Audio: "A Maestro’s Secret for a High-Performing Team"

Brett Mitchell is the featured guest on the current episode of The Leadership Podcast, a weekly program featuring in-depth interviews with leaders from around the world. Listen here:

More from the podcast's official website:

Brett Mitchell is the Music Director of the Colorado Symphony. He discusses leadership and teamwork, and how the best orchestras don’t just play with each other… they play for each other. He considers trust to be the first step to leadership and shares his philosophy and methods. He talks about the discipline of music, and how music theory can inform innovation, leadership and teamwork.

Key Takeaways

[2:51] As a young music director, Brett works consciously at leadership.  

[4:29] Brett’s last position was with the Cleveland Orchestra, one of America’s Big Five orchestras. He started there in awe of the training and skill of the elite musicians. Brett learned that the better the orchestra, the more they want to be led. The musicians make music with each other and the conductor helps guide them, but does not dictate to them. The conductor is the arbiter of taste.

[10:06] Leonard Bernstein did a video with the Vienna Philharmonic, conducting them with his facial expressions alone in supreme trust and joy. Brett attributes his own career to the path Leonard Bernstein blazed for American orchestral conductors.

[16:20] A Conductor leads an orchestra; the Music Director is responsible for the artistic side; the Executive Director is responsible for the business side; the Maestro is a teacher. Brett studies the score, learns everybody’s part, listens to the orchestra, teaches the orchestra what the composer is saying through the score, and guides them through the execution of the score.

[26:38] John Williams’ film scores gave Brett the inspiration to study composition. Brett discusses how he and the staff at Public Radio Station WCLV happened to create the award-winning documentary on John Williams’ Star Wars movie scores, The Score Awakens.  

[34:33] Brett is also an active guest conductor. Trust comes from being reliable, getting right to work, showing you are prepared, and being authentic. The goal is not a flawless performance, but a performance as close as humanly possible to being flawless with passion. Beethoven said a wrong note is nothing, but to play without passion is inexcusable.

[43:00] Brett talks about dealing with mistakes during a performance. The conductor needs to find the mistakes that will not fix themselves, and correct and direct for them.

Review: "A New Beginning at the Colorado Symphony"

Brett Mitchell's inaugural subscription concerts as Music Director of the Colorado Symphony featured music by Kevin Puts, Mason Bates, and Beethoven. (Photo by Brandon Marshall)

Brett Mitchell's inaugural subscription concerts as Music Director of the Colorado Symphony featured music by Kevin Puts, Mason Bates, and Beethoven. (Photo by Brandon Marshall)

Jeffrey Nytch has published a review of Brett Mitchell's inaugural subscription concerts as Music Director of the Colorado Symphony:

If you glanced at the opening program of the Colorado Symphony’s 2017-18 season, playing this weekend in Denver, you might be tempted to make the assumption that the orchestra was replicating that all-too-familiar pattern of feeling it needed to balance a first half of all-contemporary repertoire with a trusty war-horse – in this case, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Given the frequency with which such programming is done you might be forgiven for your assumption, but in this case you’d be incorrect.

This program, pairing Beethoven’s Fifth with a first half of works by Kevin Puts and Mason Bates, presents a coherent package. Puts and Bates complemented the Beethoven – just as Beethoven retroactively complemented Puts and Bates. This wasn’t cynical programming; this was thoughtful programming that gave every piece on the docket an equal role in service to the whole.

The vision behind this was that of the Colorado Symphony’s new Music Director, Brett Mitchell, and it’s a vision that plays out over the course of the entire season. In concert after concert we see not just a mix of canonical standards with lesser-known classics (or a refreshing number of new works), but a pairing of old and new that illuminates both. Such is certainly the case in this opening concert, where the vibrance of Kevin Puts’ Millennium Canons foreshadows the brass fanfares of the Beethoven finale, and where the pulsing rhythms of Mason Bates’ The B-Sides set us up for the insistent drive of that famous 4-note motive that not only opens the Fifth but spins its way through the entire symphony like a 19th-century version of a techno beat.

So often orchestral programming is done in a paint-by-numbers fashion: overture, concerto, intermission, canonical symphony or tone poem. The corollary to this is that the more adventuresome the first half, the less adventuresome the second half must be. (It goes without saying that in this tired – and tiresome – way of programming the adventuresome piece cannot go after the intermission, at the risk that the audience will leave after they’ve had their fill of ear candy on the first half.) And while I have no doubt that there is a certain segment of the audience that has come to expect this pattern for their concerts, and will rail against anything that confounds it, it’s absolute death to attracting anybody new to the symphony experience, and here’s why:

Anything that is done by rote cannot help but come off as such. And who wants to spend a precious evening out, pay $75 for a ticket, get a sitter, drive into town, pay for parking and all the rest, just to experience rote??

