With the philharmonic halfway through auditioning candidates for a musical director, Kierce sat down with BW to look at what's coming up for the arts organization.
Have you worked with the arts before?
No, actually this is my first job in the world of the arts—and it is a whole different universe. I have a lot to learn. Of course, marketing—you can transfer almost anywhere. My education is actually in middle-school education, focusing on at-risk children; that was my first job here. I worked in the Meridian School District at an at-risk school. After that, I worked in adoption for 10 years.
How did you make the jump to the philharmonic?
I did marketing for the adoption agency, and after 10 years, as rewarding as adoption is, it came to a point where emotionally—that was your life. I was looking for something a little less intense and personal. And the fact that I had two babies back-to-back; I needed to reduce some stress there.
What are some of the specific challenges for the philharmonic?
My personal challenges are just the history that goes along with the pieces. I came from a position I was in 10 years, so I knew everything, well not everything, but it wasn't hard. Now, for everything, there is a period of time that I have to study. It's just historical information about each of the composers, and the time period in which they composed that piece, and then, of course, the story behind that piece. But it's very interesting. I do enjoy that, but I have to allot that time.
How is the music director search going?
In the philharmonic, it's a two-year search, and we have finished one year, and now we're going into the second season. And what's exciting, for me, is that every single concert next year is a huge concert for a couple of different reasons. First is that each of the conductors for the concert, they're actually auditioning for that job, and part of their job is to lengthen the repertoire, so you can imagine they are selecting absolutely incredible music.
Is it hard to get conductors?
They came to us. When the job was posted, we had more than 300 applicants from around the world. We're down to 11. It's definitely that they are interested in coming here, becoming part of the community. They all are absolutely astounded with the quality of musicians that we have in this little place called Boise.
Were you surprised to see that list of 300 international conductors?
Yes. When I look at some of the background of some of the people who want to come here, my first question is, "You've been to Carnegie Hall. You've been all over the world. You've been in Europe. Why do you want to come to Boise?" They want to come here much like all the other people who want to come here, but also, they love our orchestra, so they want to be a part of it.
How is the support for the philharmonic?
We have an incredible patron base. They're loyal and they keep coming back and they support us through all of these transitions. And in the arts community, we feel like there's positive support. But there will be ramifications, perhaps, from public school systems cutting music programs and things like that.
Typical classical music patrons tend to be older. Are you trying to draw younger audiences?
We are. There's research—and this has been going on since the early 1900s actually—is that the average age of a symphony patron base is 58 years old. And for 100 years, they've been trying to decrease that age and get a larger number of younger patrons to come in. And they have found that there are younger patrons that enjoy classical music, but it's not until they get to a certain age that they actually carve out time to go see a live symphony. They're listening to it on the radio, or buying CDs, but they're choosing to do other things.
What do people take from the experience of hearing classical music live?
It really is like, when you are in a close area with the orchestra, it's almost like you feel the vibrations of the music. It's almost like you can touch the music. And of course, you're watching the hands of the musicians then, just the intensity, and you're completely amazed at the abilities they have.
What did you think the first time you heard the philharmonic?
It was awesome. Since I've started, I've definitely determined what periods of time, and what periods of classical music I like, where as before, it was, "It's classical music." There's definitely a difference. The first time I went, it was so relaxing and it was so neat, I thought, "Wow, this is going to be easy."
What is your favorite classical period?
Romantic classical. My least preferred would be your contemporary, 20th century.
What's it like working with so may artistic temperaments?
I don't call it a challenge because I love differences in people. It's interesting. I have to learn boundaries. In the symphony, and a lot of times in the arts, the marketing director is truly marketing something they have no ownership of in terms of creating. I don't put together the music. I don't decide what the programs are. It's handed to me. That's kind of interesting, and of course, I don't have the background in music to say, "Why are these paired together," or "That doesn't make sense," or "Wow, that's absolutely genius." Instead, I get to go and talk to them, and I get to go learn what the thought processes are in putting it together. The creative, artistic personalities are very interesting. I love it. It's very entertaining, but they're genius.
Do you enjoy the challenge?
I had two children back to back. They are now 3 and 4, so away from home is my adult time. And so having that intellectual challenge is nice for me. I have the mindset that work is my vacation. Working moms, definitely their jobs are the easy part of their day. Elmo gets old.
If you could play any instrument what would it be?