sergio carreno tackles 10 questions

gentle reader, the classical beaver is extremely proud to present its very first interview of the season with an oregon symphony musician!  hope you love it as much as i do.  let’s get right to it, shall we…

sergio, as a percussionist, you play so many instruments!  do you have a favorite?

That question is tough because of my ever-morphing perspective as an orchestral percussionist.  It truly does depend on the moment and piece day-to-day and week-to-week.  A few weeks ago I played the snare drum in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio espagnol, so that was my favorite at that moment.  Then last week we played a wild piece by British composer Thomas Adès which has an amazing part for two and a half octaves of tuned cowbells!!!  So right now my favorite instrument to play is (drum roll)… the cowbell!

wow, even percussionists ask for a drum roll.  okay: as if you didn’t already know, mahler #6 is on tap tomorrow (!), sunday, and monday ~ how would you describe this insane music?

Well, there are many scholars out there who have dedicated a large portion of their careers studying the life and music of Gustav Mahler; I definitely encourage anyone to get on the internet and check them out.  Between now and then, here is some info from someone who is by no means a Mahler scholar…

All of Mahler’s symphonies musically capture the essence of his perspective on life, depicting everything from the love of his life Alma, to the cows he would hear in the Austrian countryside, musically represented by (you guessed it) off-stage cowbells!  You hear this and much, much more in his 6th symphony.  Probably most famous in this symphony is a device Mahler utilized to depict life’s “blows of fate” that befall his thematic hero, who many speculate was Mahler himself.  The device I am referring to is literally a hammer – a huge hammer usually played on a big-ass wooden box that is constructed just for this part.  Our principal percussionist, Niel DePonte, will be playing the hammer.  Lucky dude!

can.  not.  wait!  [sigh]  alright, ol’ beavey needs to change the subject before i hyperventilate… if i had 48 hours in miami, what should i do?

Very simple: the beach, Cuban food, and go dancing… or at least go watch other people dancing.  It’s pretty amazing down there.  Lots and lots of flavor, and I’m not only talking about the food.

nice!  have you discovered any favorite bars in p-town?

*Pope House Bourbon Lounge has the most delicious BBQ pork quesadilla this side of Kansas City, aside from the extensive bourbon selection.

pig and whiskey are two of my favorite things!  thanks for the recommendation.  serge, you joined the band at the very end of last season ~ what’s this probationary period all about?

Okay, so there are essentially two parts to gaining tenured position in an orchestra: First, you go through an audition process where many musicians will travel to compete for the one spot that is available.  Once someone wins that audition and is chosen to join the orchestra they enter their probationary period.  At the Oregon Symphony, a new musician has 16 working months to demonstrate their ability to prepare, rehearse, and perform up to the music director’s standards.  They must also demonstrate a high level of professionalism, so simply put: Practice and study your music very diligently, be early and not just on time, don’t be a jerk, and shower.

you are one of the cleanest guys i’ve ever met, so that explains it.  um, if you weren’t a musician, what career would you have pursued?

No clue.  Nothing else has ever appealed to me since deciding to go down this path when I was about 15… however, there are different choices which I thought about.  When I began to play the drums my first true dream was to be in a heavy metal band.  I grew my hair out and formed a band and we were going to make it!!  Somewhere along the way I was captured by the magic of this genre and now here I am.  Also, when I was about 5, I wanted to be a ninja.

doesn’t john cage have a piece for 18 throwing stars?  while i look that up, is there a program you are especially excited about this season?

Honestly, being that it’s my first full season with this orchestra my answer is ALL OF THE PROGRAMS!!  Really, just moving into town and joining such a wonderful group of musicians and colleagues there is not a week that I prefer over another.

that, sir, is totes awesome to hear.  so what’s so great about live classical music anyways?

There’s a magnitude to this art that you don’t discover until you are experiencing it live.  Think about trying to explain what it’s like to see the Grand Canyon in person versus on a tv screen, even if it’s the latest most HD flat screen out there.  There is simply no way of recognizing its impact on your senses until you are there.  So, if you want to know what it is like then GO EXPERIENCE LIVE CLASSICAL MUSIC.

despite all those caps, i couldn’t have said it better myself.  if i were to buy you a drink, what would you order?

A Cuba Libre… or (this is rather recent for me) a Chemex coffee from Stumptown.

let’s do both.  okey dokey, final question: what sets the oregon symphony apart from other bands?

They now have a heavy metal ninja playing the cowbells.


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