Brett Mitchell with composer Mason Bates after performing The B-Sides with the Colorado Symphony.

Brett Mitchell with composer Mason Bates after performing The B-Sides with the Colorado Symphony.

And though Boettcher Concert Hall was, as it usually is, only partly full Friday night, to blame the less-than-stunning attendance on the unorthodox programming would be another misplaced assumption. For the most adventuresome of the pieces – the Bates – received a standing ovation. A senior citizen to my right beamed, grabbed my husband by the arm and exclaimed, “Well now that was something different, wasn’t it?” The senior to my left was one of the first to leap to her feet, clapping enthusiastically and saying to her companion, “I thought that was fun, didn’t you?” And at intermission I took careful note of the audience, especially the older more “traditional”-looking patrons: everyone was buzzing about the first half. The fact that someone was willing to open their tenure with an entire half of new American music had gotten everyone’s attention – and the response was favorable.

It was one more bit of proof that it really is time we retire that tired chestnut about senior citizens not accepting anything but the most standard of standard repertoire. It really is time we start respecting our audience more than that. The fresh, the new, the inventive: these are the qualities most folks are seeking from their live music experiences. Why do so many orchestras still insist on depriving audiences of them?

Of course, it’s too early to tell whether or not Maestro Mitchell’s diverse programming will start filling more seats. The more I study the complex dynamics of audiences and why they make the choices they do, the more mysterious it seems. And as I’ve been saying in this forum and others for more than a decade, there are many more factors in determining consumption of classical music than just the repertoire (in fact, in some respects it’s among the least important of factors). But this is the right approach: thoughtful programming that is designed to make connections, to help us see old repertoire in a new light, and new repertoire in the context of what has come before. It’s artistic leadership that inspires risk-taking and adventure – something that the young audiences that orchestras crave regularly seek in practically all their endeavors.

To read the complete review, please click here.

Audio: Brett Mitchell talks Beethoven (and Nirvana)

Colorado Symphony music director Brett Mitchell speaks with CPR Classical's David Rutherford at the Colorado Public Radio studios. (Photo by Rachel Trignano)

Colorado Symphony music director Brett Mitchell speaks with CPR Classical's David Rutherford at the Colorado Public Radio studios. (Photo by Rachel Trignano)

During the intermission of the live broadcast of his inaugural subscription concert as Music Director of the Colorado Symphony, Brett Mitchell spoke with CPR Classical's David Rutherford about the power of Beethoven's music, a favorite moment in the Fifth Symphony, and what Beethoven has in common with Nirvana. Listen here:

Live Broadcast On Friday: Colorado Symphony Welcomes Its New Music Director

The Colorado Symphony performs at Boettcher Concert Hall in Denver. (Photo by Paul Brokering)

The Colorado Symphony performs at Boettcher Concert Hall in Denver. (Photo by Paul Brokering)

From Colorado Public Radio:

The Colorado Symphony marks the beginning of a new era on Friday, as conductor Brett Mitchell officially begins his tenure as music director.

Listen at 7:30 p.m. Friday for a live broadcast on CPR Classical from Boettcher Concert Hall in Denver. Hear it at 88.1 FM in Denver, 99.9 FM in Boulder or online at CPRClassical.org.

The program features two 21st-century pieces as well as one of the most beloved symphonies of all time: 

Brett Mitchell, music director of the Colorado Symphony (Photo by Peter Lockley)

Brett Mitchell, music director of the Colorado Symphony (Photo by Peter Lockley)

  • Kevin Puts: "Millennium Canons"
  • Mason Bates: "The B-Sides: Five Pieces for Orchestra"
  • Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C minor

Mitchell, a 38-year-old conductor whose previous post was with the Cleveland Orchestra, begins a four-year term with the symphony on Friday.

Check out this Facebook Live conversation between Mitchell and CPR Classical's David Rutherford for a preview of the live broadcast:

The Colorado Symphony's Friday program will be repeated on Saturday and Sunday at Boettcher Concert Hall. 

Audio: "Conductor Brett Mitchell Gets Set To Lead The Colorado Symphony"

Music Director Brett Mitchell and the Colorado Symphony (Photo by Brandon Marshall)

Music Director Brett Mitchell and the Colorado Symphony (Photo by Brandon Marshall)

Brett Mitchell appeared on this morning's episode of Colorado Matters, Colorado Public Radio's daily interview show, to discuss his new position as Music Director of the Colorado Symphony.

