^
Keep Dallas Observer Free
4

Jaap Van Zweden: The Maestro

In this week's Dallas Observer we profile 30 of the metro area's most interesting characters, with new portraits of each from local photographer Mark Graham. See the entire Dallas Observer People Issue here.

You might have seen his face on billboards -- intense eyes conducting the traffic below with precision -- or studied the back of his short, sturdy body and cleanly shaven head. But if anything, it's with your ears that you've encountered Jaap van Zweden's ability to draw excellence from the instruments of his charges.

"The word is not to tell the orchestra how to do it," says van Zweden, conductor of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra since 2008. "The word is to inspire them to sound different."

Sound different they must. Van Zweden was recently named Musical America's Conductor of the Year, and he guest-conducts around the world, preparing a different program nearly every weekend from his condo at the Ritz Residences. "If you go to my apartment," he says, "you would see my bed completely covered with scores. I read scores, scores, scores, all day, all day, always."

The obsession started when he was 16, when he left his family in Amsterdam to study violin at Juilliard in New York. "Study, go to bed, maybe watch a little bit of a Yankees game," he says, describing that first year on U.S. soil. "I studied 10 hours -- maybe 12 hours a day."

I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

By 19 he was appointed concertmaster of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, the youngest person to ever hold the position. As a violinist he worked under some of the world's greatest conductors, including Leonard Bernstein, who first suggested van Zweden look into conducting.

Van Zweden is still a baseball fan, and he's not oblivious to Dallas' reputation as sports-obsessed and materialistic. But, he says, the city "has put more effort, more energy and more money in culture than almost any [American] city in the last 20 years. There is a lot of art here. ... I'm so proud that if I go to a shopping mall there is unbelievable art. Where do you have that in Europe?

"Our quality has to be recognized worldwide," he goes on. "It is time that we realize ourselves that Dallas is not a city which just likes the outside, but also likes the inside."

See the entire Dallas Observer People Issue here.

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.

 

Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.