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From West to East, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Associate Conductor Nicholas Hersh Has Already Made a Transatlantic Impact.

 

By Rachel Watkins

 

Such are the powerful words being said about Nicholas Hersh, Associate Conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. The young, talented musician has quickly made his mark on the East coast, earning acclaim for his exciting, innovative programming.

And, it’s no surprise really, as his performance credits span a diverse range of genres beyond the traditional concert canon—including opera, Broadway, pops, choral, Viennese dance, ballet, and film.

An avid performer of new music, he has conducted world premieres of two film scores as well as an opera, a symphony, and numerous concert pieces. His orchestral arrangement of Queen’s famous Bohemian Rhapsody saw worldwide success after the video of its premiere and subsequent studio recording went viral.

We just had to find out more about this young musical force who has captivated so many audiences thus far. Here’s what he had to say.

 

From West Coast to East Coast—Stanford to the Baltimore Symphony — tell us about your musical journey.

Well, it’s not the wildest ride, but it has definitely been a journey so far! I realized I wanted to get into music professionally in high school—around my sophomore year. I loved going to school orchestra! Stanford was of interest to me because of the flexible programs and multiple concentrations they offer. I could pursue music—I studied cello—but I also could pursue other subjects if something took my fancy.

At grad school at Indiana University, I got my Master’s degree in conducting, and I feel so fortunate to have had the chance to take the audition for the Baltimore Symphony while there. And, I guess lightning struck.

But, it almost didn’t happen that way! The major kink in the cap was that I didn’t originally get into Indiana—in fact, I received a rejection letter. I was all set to stay in Silicon Valley, but then I was taken by surprise when I was contacted that a spot had opened up.

" We all deal with rejection, but you can’t let that defeat you. You just keep putting in the work. " 

 

So… West Coast or East Coast?

Haha… I don’t think I can choose! Each holds its own special place. I actually grew up right outside of Chicago in Evanston, Illinois—so that’s another unique place that holds a place in my heart, too.

How much of where you are today is luck? And how much is talent?

Well, being in the right place at the right time has a lot to do with it. I’m just like everyone else—I’ve had to put in the hours and the hard work. This is necessary, so that you are putting your best foot forward, when the right place and the right time comes along. You have to be prepared to take that opportunity when it happens. We all deal with rejection, but you can’t let that defeat you. You just keep putting in the work.

 

" I do tend to keep my mind a bit distracted so that I’m fundamentally channeling the music but not overthinking the impending performance. "

Any pre-game ceremonies or routines before you get on stage?

Some people refuse to eat before they perform, but I don’t like to go on stage hungry. I need a hearty sandwich or something to keep me going through a performance. So, I guess that’s my pre-gaming—making sure I’m fed! I don’t really have any cool rituals to speak of. But, I do tend keep my mind a bit distracted so that I’m fundamentally channeling the music but not overthinking the impending performance.

Conducting can be quite the workout. So, do you have a fitness routine?

I do run these days. At one point, I was doing marathon training before a muscle injury sidelined me. That injury has since healed, so I get there and jog as much as I can—with my Under Armor cold weather gear to keep me warm in these Baltimore winters! I’m also a big fan of massages every couple months to release muscle tension, especially in the back and shoulders.

 

When you carve out some free time in your busy schedule, what would we find you doing?

One of my big hobbies and passions is baking—specifically, baking bread and, right now, baking sourdough bread. It’s a very selfish hobby; after all, you can eat the fruits of your labor! But, what I also like is there is this very scientific kind of thing with baking. I like changing variables and experimenting with different techniques and processes.

So, do you make sandwiches with this bread of yours?

Homemade bread actually makes for great sandwich bread. I like ham and also chicken with avocado.

What’s up next for you?

I have my debut with the Asheville Symphony coming up this month. We also have this Pulse program at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra that I really enjoy. It’s a fun opportunity to get beyond the classics by bringing together indie bands and orchestral musicians in unique collaborations. Our goal is to attract more people of the millennial generation.

 

" I have worn the Coltrane for every performance since. "

How did you find out about Coregami?

I think I originally saw an article about Kevin and Coregami, and it intrigued me. I made a mental note to look for the product, and I ended up buying the Coltrane. I needed a black shirt. Now, I have worn the Coltrane for every performance since.

Favorite quality about Coregami?

Well, the shirts do their job so well in so many ways. It’s not only a nice and unique looking shirt, it’s sweat-wicking and it’s so easy to care for. No dry cleaners required; I can wash it at home easily and without worry.

 

 

About Nicholas

Nicholas Hersh currently serves as Associate Conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Artistic Director of the Baltimore Symphony Youth Orchestras. Since joining the BSO as Assistant Conductor in 2014, he continues to make his mark on the mid-Atlantic region with exciting, innovative programming—notably as conductor and co-curator of the acclaimed BSO Pulse series, bringing together Indie bands and orchestral musicians in unique collaborations.

As Associate Conductor, Nicholas directs the BSO’s educational and family programming, including the celebrated Academy for adult amateur musicians, as well as a variety of classical and popular programs. After his successful Baltimore Symphony subscription debut, stepping in for an indisposed Yan Pascal Tortelier, Nicholas conducts the BSO in a set of subscription concerts each season. He has also appeared in concert with such orchestras as the New World Symphony, New Jersey Symphony, Auburn Symphony, National Repertory Orchestra, and the Southern Great Lakes Symphony. Nicholas is a frequent collaborator and guest faculty at the Peabody Conservatory as well as the BSO’s OrchKids program for Baltimore City schoolchildren.

Nicholas grew up in Evanston, Illinois and started his musical training with the cello. He earned a Bachelor's Degree in Music from Stanford University and a Master’s Degree in Conducting from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, studying with David Effron and Arthur Fagen. In 2011 and 2012 he was a Conducting Fellow with the prestigious American Academy of Conducting at Aspen, studying with mentors Robert Spano, Hugh Wolff and Larry Rachleff, and has participated in masterclasses with Bernard Haitink and Michael Tilson Thomas. Nicholas is also a two-time recipient of the Solti Foundation Career Assistance Award.

Nicholas also continues to earn acclaim for his skill as an arranger and orchestrator: he has had frequent arrangement commissions from the Baltimore Symphony as well as from the Cleveland Pops, the National Repertory Orchestra and the Jackson Symphony. His symphonic arrangement of Queen’s famous Bohemian Rhapsody saw worldwide success as a viral YouTube hit.

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