While rehearsing an opera in Baltimore this past January, Joseph Young received a call from Berkeley Symphony, asking if he would be able to step in as a last-minute substitute conductor. He said yes, and within days had conducted the concert, impressing the players and audience enough to ultimately put him at the top of the list as new Music Director. He’ll be leading his first regular season performance this Thursday night in Zellerbach Hall, with a concert of music by Olly Wilson, Ravel, and Beethoven.

There’s more information about the concert at the Berkeley Symphony website.

“I do remember in my studies as a conductor, just be prepared for anything,” Young says. “You know, even as an Assistant Conductor, be prepared to step on the podium. And that’s what happened here at Berkeley.  I got the message maybe two days before, that they needed a conductor because the conductor that they had had gotten sick.” So he flew out, conducted the concert with music by Bernstein, Britten, and the world premiere of a work by British composer Hannah Kendall. But he also began to make a connection to the players and audience here. “When I got here, I saw more opportunities that arose. I felt that there was a great chemistry between the musicians. Not only they were looking at me as someone who actually was rescuing the concert, but I think we felt that we actually were making meaningful music and meaningful concert experience. Through the visit I got to fall in love with what Berkeley has to offer, the community. I got to meet so many great donors and patrons that I started to become more curious about what I could do for the community. And so it became much more than I expected.” For his first concert, he wanted to begin with a work with a local connection, Shango Memory. “Olly Wilson, an African-American composer that I admire, that I never got to meet, taught at Berkeley. He joined the faculty around 1970. And I thought it would be a great homage to put a piece of his on the program, that I don’t think the Berkeley Symphony has ever played any of his music.” There’s also Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major with local favorite, Conrad Tao, and in honor of the upcoming 250th birthday of Beethoven, the iconic Fifth Symphony.