Fans of the Colorado Symphony officially welcome a new music director this weekend when conductor Brett Mitchell leads his first official performances. The program includes Ludwig van Beethoven's beloved Symphony No. 5. 

Mitchell comes to Colorado from a previous post with the Cleveland Orchestra. He spoke with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner about his vision for the orchestra as he starts his four-year tenure, and some of his favorite music.

Hear this coming Friday night's concert from Boettcher Concert Hall in Denver in a live broadcast on CPR Classical beginning at 7:30 p.m. The program includes music by Beethoven, Mason Bates and Kevin Puts.

To listen to this interview, please click here.

Feature: "Colorado Symphony's new music director is ready to rock"

Seattle-born Brett Mitchell, the new 38-year-old music director for the Colorado Symphony, was raised on grunge before discovering his love for all things symphonic—and we do mean all things. (Photo by Peter Lockley)

Seattle-born Brett Mitchell, the new 38-year-old music director for the Colorado Symphony, was raised on grunge before discovering his love for all things symphonic—and we do mean all things. (Photo by Peter Lockley)

Denver Metro Media has published a feature about Brett Mitchell on the eve of his first performances as Music Director of the Colorado Symphony:

Brett Mitchell remembers the day he discovered the genius of Ludwig van Beethoven.

It was 1994 while watching the biopic Immortal Beloved with his mother. As actor Gary Oldman pantomimed one of the great piano sonatas, 15-year-old Mitchell grew puzzled, then aghast.

“Mom, they stole this melody from Billy Joel. How are they getting away with this?” the high school freshman whispered in quiet desperation.

Within a few hours, the truth had sunk in.

It was Joel who had nicked the tune from Beethoven, not the other way around. The 20th-century piano man had some years earlier transformed the German composer’s exquisite “Sonata Pathétique” into a lamenting tribute to 1950s doo-wop in a 1983 hit song called “This Night.”

Like countless devotees before him, the newly enlightened Mitchell would soon scour the life work of Beethoven, whose tortured life, he discovered, was in frequent contrast to the sheer beauty of the composer’s wide-ranging work.

“Beethoven kind of stands for this great moral searching,” Mitchell explained. “Now, he’s a huge part of my life, every bit as much as Kurt Cobain was 25 years ago.”

Today, the 38-year-old Seattle-born musical director for the Colorado Symphony still stands at the intersection of classical and pop, as well as its varied crossroads at video games, movies, rock and roll, and who knows what else....

Like his recent CSO predecessors, the new Generation-X conductor is determined to bring “longhair” music to everyone—yes, including those with hipster beards. The millennial ticket-buying generation will soon constitute half the nation’s workforce and half of its expendable income.

“Millennials tend to not be so insistent about putting things into boxes,” Mitchell said, noting the symphony’s ongoing genre surfing. “Classical music doesn’t actually mean anything. That’s kind of a nonsense term we use to cover a lot of stuff. The opposite of classical, whatever the hell that means, is pops, whatever the hell that means.”

This year, it means not only upcoming homages to Beethoven and George Gershwin and collaborations with classical vocalist Renée Fleming and cellist Yo-Yo Ma, but also tributes to Ella Fitzgerald and Prince, a concert with eclectic banjoist Bela Fleck, live accompaniment to a screening of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, and a special performance dedicated to the music of video games.

Tell Tchaikovsky the news, but break it to him gently.

Born in Seattle in 1979, Mitchell came of age when new wave was already old and his city of birth was delivering a newer child called grunge. [Remember the dollar bill dangling in front of the swimming infant on the cover of Nirvana’s Nevermind?]

“I heard a very tortured soul who was trying to work through things in a very public way,” Mitchell said of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain. “When I started listening to Beethoven, honestly, I heard the exact same thing.”

Although rooted in the Baby-Boom rock of his parents and the 90s rock that permeated his hometown, Mitchell somehow found his calling in symphonic music, first in the movie soundtracks of John Williams, which would act as his bridge from pop to classical and set him off on his quest.

Before landing in the Mile High City, Mitchell held conducting positions with symphonies in Saginaw, Michigan, Cleveland and Houston, having studied conducting at the University of Texas in Austin. He held an assistant-conductor post with the Orchestre National de France and had a litany of guest shots across the United States and Europe prior to settling down in Denver this year.

