Deanna Tham traces her desire to be a music conductor to her three years as a drum major at Lynbrook High School in San Jose, Calif.
“That was not really conducting,” Tham, the new assistant conductor of the Jacksonville Symphony and principal conductor of the Jacksonville Symphony Youth Orchestra, said in a recent interview. “I was more like a human metronome.”
But it inspired her to want to lead musicians.
So she pursued a musical future at Carnegie Mellon University. Or at least she sort of pursued a musical future. She did a double major, earning a degree in French horn, but also earning one in biological sciences.
“I thought I was supposed to be a doctor,” she said.
But then she attended Northwestern University, earning a master’s degree in wind conducting. She followed that by achieving a professional studies certificate in orchestra conducting from the Cleveland Institute of Music.
That led to her first full-time conducting job as the music director of the Boise Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. After two years in Boise, where she also worked with the Boise Philharmonic and Ballet Idaho, she went to Louisville, where she was music director of the 350-piece Louisville Youth Orchestra.
Being a specialist in conducting youth orchestras wasn’t necessarily her plan.
“It’s just kind of the way the career panned out,” she said.
When the Jacksonville Symphony decided to conduct a search for new principal conductor of its youth orchestras, Tham “was the clear winner,” said Symphony music director Courtney Lewis.
“We conducted a big international search and held auditions in June,” he said.
Tham will conduct the JSYO Philharmonic and Repertory orchestras in several concerts this season. She’ll also conduct the Symphony during the annual presentation of the “Nutcracker” and will conduct the orchestra as it plays John Williams’ score to “Raiders of the Lost Ark” as the movie is screened in the Jacoby Symphony Hall in February.
Next June she’ll conduct the JSYO’s Philharmonic during the 2018 Los Angeles International Music Festival. The Philharmonic will be one of the three high school ensembles performing at Disneyland and in the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
“I will get to stand where Gustavo Dudamel stands,” she said, referring to the conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
As assistant conductor she will serve as cover conductor on several Masterworks concerts. A cover conductor sits in on rehearsals so he or she can take over in an emergency and also can serve as an adviser to the conductor during rehearsals.
She’ll made a return to Boise in December to serve as guest conductor for the Boise Philharmonic, but otherwise will stick close to home this season.
One of her main duties as principal conductor of the JSYO will be communication with her students, their families and their music teachers, she said.
“Teachers love to hear when their students are doing well,” he said. “… The reason I get to have fun is that the teachers are working really hard.”
Charlie Patton: (904) 359-4413