My Name Is ... Jurgen De Lemos

Symphony conductor hopes to renew spirits

Posted 12/16/19

Worldly musician I've played classical music since I was a child, growing up in a tiny town in northern Bavaria. I began with violin and cello. My first paying gig was playing Handel's “Largo” at …

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My Name Is ... Jurgen De Lemos

Symphony conductor hopes to renew spirits

Posted

Worldly musician

I've played classical music since I was a child, growing up in a tiny town in northern Bavaria. I began with violin and cello. My first paying gig was playing Handel's “Largo” at a funeral. I was accepted to the Munich Academy of Music. I studied in Paris and London, then I got a Fullbright scholarship to study in the United States, where I studied conducting and cello at Juilliard.

Then I met a very pretty girl who later became my wife, and I couldn't think anymore. I auditioned for the New York Philharmonic, and I played under Leonard Bernstein.

Life in America

I never liked New York, so we came to Denver. I conducted the Arvada Chamber, the Boulder Youth Symphony and Denver Young Artists Symphony. Now I conduct the Littleton Symphony Orchestra.

Life in Europe was so different. As a child, we couldn't even afford copies of our sheet music. We had to copy it all by hand.

America seemed like a rough country, but you get the wrong impression of America when you land in New York. It's not really America — it's an international entity, like London or Paris.

I played a show in Aspen, and I fell in love with Colorado. When we moved here, the first thing we did was buy a mountain cabin outside Black Hawk.

Cultural values

In Europe, classical music is intertwined in the culture in a way it isn't here. Here, classical music is superimposed, but in Europe the thought that an orchestra would go broke or go under is impossible.

In Germany, you have 96 orchestras. In the United States, there are 32. But the population of Germany is 80 million, versus 340 million in America. That means your chances of getting a professional musician's job in Germany are nine times higher.

Most musicians in European orchestras are full-time professionals. Most of my musicians here have another full-time job, although they are more than good enough to be pros.

We have to reach out to new avenues. We can't just pull out dusty pieces like museum directors. We have to incorporate contemporary music, and keep the art alive.

My goal is to create happiness. I hope people leave our performances with renewed spirits.

If you have suggestions for My Name Is, please contact David Gilbert at dgilbert@coloradocommunitymedia.com.

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