Although Mitchell has yet to hit 40, that is not so unusual for a conductor, he says. Keep in mind, when the legendary Leonard Bernstein took the reins at the New York Philharmonic in 1958, he was only a couple years older than Mitchell is now. Even so, Mitchell sees his relative youth as a benefit.

“I’m sure that doesn’t hurt in terms of reaching out to younger audience members,” he said. “But what really helps is the fact that I’ve been evangelizing for classical music in a way that I hope makes it relatable to anybody and everybody.”

Mitchell points out that even someone as revered as Bernstein was no stick in the mud when it came to music. The conductor-composer was a sort of ambassador between classical and other genres and in 1967 hosted CBS’s Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution, in which Bernstein introduced the “establishment” to the likes of Brian Wilson, Roger McGuinn and Janis Ian.

“[Bernstein] would listen to The Beatles’ Revolver with his kids. The only discrimination was the quality of music they would listen to,” Mitchell said. “We approach it very much the same way in our house and I think Lenny was really a light that led the way for a lot of the rest of us.”

To read the complete article, please click here.

Preview: "Relive 'E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial' with the Cleveland Orchestra"

Cleveland Magazine has published a brief preview of Brett Mitchell's his upcoming performances with The Cleveland Orchestra:

The mysterious world of Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial takes over the forest-surrounded Blossom Music Center Sept. 1-3. As a nod to our favorite alien encounter, the Cleveland Orchestra performs John Williams’ spectacular sounds, which were so moving that it compelled Spielberg to re-edit the last 15 minutes of his film. “In the last 15 minutes, you go from fast-action music to this lyrical, tender music and then a celebratory, majestic fanfare to cap off the movie,” says conductor Brett Mitchell. “He captures the emotion of every single scene.” When the movie and music end, live fireworks fill the sky to top off the immersive showing of this 35-year-old, bike-flying, moonlit masterpiece.

To read the complete preview, please click here.

Audio: "Movie Night at Blossom with The Cleveland Orchestra"

Brett Mitchell joined Bill O'Connell on WCLV Classical 104.9 to discuss The Cleveland Orchestra's upcoming performances of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. These three performances over Labor Day Weekend mark both the close of the 2017 Blossom Music Festival and Mr. Mitchell's final performances as Associate Conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra. To listen to this interview, please click here.

Preview: "Cleveland Orchestra's 'E.T.' concerts at Blossom near and dear to outgoing conductor Brett Mitchell"

The Cleveland Orchestra and outgoing associate conductor Brett Mitchell will close the 2017 summer season this weekend at Blossom Music Center with three performances of "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," live with the film. 

The Cleveland Orchestra and outgoing associate conductor Brett Mitchell will close the 2017 summer season this weekend at Blossom Music Center with three performances of "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," live with the film. 

The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) has published a preview of Brett Mitchell's upcoming final performances as Associate Conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra:

One of his favorite movies. His favorite film composer. Some of the first orchestral music he ever heard. His last appearance in Cleveland as associate conductor.

For all these reasons and more, the Cleveland Orchestra's performances of "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" live with the film this weekend at Blossom Music Center are meaningful to Brett Mitchell.

"There are so many reasons why this is absolutely perfect," said Mitchell by phone from Denver, where he already has begun work as the next music director of the Colorado Symphony. "I'm going to do my best not to become a complete, blubbering mess."

Start with the personal element.

Like many of his generation, Mitchell treasures "E.T." He said it's the first film he saw in the theater with his grandparents, at the tender age of 3.

Beyond that, it's dear to him as an iconic creation of John Williams, a composer the adult Mitchell has long championed, here and elsewhere.

"It almost feels like cheating because I know this movie so well," Mitchell said. "Most of the impactful films of my childhood were films by John Williams."

And those are just Mitchell's associations. Truth is, even if another conductor were on the docket, "E.T." would still be an inspired musical choice for Labor Day weekend.

First off, ye classical purists: "E.T." is fully worthy of the Cleveland Orchestra. Ask any musician and she'll tell you: film scores, especially those by John Williams, can be seriously challenging, every bit as demanding of talent and attention as traditional concert works.

Consider this example of the composer's genius in "E.T." That famous soaring theme, the accompaniment to the airborne bike ride? Part of the reason it's so stirring is that by the time it arrives, we've been waiting for it. We've heard bits of it, and there, for the first time, we encounter it in full.

"He doesn't just come right out and play the themes," Mitchell said. "That's what makes that payoff so extraordinary. It's just fantastic music. I don't think anybody can doubt its integrity."

Then there's the whole matter of audience outreach. As anyone who's attended an earlier film concert at Blossom or an event in the orchestra's "At the Movies" series, there's nothing more effective than film music for attracting new or infrequent listeners.

