Scott Lykins, Festival Artistic Director, recently chatted with Marlene Pauley, three-time Festival clarinetist, who guest conducted the Festival’s very first Family Concert, “Symphonic Tales” during the 2012 season. When and how did you first become interested in music and pursuing it as a career? I cannot remember a time when I was not pulled towards music, except perhaps in 8th grade when I thought I might want to be a veterinarian. In high school I craved exposure to music and musicians and was happiest when I was with my musician friends. I chose my college for its music program but never believed I could actually make a living playing the clarinet. I went on to graduate school and started winning competitions and finally started to believe that I might be able to do it.
Audiences have heard you here at the Lakes Area Music Festival the past two years playing clarinet. What kind of training and opportunities have you enjoyed as a clarinetist? In college I was chosen to perform as soloist with the orchestra on tour. Every night was thrilling, frightening, challenging, exciting and I loved every second of it. In graduate school I won the Honors Concert Competition and played the Copland Concerto with the orchestra. Following graduate school I taught at Crane School of Music in Potsdam, NY. I started a national youth orchestra in Jamaica and then returned to MN to play clarinet with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. For 25 years I have spent summers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming playing in the Grand Teton Music Festival.
And in 2012 you picked up the baton and conducted our first ever concert for families. How did you become interested in conducting and what have been some of your favorite concerts to lead? Since high school I have wanted to be a conductor. There were very few women conductors back then – in the 70s. In college and grad school I took conducting classes and always found myself in leadership positions in ensembles. The clarinet remained my primary focus but the lure of conducting was always strong. In May of 2002, I left the SPCO to pursue conducting full time. My favorite concerts to lead are family concerts where seeds are planted for a love of music in the young people who are hearing an orchestra for the first time. I have conducted over 75 family and education concerts for the SPCO. I have also conducted family concerts in Rochester, NY; Naples, Florida; Jackson, Wyoming and for the Young Artist World Piano Festival. In 2007, for the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, I conducted the premiere of the family opera, Pocahontas.
This will be your fourth summer in Brainerd participating in the festival. What is your favorite part about being here; what makes you want to return? Most summer week-ends of my youth were spent at our family lake place on North Long Lake. Obviously, Brainerd feels like a second home to me. It is a lovely turn of events that I now visit the place of so many happy family memories to make musical ones. The melding of seasoned professional musicians with young, emerging musicians is a brilliant and unique idea. It is inspiring to be part of it.
Beyond playing and conducting, what other hobbies and activities do you enjoy? I love to hike in the Tetons where I go for several weeks every summer. In 2009 I climbed the Grand Teton – thrill of a lifetime! I love to cook and take cooking classes – in particular, classes that teach about the cuisines of other countries. My husband and I like to travel. Once our daughter graduates from college, we will take to the road/air more often.