find sports enthusiasts, a professional photographer, a trained engineer; some with acting, opera and national musical tour credits. 

Austin Huntington, Principal Cello, The Manterfield Chair

NUVO: At age three the cello lured you—what do you recall about the attraction?

Austin Huntington: I originally wanted to play bass. My parents always have been strong supporters of classical music, always bringing us to concerts from a very young age. At one of these concerts, I pointed up to the double basses that were already set on stage and exclaimed how much I wanted to play one of those huge instruments. My brother had just started playing violin, which meant my mind was already looking for a similar instrument to play as well. Of course, my parents talked me down to playing the cello rather than the bass, since a three year old playing the bass would be a little more tricky and I was not patient when it came to starting an instrument. I have always been drawn to the lower sounds of the orchestra though. Both the bass and the cello have a certain depth and sonority no other instrument can match. Of course, when I was three I wasn't thinking of that point as much as how enormous those basses were.

NUVO: What stays with you from the initial a-ha of ‘this is who I am-I’m a cellist’?

Huntington: Up until the age of 10 I was a part of the Suzuki program, which is a beginning approach to the instruments. This program consists of 10 books full of movements from larger pieces that slowly but surely get more and more difficult, often incorporating new techniques as the books get into the higher numbers. It was when I was 10 that my teacher decided that I could get more out of learning actual pieces than continuing the slow climb to finish the 10 books. I then started my first full concerto, by Saint-Saens. Of course it was a challenge, though a much different kind of challenge than before- unlike Suzuki, I now had to look much more deeply into the music rather than simply taking it at face value. It was no longer about only playing the notes and doing the printed dynamics; now there were ideas such as musicality and personal expressive freedom. That was when I realized that I could do so much more with this music than play like everything was an etude or a technical drill. The most wonderful part of music is that no one is every done learning- there is always more to experience and master.

NUVO: How would you describe your gut feel sitting in the first chair cello on the Conner Prairie stage this summer, five years after taking center stage as winner of the Michael Ben & Illene Komisarow Maurer Young Musicians Contest.

Huntington: It really brings back amazing memories. The winner's concert took place at Connor Prairie and memories started to flood back, even on the first drive to a rehearsal at the Prairie. It was an enormous honor back five years ago to share the stage with the ISO, and now that honor is taken to a whole new level. To say I am proud to be a part of this orchestra would be the understatement of the century. There really are no words to describe the feeling of sitting up there during the first concert of the 2015 SOTP (especially during a piece like the 1812 Overture).

NUVO: What is your most awesome Lego creation?

My older brother was always the one who built the cool space ships and buildings and all that. He would make sure all his bricks matched colorwise and was very patient while he was building. On the other side, my creations were a mess- a cacophony of colors that made something that was often only somewhat recognizable to others. That said I got a Star Wars Lego kit for Christmas one year, which of course I built. Then, some time went by and the spaceship that I built was no longer together, being used for other creations. I then was able to find most of the original pieces and build it back up without the instructions while adding as many cool parts from other sets as I could (for example, lots of lasers and huge wings and stuff of that sort). It was barely recognizable to the old set when it was completed, but to my eight year old self it was the most awesome thing ever.

NUVO: You are now 21 and it’s project “grown-up”—what’s inspiring you at the start of a career with the ISO?

Huntington: The day I stop having fun while playing music will be the day I retire. I can't see that ever happening. Growing up—a certain amount is necessary for a job like this- one has to be bulletproof in preparation for every rehearsal and concert and present oneself in a professional light to match the position. However, I can't imagine ever playing a piece like Beethoven's 9th Symphony and not giving it my all while smiling during the whole finale. Off stage, it is very important to strike a balance between fun and work. I am very fortunate that I absolutely love my work and to me, playing a concert with music I love for a full house is one of the most amazing things I can think of doing.


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