Imagine, then, the potential impact of "E.T." Between the film itself, one of the most widely beloved cinematic works of all time, and the conductor's abundant, obvious affection for it, a whole lot of people are in for a really big treat.

"It is not a mistake we're doing this," Mitchell said. "When you can get someone on the podium who loves this movie as much as I do, it's kind of a no-brainer."

To read the complete preview, please click here.

Feature: "Colorado Symphony’s new music director leads bold drive to grow audience"

The Denver Business Journal has published a feature on Brett Mitchell as he prepares to begin his first season as Music Director of the Colorado Symphony:

Brett Mitchell is the new music director of the Colorado Symphony. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Brett Mitchell is the new music director of the Colorado Symphony. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Denver’s new Colorado Symphony music director wants you to know he’s a regular guy.

Brett Mitchell, 38, is a sports fan. The Seattle native is eager to root for the Broncos (“unless they’re playing the Seahawks,” he whispers). He and his wife are foodies and hikers. He was excited about Jay-Z’s latest release. He programs concerts with a ear for what his nonmusical family members would like.

The maestro (“I’m just Brett”) is gregarious and optimistic, ready to do whatever needs doing to boost the symphony’s profile and cash flow. His enthusiasm is contagious.

Just a regular guy with a baton.

He served four seasons as associate conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra, a title held by only four previous conductors in the Orchestra’s 100-year history. Here Mitchell succeeds Andrew Litton, who will continue to serve as Colorado Symphony’s principal guest conductor through this season.

The two-decades-younger Mitchell said some of the differences between the two won’t be immediately discernible, but, “I’m my own kind of leader.”

Beneath the regular-guy exterior is a fast-rising young star whose rapid ascent at the world-renowned Cleveland Orchestra was followed by a whirlwind tryout and leap to Denver. Mitchell is also a sometime composer (with a degree in composing from Western Washington University). His wife, Angela Mitchell, is a public radio host/interviewer as well as a classically trained soprano.

Mitchell’s praise for the “fabulous” Colorado orchestra is abundant. He now faces the impossible job description: As music director, he must have artistic excellence combined with marketing and fundraising skills, a reverence for the classics as well as new, experimental works, and a knack forpleasing traditionalists as well as for drawing in younger, more diverse audiences....

“A big leap forward”

[Colorado Symphony CEO and board co-chair Jerry] Kern sees Mitchell’s arrival as “a big leap forward as opposed to inching along and trying to break even.” For the young conductor, “he understands it’s an enormous opportunity to begin to build a major reputation.”

“It takes years to figure out where a new music director is taking an orchestra,” Mitchell said. “The things you will notice right away are the programming... Look at kinds of repertoire I like to program, you’ll see more of that contemporary American voice.”

For his opening weekend, Sept. 15, he has paired Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 (“who doesn’t like a Beethoven 5?”) with works by two American composers in their early 40s: Kevin Puts (Millennium Canons) and electronica soloist Mason Bates (The B-Sides: Five Pieces for Orchestra).

Mitchell rapturously explains his thinking: the Puts Millennium Canons represents “a triumphant opening to my tenure, and, more important, a perfect analog to the finale of Beethoven 5… it’s all about the rhythmic drive.

“And then, whose music is more about rhythm than anybody? Mason Bates. He lives a double life, composer by day, DJ in San Francisco by night. On The B-Sides, five little pieces for orchestra that incorporate electronica, Mason will do all of that stuff live. Then listen to the rhythmic drive of Beethoven 5 on the second half … what makes Beethoven 5 fly? By the finale, it’s so rhythmically driving, that glorious C major finale is nothing but celebratory. And now you’ve come up with AN EVENING!”

In other words, he said, “My goal is to give the audience reason to come to the concert. Because, I’ve got Spotify like everybody else. I could listen in my living room with my glass of wine, with my wife, and not put pants on…”

It’s all about the experience....

Mitchell finds it remarkable that the Cleveland Orchestra has sustained its status as one of the elite ensembles in world even as the population of Cleveland has declined. “That’s one hell of a testament. In Denver, there is so much growth, as our Realtor keeps telling us— every time I hear that I think we gotta buy a house— but lots of people are coming here. Part of my job is to capitalize on that.”

The couple is living a few steps from the concert hall for now. Mitchell’s four-year contract requires him to live here at least half the year.

While some music directors balk at the idea of chatting up potential sponsors over cocktails, Mitchell is all in.

