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Sound Opinions

Sound Opinions

Laura Dachenbach

Mozart. The Sound of Music. The Doppler Effect. Music and sound are inseparable from the city of Salzburg, Austria, the hometown of David Danzmayr, Music Director for ProMusica Chamber Orchestra, who grew up with a special relationship with sound and the emotional response it provokes.

In utero, Danzmayr began kicking so forcefully while his mother was at concerts she would need to leave. Although unsure of exactly what rebellious message he was trying to communicate at the time, Danzmayr admits he still gets bothered by musicians who aren’t giving their all to a performance.

“Sometimes you go to a concert and you feel they are just doing a gig—just doing a show,” he said. “That’s something that either leaves me cold or actually makes me mad.”

Lively and conversational, Danzmayr, who began his third season with the orchestra with its opening concert in October, sips a ginger ale while he tells me about his musical journey from a three-year-old watching the conductor at concerts to a seven-year-old who wanted to be a professional soccer player to a budding pianist who knew he wanted to be in front of the music stands rather than behind one.

“I think it was the interaction with people,” Danzmayr said. “If I were to intellectualize it, I would say it must be some combination of making music, being in motion, dealing with people—not being alone on stage, directing people, which are all things I like about my job.”

Chamber music seems to be a natural fit for the congenial Danzmayr. Sometimes called, “the music of friends,” chamber music is composed for small, selective ensembles that historically, might have fit in a room or parlor. The intimate nature of chamber music creates a different and more personal musical experience for musicians and audience alike.

“There is an attitude and an element of playfulness and of love for the thing that they are doing there. You cannot just buy that. You cannot just create that. It’s just there,” he explained. “[Promusica]’s a very special group in that way and I think that translates to the audience experience very much. You see people on stage doing something they clearly love to do.”

Home to both a symphony and chamber orchestra, Columbus is extraordinary in its musical diversity. However ProMusica is not a scaled-down version of a symphony orchestra, and it embraces its unique identity.

“I don’t think there are really musical styles. I mean, the angry expression of Beethoven is the same angry expression of a heavy metal band. I don’t see a difference.”

“This word kind of sticks out a lot—which is the word boutique,” said Janet Chen, ProMusica’s Executive Director. “I think there’s an elegance and there’s a refinement. There’s something very special about the organization that can speak to many.”

Well-traveled and cosmopolitan, as most conductors are, Danzmayr sees the capital city as everything a large city should be.

“Columbus is a great place and a very cool place. It’s a very kind of young and vibrant city because you have a big university here…Columbus is in some ways for me, coming from the outside, much bigger than some people make it sound,” he said, dismissing some of the modesty that tends to infuse a Midwestern city surrounded by farmland.

“I don’t see that at all. I think Columbus has a lot to offer. There is a vibrant arts scene. There is a vibrant restaurant scene, great bars…good hotels. Everything you’d expect to see naturally.”

While an accomplished classical musician, Danzmayr immerses himself in all forms of music.

“I think I’m in an extremely lucky generation…when I was 15 or so it was like prime time for Nirvana, and Metallica had just come out with The Black Album and Rage Against the Machine was big… which obviously shaped my music tastes,” said Danzmayr, who believes firmly in the coexistence and purpose of all types of music.

“I don’t think there are really musical styles. I mean, the angry expression of Beethoven is the same angry expression of a heavy metal band. I don’t see a difference.”

With that philosophy in mind, ProMusica is striving to further its relevance in the community with holding free outdoor concerts, sponsoring string lessons in schools, and breaking down intimidation of the classical musical scene.

“There are no barriers to going to a classical concert,” said Danzmayr, who laughs about once attending a concert in Salzburg in a T-shirt when he couldn’t find his suit. “But there are a lot of perceived barriers nowadays—you should be dressed nicely. You should know something about the music. You should behave very formally. I don’t care about these things to be honest.”

Danzmayr makes himself available to talk with guests after each performance and all questions, from the person who wants a deeper understanding of the music to the guest who wants to know where the concertmaster buys her shoes, are welcome as part of an enjoyable evening with ProMusica.

“We need to really communicate to people you can just come as you are.”

Danzmayr will condust Brahms Symphony No. 4 November 14-15 at the Southern Theatre. For more, visit

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