After nine years helming the Idyllwild Arts Academy Orchestra as music director, conductor and composer in residence, Peter Askim is moving east to North Carolina.
Askim will become music director and conductor of the Raleigh Civic Symphony and Chamber Orchestra in Raleigh, North Carolina and the director of orchestral studies at North Carolina State University. “I’m excited to be working in the intellectual environment of the university, working with students from all around the world, and being part of the Raleigh Durham Research Triangle high-tech area,” he said.
Askim recounts his tenure at Idyllwild Arts as one highlighted by 19 world and six West Coast premieres of new-music works. He also conducted the IAA Orchestra in the world premiere of John Cage’s orchestral version of “Credo in US.”
“There was an endowed fund established by Ransom [Wilson, previous IAA music director] set up to commission new works,” said Askim.
As composer, double bass player and conductor, Askim is a leader in the new-music field. He is proud to have introduced so many IAA Orchestra students to new orchestral works.
“It was also really great to have the students have the opportunity to work with the composers,” he said. Askim noted that in all but one instance, composers of the commissioned and premiered pieces attended the performances in Idyllwild. “It meant a lot to me to bring so much of this new music into the world.”
Askim’s reputation in the contemporary classical music scene has earned him the sobriquet, “A Modern Master,” from Strad, a monthly magazine for bowed string players, students and teachers.
He said he explained to his IAA students that if they were to be professionals in today’s classical music scene, they needed to be familiar with and experienced in playing repertoire from all classical periods and genres, not just the traditional classical faire.
He cited as highlights some “out-of-the-box” premieres the orchestra performed with guest artists, including Richard Thompson’s, “Cabaret Souls,” the only recording of which the IAA Orchestra made under Askim’s direction; Prokofiev’s, “Peter and the Wolf,” narrated by “This is Spinal Tap” creator and co-star and National Public Radio “Le Show” creator and host Harry Shearer and the appearance of So Percussion, an American percussion quartet based in New York City, whose appearances are “happenings” in which even the audience’s emotions influence the live performance.
Askim was constantly trying to interest prospective students in attending the academy. “I spent a lot of time recruiting at festivals, conducting and doing extra teaching to promote Idyllwild Arts as a destination for serious music students,” he said. “That was very important to me. I’ve always really enjoyed meeting and working with young artists. It’s a time in their lives when, as a teacher, you can do something important with them.”
Askim said he demanded and expected serious work from his students. “It takes a lot of effort to really care,” he said. “I felt my job was to give them some kind of idea what’s expected of them in the professional music world, to play all kinds and styles of music.
“I told them that whether they liked a piece of music or not, while they played, it had to be their favorite in that moment, they had to love it.”
Askim said he is passionate about his music and his teaching. “One must be honest and have the integrity of their work and do things for the right reason. It’s always about the music,” he said. “You are your art.”
Askim is also fundraising for his own summer teaching project, Director of The Next Festival of Emerging Artists (www.next-fest.org) in which orchestral artists from ages 20 to 30 can study and be coached intensively, in a week dedicated to helping them move from school to professional work.