“As music director,” Mitchell said, “I am the face of the organization and I understand that.” It’s a more immersive role than the European orchestra’s designation of principal conductor. “The whole reason we have to raise money is because of my crazy ideas.”

Just a regular guy with a baton and some crazy ideas.

To read the complete article, please click here (subscription required).

Preview: "Movie and music fun at Blossom with ‘E.T.’ and the Cleveland Orchestra"

Brett Mitchell will lead The Cleveland Orchestra in a live performance of the soundtrack while Steven Spielberg's 1982 classic E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial shows on big screens at Blossom Music Center.

Brett Mitchell will lead The Cleveland Orchestra in a live performance of the soundtrack while Steven Spielberg's 1982 classic E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial shows on big screens at Blossom Music Center.

The Akron Beacon Journal has published a preview of Brett Mitchell's final performances as Associate Conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra:

When E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial beamed across America’s movie screens in 1982, the story of a young boy’s friendship with a squashy little alien was a hit with audiences of all ages, but it especially resonated with children.

Brett Mitchell was one of them.

“The first and only movie I ever saw in a theater with my grandparents was E.T. when I was 3 years old,” Mitchell said. “It’s so moving. It’s still one of my favorite movies of all time.”

Steven Spielberg’s masterful film and John Williams’ searing score are timeless crowd-pleasers. Next weekend, when the Cleveland Orchestra performs live while E.T. is screened during three movie nights at Blossom Music Center, the music will be in reverential hands. Mitchell is conducting.

“This score has been a part of me for 35 years now,” he said. “It is unbelievably perfect in terms of matching the kind of tone Steven was trying to capture with the film.”

Mitchell was speaking on the phone from Denver where he is preparing to take over as music director of the Colorado Symphony. After a four-year stint in Cleveland, the orchestra’s associate conductor will start his new job after the Blossom season wraps up Labor Day weekend. “I’m going to try really hard to keep it together, especially on the last night. You know, E.T. and Elliott say goodbye, and I’m saying goodbye at the end of the film.”

He and the orchestra will rehearse E.T. twice on Thursday at Severance Hall, then head to Blossom Friday afternoon for a dress rehearsal.

“There is an element of danger when you’re doing a movie score live. You only get one shot at getting it right,” said Mitchell. “But every performer I know loves that part of it. That’s the joy of live performance.”

Part of that joy is also channeling Williams. “His score for E.T. came at a kind of prime time of his career,” said Mitchell. “He had Jaws in 1975, Star Wars and Close Encounters in 1977, Superman in ’78, The Empire Strikes Back, which was a fantastic score, in ’80, Raiders of the Lost Ark in ’81, then E.T. He was just churning out brilliant score after brilliant score.”

Mitchell’s movie-accompaniment repertoire with the orchestra also included Psycho, Vertigo, Fantasia, Home Alone and It’s a Wonderful Life. He and the orchestra closed out the Blossom season last year with two movie nights for Raiders of the Lost Ark. It proved so popular that the orchestra created three nights for E.T., Friday through Sunday, with each program starting at 8:30 p.m., and the movie followed by fireworks.

To read the complete article, please click here.

Audio: Brett Mitchell discusses his final performances with The Cleveland Orchestra

Brett Mitchell joined the "Majic Morning Show" on Majic 105.7 in Cleveland to discuss The Cleveland Orchestra's upcoming performances of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. These three performances over Labor Day Weekend mark both the close of the 2017 Blossom Music Festival and Mr. Mitchell's final performances as Associate Conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra.

To hear this interview, please click here, then advance the player to 67:50. (Note that a free iHeartRadio account is required to access this content.) For more information on these performances, please click here.

Video: Brett Mitchell appears on Denver arts magazine

Colorado Symphony music director Brett Mitchell during the taping "In Focus with Eden Lane" at Boettcher Concert Hall in downtown Denver. (Photo by Eden Lane)

Colorado Symphony music director Brett Mitchell during the taping "In Focus with Eden Lane" at Boettcher Concert Hall in downtown Denver. (Photo by Eden Lane)

On the eve of his first season as Music Director of the Colorado Symphony, Brett Mitchell appears on the current episode of "In Focus with Eden Lane," a local arts program produced by Colorado Public Television. Watch the complete episode below.

