Q & A with Jeffrey Thomas at the Juilliard Journal
March 20, 2014
Jeffrey Thomas graduated from Juilliard in 1981 with a focus in vocal performance. Edward Sien interviews Jeffrey Thomas, looking back.
What do you know now that you didn’t 20 years ago?
How truly lucky I am—how truly lucky any performing artist is—to have the task of relaying to an audience the intentions of a composer or playwright or choreographer. I remember when I prepared to conduct Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony for the first time. I spent at least six months getting ready, memorizing every page of the score, delving into Beethoven’s life and the circumstances that led to the composition of that work. I learned what it meant to him and what it meant to his audiences. At the end of that period, I likened the experience to being able to visit the same museum or gallery every day for six months, sitting in front of the same painting for all of that time, and coming away with an understanding of it that all too few people can afford.
It takes time, but if we are going to be the medium—the performers who will render a work of art, a composition, for an audience who has much less time to get to know it as well—we have been chosen to enjoy a most noble calling and we are obligated, happily obligated, to bring every point of perfection to that process that we can muster.