Music director, conductor Arthur Post marks final performance with Thunder Bay symphony

After seven years as conductor with the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra, Arthur Post will take his final bow this weekend.

'Bittersweet' goodbye after seven years as conductor

Arthur Post is stepping down as Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra music director and conductor after seven years. (Amy Hadly/CBC)

After seven years as Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra (TBSO) music director and conductor, Arthur Post will take his final bow this weekend.

Post is stepping down from his position following a special gala performance on April 29.

And while he's looking forward to what the future will bring, he's sad to see his days with the TBSO come to a close.

"Of course it's bittersweet," Post told CBC. "All goodbyes are bittersweet."

"It's not easy to deal with leaving,' he said. "I've tried denial. Denial works very well for awhile. And then you get down to your last few concerts."

Musical upbringing

Post grew up in Connecticut, part of a musical family.

'My father was a wonderfully-talented pianist," Post said. "He didn't choose it as his main career, but he had wonderful talents. We'd go to a movie, and we'd come home and he would sit down at the piano and play a minute-and-a-half, two minutes of the soundtrack of the movie. He had perfect pitch, and a wonderful memory. He was always playing."

Post's father did play professionally, performing on weekends in clubs and restaurants.

Post, for his part, began his musical career when he picked up a bass at age nine.

"At the age of probably 13 or so, I got serious about bass, and played in orchestras and also played a lot of jazz," Post said.

Then, in his final year of high school, Post attended a summer program run by Boston University. The program took place at the Tanglewood Music Center, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

"That was such a fabulous, fabulous experience, that the seeds were planted," Post said.

Arthur Post rehearses with the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra. Post is stepping down as the orchestra's music director and conductor after seven years. (Amy Hadly/CBC)

He continued playing bass in college, and then, during his second year, he took a conducting course for non-conductors.

"It was something about the study of the scores that really started to excite me," Post said. "I spent three hours delving into a Brahms score or late Mozart symphony."

"I sort of compared that to the three hours that I would spend every day practicing the bass, and the decision was sort of clear after a little while that the scores were a richer experience for me."

Post studied conducting at Juilliard, and began working with several orchestras in the United States, starting out as assistant conductor, and making his way into a music director position with a Colorado symphony.

Then he saw a job posting for a conductor in Thunder Bay.

"It was a very attractive position, because it was a full-time orchestra," Post said, adding that such a thing is relatively rare. "It is such a pleasure. The intimacy of working with the same musicians, the communication. We get to know each other."

His work in Thunder Bay, however, has brought some logistical challenges with it. Post's family is based in Barcelona — his wife is a singer who works in Europe, and the couple has two kids, age 10 and 4 — so Post would commute between Europe and the Lakehead.

"For my life to make a lot more sense, I need to focus my career in Europe," he said. "That's the main step right now."

Proud of work with TBSO

Post, however, is very proud of the work he did in Thunder Bay.

"We've tackled some really wonderful big projects, a number of commissions of Canadian composers," he said. "We've played the world premiers of four or five pieces in the last few years."

Post added he brought some new thinking to the orchestra's programming, and noted he's very proud of some of the recordings the TBSO has completed under his direction.

Post said there are struggles facing orchestras today. Audience numbers, for example, aren't always what he'd like to see.

But that's part of a music director's job — communicating why orchestras are so important.

"My job is to shine a light on those elements of music of the past, and then tie it in to music of today," he said. "Orchestral music, symphonic music — I don't always like to use the word classical — but that music is alive and well and vibrant today, and it's my job, and my successor's job here, to bring that to life and to help the audience understand."

Post will make his final appearance with the TBSO at the Live at the Shipyard concert, which takes place on Saturday, April 29 at 6 pm at 401 Shipyard Rd.

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