Season Preview: "Single tickets to Colorado Symphony 2017-18 season on sale now"

Single tickets are now on sale for Brett Mitchell's inaugural season as Music Director of the Colorado Symphony. (Photo by Peter Lockley)

Single tickets are now on sale for Brett Mitchell's inaugural season as Music Director of the Colorado Symphony. (Photo by Peter Lockley)

The Denver Post has published a preview of Brett Mitchell's inaugural season as Music Director of the Colorado Symphony as single tickets go on sale on Tuesday, August 1:

This is [...] the first season with 38-year-old Brett Mitchell at the helm as the new music director. Mitchell comes from the renowned Cleveland Orchestra, where he served as associate conductor and as music director of the organization’s Youth Orchestra.

“Our entire 2017/18 season is an outstanding mix of repertoire with concerts for every musical taste,” said Mitchell, who assumed the role of music director on July 1, in a release. “I’m as proud of the wide variety and high quality of programming as I am honored to take the podium for our first season together.”

Mitchell’s arrival has raised hopes of revitalizing the 28-year-old orchestra....

The season will officially kick off on Fri., Sept. 15 with a three-day performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. The canonical classic will be held at the Colorado Symphony’s home, Boettcher Concert Hall, the first “in-the-round” symphony hall in the U.S.

To read the complete preview, please click here.

Review: Debut with the Grant Park Orchestra

Chicago on the Aisle has published a review of Brett Mitchell's debut with the Grant Park Orchestra:

Brett Mitchell leads the Grant Park Orchestra on Wednesday, July 19 at the Pritzker Pavilion in downtown Chicago.

Brett Mitchell leads the Grant Park Orchestra on Wednesday, July 19 at the Pritzker Pavilion in downtown Chicago.

Americana and Romanticism, as well as a thoughtful view of America’s shadowed past, were on display at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion on July 19 when Brett Mitchell led the Grant Park Orchestra in works by Kenji Bunch and Copland as well as Saint-Saëns’ Violin Concerto No. 3 with soloist Angelo Xiang Yu....

The final work on the program was the suite Copland pulled from his 1947 score for the film “The Red Pony” (based on a Steinbeck novella). While audiences might not be familiar with this piece, it was still known territory: Copland used all his beloved tricks, and it was the perfect treat for a breezy summer evening in the middle of America....

As Copland was the defining master of Americana in program music, you didn’t need to have seen the movie to conjure up clear images. We all awoke, yawning and stretching, as the opening movement, “Morning on the Ranch,” illustrated twittering birds, drops of dew, and the lengthening lines of the western landscape at sunrise. Mitchell succeeded in evoking a sense of wonder, in part thanks to the delicate lacing of harp chords and the woodwinds’ lonesome call. It was impossible not to think of rhythmic motifs and harmonic language from Copland’s ballet “Billy the Kid.”

The least predictably Copland-like movement is the third, called “Dream March and Circus Music.” The dream section is dissonant and halting, as if a puppet were dancing. Some passages are strictly tonal, but with the orchestra divided into two keys at once. Mitchell was not afraid to unleash some wild weirdness in the circus section, which features an unsettling calliope tune and an onslaught of piano chords with tambourine accents galumphing up and down to simulate creepy laughter.

“The Red Pony” Suite is not without angst – in “Grandfather’s Story,” movement five, the brass melody marching over strident string patterns tells a tale of peril – but this is Copland’s world, not to mention that of 1940s Hollywood, so you know everything will turn out fine. In fact, the last movement is called “Happy Ending,” bringing back the grand chords and angular melody from the opening. Mitchell and the Grant Park Orchestra made us believe, if only for half an hour, that Copland’s Technicolor soundscape was reality and the American Happy Ending was possible.

Review: Debut with the Grant Park Orchestra

Brett Mitchell led the Grant Park Orchestra on Wednesday, July 19 at the Pritzker Pavilion in downtown Chicago.

Brett Mitchell led the Grant Park Orchestra on Wednesday, July 19 at the Pritzker Pavilion in downtown Chicago.

The Chicago Tribune has published a review of Brett Mitchell's recent debut with the Grant Park Orchestra:

Mitchell, who may be remembered from two years of orchestral and operatic work at Northern Illinois University, was to be thanked for reviving the suite from Aaron Copland’s 1948 film score “The Red Pony.” It’s not top-drawer Copland, though the film was improved by it, and the six movements extracted are rambunctious and heartwarming by turns, making for fitting outdoor listening.... Copland’s homespun tenderness shone through, and its successfully calculated naiveté came across.

Mitchell’s allegiance to American composition presumably shows as associate conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra and will carry over to his music directorship of the Colorado Symphony, which begins this fall.

