Legacy Conversations: Brett Mitchell


Talented American conductor talks about John Williams and how the music of the Maestro inspired his artistic and personal life

Hosted by Maurizio Caschetto

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One of the missions of The Legacy of John Williams is to spotlight how much the music of the Maestro inspired legions of people to become talented musicians. As it’s often already told, a lot of youngsters fell in love with John Williams’ music after hearing it in films like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Superman, Jurassic Park and, more recently, the Harry Potter series. But, after being captivated by the incredible sound of the symphony orchestra accompanying those magical movies, many of those youngsters decided also to learn to play an instrument and begin serious study to become professional musicians.

Talented American conductor Brett Mitchell is certainly one of them, and his successful career is proof of how much influential John Williams has been (and continues to be) in building a new generation of classical musicians, conductors and composers.

In performance with The Cleveland Orchestra (March, 2017) – Photo by Roger Mastroianni

Brett Mitchell is the Music Director of the Colorado Symphony since 2017 (after being appointed Music Director Designate the previous season) and leads the orchestra in their regular subscription season in a wide and diverse variety of programs, which often includes film music selections and live-to-picture concerts together with timeless masterworks from the classical repertoire, but also new music from American composers. He’s also in demand as guest conductor for many American symphony orchestras and throughout his career he conducted prestigious ensembles such as the San Francisco Symphony and the Minnesota Orchestra. This coming September he’ll make his debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducting the live-to-picture presentation of the 1951 classic An American in Paris at the Hollywood Bowl. Maestro Mitchell also collaborated with world-renowned soloists such as Renée Fleming, Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma.

Brett Mitchell with Yo-Yo Ma after performing the Dvòrak Cello Concerto with the Colorado Symphony in December 2017

From 2013 to 2017, he served on the conducting staff of The Cleveland Orchestra. He joined the orchestra as Assistant Conductor, and was promoted to Associate Conductor in 2015. In these roles, he led the orchestra in several dozen concerts each season at Severance Hall, Blossom Music Center, and on tour. Before that, from 2007 to 2011, Maestro Mitchell led over one hundred performances as Assistant Conductor of the Houston Symphony. He also held Assistant Conductor posts with the Orchestre National de France, where he worked under Kurt Masur, and the Castleton Festival, where he worked under Lorin Maazel.

Brett Mitchell addresses the audience before a performance of ‘Jurassic Park – In Concert’ with the Colorado Symphony in May 2018 (Photo by Brandon Marshall)

Born in 1979 in Seattle, Washington, Brett Mitchell holds degrees in conducting from the University of Texas at Austin and composition from Western Washington University. He fell in love with the music of John Williams already as a kid, while watching films such as Star Wars, E.T. and Superman. He pertains to that generation of people who were very young when the popularity of the composer exploded world-wide, influencing young minds: “It’s really impossible to overestimate how influential John Williams is on my career”, says Brett at the beginning of our conversation. This genuine love led him to become not only a successful conductor, but also an enthusiastic ambassador of a wide-eyed attitude toward Williams’ music, and film music repertoire in general. Over the course of his career, he conducted a lot of John Williams’ music (both film and concert works, including rare pieces like Celebrate Discovery, Soundings!, and Air and Simple Gifts), and also live-to-picture concerts of John Williams’ classics like Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., Jaws, Jurassic Park.

Brett Mitchell leads the Colorado Symphony in a performance of ‘Star Wars: A New Hope – In Concert’ in May 2017 (Photo by Brandon Marshall)

In this wide-ranging conversation, Brett talks about how much the music of John Williams played a crucial role in his artistic and personal life. We also talk about the challenges of conducting live-to-picture concerts, the differences between film and  concert works, the importance of John Williams in the history of American music, and Brett’s attitude when preparing and programming a concert program.

On the podium of the Colorado Symphony at Boettcher Concert Hall in Denver (Photo by Brandon Marshall)

Thanks to Brett Mitchell for his time and generosity; thanks to Charles Cumella for the help and support; a special thank you to Miguel Andrade.

Visit Brett Mitchell’s official website for news on his upcoming conducting appearances: http://www.brettmitchellconductor.com

Colorado Symphony official website: https://coloradosymphony.org/