By Sandie Tillery
Kyle Wiley Pickett's Conductor Legacy
“Hearing live music is an experience unlike any other. Kyle Pickett’s legacy to the North State Symphony, for this reason, is largely in the mind and memory. Both audiences and musicians have treasured the experiences he has created,” says Keith Herritt, executive director of the North State Symphony.
“Practical Visionaries” was the theme of a recent TEDx Talk in Redding where Pickett expressed the impractical nature of orchestral performance with its underlying practical attribute of the community experience. He describes live music as an “audience experience... an expression of community.” As conductor, he treated the audience to impressive classical concerts, but also invited them through his pre-concert talks to understand the complexity and the beauty created in isolation by composers, and the community experience offered in a live performance.
“We create a shared experience listening to hundreds of years worth of music while we enjoy it in the moment with friends and neighbors,” Pickett says. “It is relevant because it speaks to something about the human condition.”
While dozens of regional orchestras around the country have faded away, Pickett and North State Symphony supporters have maneuvered through the economic and cultural challenges to establish a solid foundation for success. Pickett accepted two positions in 2000, one in Chico and the other in Redding, to direct and conduct the local symphony orchestras. While the two orchestras faced real economic hardships, Pickett’s unique talents as music director, speaker and motivator brought together the two communities of musicians and audiences in a successful merger in 2001. Over the next several years, the North State Symphony established itself as one of the finest regional orchestras in California.
These were Pickett’s first full-time positions as a music director since earning his doctorate in orchestral conducting from the Peabody Conservatory, Johns Hopkins University’s school of music in Baltimore, Md., in 1998. In a sense, he was returning to his California roots where he earned his bachelor of arts degree in conducting and flute performance from Stanford University in 1993 and a master’s degree in conducting with a choral emphasis from Chico State University in 1994. He and wife Alice, along with their two sons, have made their home in Redding during the last 14 years while he inspired and encouraged audiences to enjoy the “live music” experience of classical performance.
His sphere of influence has spread from Chico, Redding and Red Bluff to include concerts and other performances in small outlying communities. Since 2001, the symphony has enlarged its repertoire and its concert schedule. Says Pickett, “The North State Symphony has grown artistically and administratively. There’s nothing we can’t tackle musically. Our audience has grown with us and is accepting of all the extraordinary and adventurous music that would stretch the bounds of a regular orchestra.”
Many freelance musicians come from as far away as Seattle and the Bay Area to perform alongside skilled local musicians. Nancy Overton, a founding board of directors member now on the North State Symphony Board of Regents, says, “It was a pleasure to watch Kyle work with musicians and see how their talents would blossom under his direction. It paid off in the steady growth in the caliber and complexity of the music performed for a regional orchestra.” Pickett has also shared his talents and leadership with the Juneau Symphony in Alaska, Rogue Music Theater in Oregon and Bozeman Symphony and Montana Ballet Company, along with numerous other guest conducting engagements.
As the North State Symphony looks for its new music director, Pickett will begin another adventure, inspiring other communities to share the experience of live classical music together.