The prodigy assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic tells us about talent, travel and chamber music trios.
Conductor Joshua Weilerstein, 24, was born and raised in Boston, part of a famously musical clan that includes his parents and sister (who form the Weilerstein Trio). A graduate of New England Conservatory, he has appeared as a violin soloist with orchestras around the world and served as the concertmaster of Discovery Ensemble. After winning the 2009 Malko Competition for Young Conductors in Copenhagen, Denmark, he made his conducting debut with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. In 2011, he was named as one of two assistant conductors of the New York Philharmonic. He lives in New York.
It’s definitely one of them. When you think about how many orchestral ensembles there are here—the BSO, BPO, Discovery Ensemble, A Far Cry, NEC’s ensembles—and the incredible chamber music, you could easily go to a fantastic and inspiring concert every single night.
There isn’t a lot of music written for two violins, cello and piano, and though my dad and I both play viola, we don’t have time to do that kind of thing all the time.
My sister can pick out each note in a foghorn, my dad can remember just about anything he’s ever played, and my mom is one of the most naturally musical people I’ve ever met, so I really can’t say.
I wish I knew! I think there are a lot of great options out there, and I hope whoever they get continues the really inventive and creative programming that James Levine did, while also reaching out into the community to create new audiences.
Living? Riccardo Chailly, Gustavo Dudamel, Alan Gilbert. Dead? Carlos Kleiber and Leonard Bernstein.
In all honesty, Jordan Hall in Boston. To play chamber music there is incomparable.
Symphony Hall in Boston or the Konserthuset in Stockholm.
When I’m conducting, there’s nothing I can do to make a sound, besides breathing heavily and grunting. With the violin, I’m fully responsible physically, mentally and technically for making the sound. With conducting, the responsibilities are the same, but the method of dealing with them is different.
There have been more than a few sword fights at rehearsals.
It’s a great backscratcher.
Not at all. I didn’t even want to be a violinist or a musician until I was 15. My parents were totally cool with that, and when I decided I wanted to pursue music, all they said was that now I needed to practice a lot more.
Probably what I was going to be before I turned to music: a sportswriter. I had a borderline unhealthy obsession with sports as a kid.
My violin is a 1799 Joseph Gagliano. Sadly, I don't know the history of it, but one of the things I've always wanted to do is research the history of each of its owners.
I don’t know why, but I’m a huge fan of System of a Down. I usually hate that kind of music.
Mahler, Shostakovich and Beethoven consistently move me more than anyone else.
Living? Christian Tetzlaff. Dead? David Oistrakh.
Simon Rattle, for sure, but being in the same tiny rehearsal room while Bryn Terfel was singing Tosca was a life-altering experience.
My bridge [the little piece that holds up all of the strings] snapped off during a performance of Peter and the Wolf in Guatemala for about a thousand kids. They were pretty freaked out because it makes an unbelievably loud noise.
I have a fear of falling off the podium. I’m sure it’ll happen at some point because I’m ridiculously clumsy.
Some are, but it’s a trend that’s changing for the better. There are very few egomaniacal, tyrannical conductors who can get anywhere in the musical world anymore. The focus is on collaboration and good relationships.
I love Tel Aviv, Amsterdam and Copenhagen.
Using music as a social program is a brilliant idea. It should absolutely be replicated around the world.
There’s definitely some classical music—Shostakovich comes to mind—that is by no means soothing.
Depends on what you’re into, but Piazzolla, “Sunrise” from Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé or Márquez’s Danzon No. 2 come to mind.
Cello and French horn.
Don’t be discouraged. Don’t be cynical. Be the most inspiring musician you can be, and remember that at every concert, there’s someone who’s never heard what you’re about to play.