Youth Music Monterey’s new youthful director brings a global background to the stage.
Thursday, October 25, 2012
When Farkhad Khudyev addresses his orchestra, he often sounds more like he’s prepared to give a thoughtful commencement speech with deep truths about life rather than correct a measure played too quickly or a note too sharply.
“I will tell you one thing I’ve told you many times,” he says, stopping for dramatic pause. “And I don’t want you to forget it.” Expectant young violinists inch forward on their seats, as if waiting for a moment of profound counsel. “Forty-seven is at the tip of the bow.”
The musicians are playing what look like, in some cases, miniature instruments. They’re ages 7 to 13, and are the junior youth orchestra in Youth Music Monterey County’s audition-only J.V. ensemble (there’s also an honors orchestra, with musicians up to age 20).
That doesn’t stop Khudyev from being a stern, direct conductor, far less gentle with a baton in hand than he is in conversation about music.
“In music you find everything,” he says. “History, geography. You get a sense of time – Romantic, Baroque or Classical.”
Fitting, then, that the season premier this Sunday, Oct. 28, is themed “Through Discovery to Reminiscence.” For Khudyev, there’s no need to wait until growing up to reflect on an entire world history in a song.
He struggles to find the English word “uncanny” to describe how music gives him goosebumps.
Khudyev grew up in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, where he spoke Russian as a child, the national language until the Soviet Union fell in 1991.
The country borders some of the globe’s most volatile areas, with Iran and Afghanistan among its neighbors. But the 27-year-old Monterey resident hasn’t lived there in more than a decade.
“ANY TIME I HAVE DIFFICULTIES, MUSIC IS MY GREATEST FRIEND.”
There two Peace Corps volunteers lived with his family, and heard him play violin. At their urging, Khudyev prepared an audition CD for Interlochen, an arts school in Michigan.
That set Khudyev on a rapidly advancing musical-academic path, driven in part by his need for a student visa to stay in the U.S. From Interlochen, he went to the Oberlin Conservatory, then to Yale for his master’s degree in conducting. After graduating in 2012, he moved to Monterey in July to lead YMMC’s new season.
With two weeks to go before his first concert, rehearsal begins with a 15-minute-long tuning session, a taxing ordeal to listen to as children develop an ear for what an “A” should sound like, but also an empowering engagement.
“Just be confident,” he tells the concertmistress, seventh-grader Megan Tang. “It’s important you’re confident, so they feel it.”
But despite the prep talk and a precautionary note on the whiteboard – “Reporters are here today, so let’s impress them!” – the first go at Antonin Dvorak’s New World Symphony is a timid muddle of off-key notes.
“We don’t have much time,” he says. “Get it together. I can’t believe you’re playing like this, guys.”
It’s part guilting, part confidence boosting. He moves section by section, helping the players hear – sometimes by singing – what they should be doing. Then he moves on to motivational tactics, encouraging them to play with bigger bow strokes or bigger breaths.
“More air,” he instructs the flutes.
Khudyev practiced so much as a kid – five hours a day plus – that his teacher worried he would hurt his hands.
“At some point, music became the most important thing to me,” he says. That point might’ve been after he fell off a roof and hurt his head. He was told he had to take it easy – no running around with his friends. Having to sit still helped him develop in a way he describes as nothing less than learning to be a human being, something he hopes to transfer to budding musicians.
“Music gives you a center,” he says. “Any time I have difficulties, music is my greatest friend.”
In some ways, conducting rescued Khudyev from receding too far into his own relationship with music.
“It was a challenge for me to have this inner world and also be connected,” he says. Leading an orchestra, ta-ta-taing his way through a rehearsal instead of holing up in a lonely practice room, he hits that note beautifully.
FARKHAD KHUDYEV performs with his brothers 7pm Saturday, Nov. 3, at All Saints’ Church, Dolores and Ninth, Carmel. $10-30; free/student musicians. Youth Music Monterey County’s season premieres 2pm Sunday, Oct. 28, at Sunset Center, San Carlos between Eighth and Ninth, Carmel. 375-1992, www.youthmusicmonterey.org