Mike Allard on Conducting in Carnegie Hall: “There is No Higher Experience than Performing in the Grand Old Lady”
Michael Allard is the Orchestra Director for the Harmony Magnet Academy in Strathmore, California. Allard holds a Ph.D. from The University of Texas at Austin (1991), an M.M.Ed. from Florida State University, (1978) and a B.A. from Colgate University (1976). Allard taught in Reno, Nevada from 1976-78 and is credited with founding the modern Las Vegas school system orchestra program (1979-87). He taught in the UT String Project from 1987-89 and at Punahou School in Hawaii (1989-91). Allard was tenured Associate Professor and Orchestra Conductor at University of the Pacific from 1991-2000. He has been honored for his work as a music educator by the Grammy Foundation, SBO Magazine, the U.S. Department of Education, and Tulare County Office of Education. Dr. Allard recently performed for the sixth time in Carnegie Hall. Here are is thoughts on the Carnegie Hall and MidAmerica Productions experience:
MAP: How did you hear about MidAmerica Productions?
Mike: In the 1980s I was actually scouted by a rep from MidAmerica who recommended me to Peter. I was guest conducting the Montana All State Orchestra, and received Peter's invitation when I returned to my home base of Las Vegas. About every five years since I have returned with different groups to the Hall. During that time I have passed the names of some of the nation's best directors on to MidAmerica. They too subsequently performed.
MAP: Why do you think the MidAmerica Experience is important?
Mike: MidAmerica provides the most powerful tool I know for communities to rally around a program, and to preserve and improve that program. In the 1970s, the musicians’ union artist-in-residence program had a limited positive effect on school programs. After an initial boost in interest, the effect would decay after the artist left. MidAmerica provided a more powerful experience with a long-lasting effect for school music by bringing students to the great hall to perform. I have taught thousands of students over the past 40 years. One might be surprised to know how many became successful in the music field as a direct result of the Carnegie Hall experience. We are talking about Grammy winners, Broadway stars, television and movie careers, The President's Own Marine Band leader, conductors, and industry people. One cannot overhype the positive effect of the experience. MidAmerica treats the show and performers as a professional show with professional expectations. They treat the students and staffs like the pros that they are for that day. And so, the performances are over the top -- excellent.
MAP: What was the main musical experience that your performers took away from their residency in NYC, which culminated in their Carnegie Hall performance?
Mike: Having enjoyed Peter Tiboris' generosity for over 30 years, I can say without reservation, of all the professional and educational experiences I have had, performing at Carnegie Hall has no peer. I have conducted around the world in some of the world's great halls. All of those performances are memorable, but none stick out like the sound of the music soaring at Carnegie Hall where you can hear your heartbeat, and the applause sounds like waves upon the sand. All of the peripheral things that go along with the tour are terrific, the sightseeing, the boat reception, etc. But the musical experience stands on its own merit. There is no higher experience than performing in the Grand Old Lady.
MAP: As music director, what was the most memorable personal experience you took away after this residency?
Mike: As a child, growing up in New York, I never believed I would ever make it to Carnegie Hall. My teachers were the people whose pictures hang from the walls at Carnegie. They were affectionately known as "The Jewish Mafia" in New York: Bernstein, Emanual Vardi (my main teacher), Uncle Isaac and Uncle Yehudi, etc. I just thought that if you were going to play professionally you had to sound like them. Little did I know that if you reached somewhere below their stratosphere, you had a really good chance to have a great career. When Peter invited me to conduct the first time, I was already an established conductor in my own right. I was still awed by the prospect of Performing at Carnegie Hall; I have never lost that awe.
So, I would like to thank Peter and all those at MidAmerica over the years for providing me with a lifetime of memories. Having my daughter Allison King join me on Father’s Day to conduct was the highlight of my career. When I grow up, I want to be as good as she is. Of course, I may age but I will never grow up, or reach her competence. It was a perfect day.
Over the past 34 years, MidAmerica Productions has produced over 1300 concerts in Carnegie Hall and at historic halls all over the world. To have your ensemble perform in Carnegie Hall or internationally, call us at 212-239-0205 or visit us at www.midamerica-music.com.