Kevin Rhodes may be known in Massachusetts as the maestro of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra and Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra in Boston, but his baton reaches far beyond the state’s borders. Rhodes also conducts the Traverse Symphony Orchestra in Michigan and regularly flies across the pond where he’s well known for his conducting in Norway, Paris, and beyond.
Rhodes has conducted in the major musical capitals of Europe for over two decades, leading major productions at the Paris Opera, Vienna State Opera, Berlin State Opera, Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, Dutch National Ballet, Verona Ballet, and Stuttgart Ballet. Last season, he made his Norwegian National Ballet debut conducting Don Quixote, after conducting an all-Balanchine program, an homage to the late New York City Ballet dancer Violette Verdy at The Paris Opera, and Nureyev’s production of Raymonda in Vienna. Rhodes added a Romeo and Juliet in Stuttgart to the mix, alongside his annual appearance as conductor for the Rudolf Nureyev Gala at Vienna State Opera Ballet. The upcoming season is equally frenetic with a return to Raymonda and a mixed-bill in Vienna and Swan Lake in Stuttgart, as well as plans to conduct the Nureyev Gala on what would have been the late dancer’s 80th birthday.
All that world travel aside, New England remains culturally exciting to Rhodes. “The close proximity of so many instrumental artists, which allow us to have this wonderful orchestra in Springfield of a quality completely out of proportion to our region’s population size, is a gift from which we all benefit,” he says. “While it’s part of the cultural life per se, the incredible beauty of New England certainly adds dramatically to the joy of creating art here.”
For the Indiana-born conductor, who began his professional conducting career at the age of 16 in his hometown, the road to New England took a transatlantic detour. After receiving his bachelor of music in piano performance from Michigan State University, he subsequently earned his master of music in orchestra conducting from the University of Illinois. He moved to Switzerland to become a house conductor at Basel’s Stadttheater, before moving to the larger Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Dusseldorf, where he led hundreds of performances of the operatic repertoire, from Die Zauberflöte to Der Rosenkavalier, while simultaneously serving as the principal ballet conductor at the Vienna State Opera. During his time in Europe, Rhodes led repertoire ranging from the operas of Strauss, Verdi, Puccini, Massenet, Mozart, and Smetana to the major ballets of Prokofiev, Stravinsky, and Tchaikovsky.
It’s not all classical music for Rhodes. In 2015, he conducted the Springfield Symphony Orchestra at the nationally-televised season opener of the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium with rapper T-Pain. He’ll take on the Star Wars and Star Trek Sci-Fi Spectacular for a Springfield Symphony Pops.
Rhodes is excited about his performances in Springfield this year. “Our season grand finale with legendary pianist Misha Dichter in an all-Rachmaninoff program is, for sure, among those I can’t wait to perform, as well as combining our choruses with the University of Massachusetts choruses for the Verdi Requiem. There’s a super cool concerto for trombone and orchestra by Japanese composer Yoshimatsu, played by our own principal trombone Brian Diehl; a new cello concerto by American composer Lowell Liebermann played by star cellist Julian Schwartz, and well, every concert has something I’m really looking forward to, as it turns out.”
This article was first published on the Take Magazine website on October 13, 2017.