Preview: "Recommended Chicago-area classical concerts"

Brett Mitchell (pictured here with The Cleveland Orchestra) will make his debut with the Grant Park Orchestra with works of Kenji Bunch, Saint-Saëns, and Copland on Wednesday, July 19. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Brett Mitchell (pictured here with The Cleveland Orchestra) will make his debut with the Grant Park Orchestra with works of Kenji Bunch, Saint-Saëns, and Copland on Wednesday, July 19. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

The Chicago Tribune has published a preview of Brett Mitchell's upcoming debut with the Grant Park Orchestra on Wednesday, July 19:

Grant Park Music Festival: Brett Mitchell, associate conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra, makes his first festival appearance, leading the Grant Park Orchestra in works by Saint-Saens, Copland and Kenji Bunch. Violinist Angelo Xiang Yu is the soloist. 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park...

To read the complete article, please click here.

Profile: "Meet the Colorado Symphony’s New Maestro"

5280 Magazine (Denver) has published a profile of Brett Mitchell as he assumes the music directorship of the Colorado Symphony:

Brett Mitchell assumes the role of Music Director of the Colorado Symphony on July 1, 2017. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Brett Mitchell assumes the role of Music Director of the Colorado Symphony on July 1, 2017. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Growing up in Seattle, the Colorado Symphony’s new music director didn’t listen to a single Beethoven piece until high school. He was too busy rocking out to Kurt Cobain. Brett Mitchell, 38, officially takes over as the symphony’s new conductor when the 2017-18 season kicks off on July 1. Every bit a product of his era, Mitchell’s musical tastes formed while listening to ’90s Seattle grunge bands and iconic scores from films like Raiders of the Lost Ark (not to mention his parents’ Beatles records). That affinity for pop culture and relatability is just what the Colorado Symphony has been seeking.

In recent years, the group has catered to younger audiences with programs like its well attended Movie at the Symphony series (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and La La Land are in the lineup this year) and Red Rocks concert accompaniments. Now, with a bona fide Star Wars and Game of Thrones fan holding the baton, the symphony hopes to bring in even more newcomers. “If we have all these other things in common, I bet I can get you excited about the orchestra, even if you don’t think it’s for you,” Mitchell says.

The black sheep of his otherwise nonmusical family, Mitchell started playing piano at age six and conducted his first concert when he was 16 at Lynnwood High School. Around that time, Mitchell made the connection that his rock idol, Cobain, patron saint of the Seattle ’90s music scene, was a sort of modern-day version of Beethoven. The two were “both these rebels leading tortured lives,” Mitchell says. (Like Cobain, Beethoven was known for suffering bouts of depression and challenging authority.) When Mitchell entered college, he knew he wanted to pursue a career in music, regardless of genre. After completing degrees in composition and conducting, he advanced to assistant conductor roles with groups like the Houston Symphony, the French National Orchestra, and the Cleveland Orchestra (his latest post).

This summer, as Mitchell and his wife, Angela, settle in the Mile High City, he’ll be infusing the Colorado Symphony’s new programming with classical takes on popular culture—and nothing appears to be off-limits. The upcoming season includes a performance of the music from The Legend of Zelda video game, alongside more familiar fare like the symphony’s annual All Beethoven weekend in December. And if a little teen spirit sneaks in this year, well, you’ll know who to thank.

To read the complete article, please click here.

Preview: "Breckenridge’s National Repertory Orchestra performs Copland’s Third"

Brett Mitchell (pictured here with The Cleveland Orchestra) will lead the National Repertory Orchestra in works of Kenji Bunch, Schumann, and Copland on Saturday, July 1. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Brett Mitchell (pictured here with The Cleveland Orchestra) will lead the National Repertory Orchestra in works of Kenji Bunch, Schumann, and Copland on Saturday, July 1. (Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Summit Daily (Colorado) has published a preview of Brett Mitchell's upcoming concert with the National Repertory Orchestra:

Another weekend in Summit County means another National Repertory Orchestra concert. This weekend's feature concert is Aaron Copland's Third Symphony featuring music director Brett Mitchell, the associate conductor with the Cleveland Orchestra. This sought-after guest conductor will help bring to life a compelling and diverse program. Benjamin Fryxell, a 22-year-old cellist, will guide attendees through the soulful journey of Robert Schumann's Cello Concerto in A minor....

Aaron Copland...began Symphony No. 3 in 1944, often known as "The Great American Symphony," and said it was meant to "reflect the euphoric spirit of the country at the time." The fourth movement features his popular Fanfare for the Common Man, an inspiring and uniting close to this magnificent work. This program will also include Supermaximum by living American composer Kenji Bunch. Maestro Mitchell's expertise with contemporary music is sure to make this a memorable performance.

To read the complete preview, please click here.