Music has been an integral part of Alan Austin’s life since he was a young violinist in North Carolina.
And it continues to be for the Heights resident, who is the director of the Immanuel and Helen Olshan Texas Music Festival, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary season June 1-29 with concerts at the University of Houston main campus and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands.
The TMF 2019 Orchestra Series concerts offer pre-professional orchestral musicians the chance to have one month of the highest-level training under some world-class conductors. The public is invited to any of the 25 performances throughout June, with featured orchestra concerts scheduled for June 8, June 15, June 22 and June 29.
The genesis of the TMF was to offer something in Houston akin to long-established festivals like the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado and the Tanglewood Music Festival in Massachusetts, which the Olshans had enjoyed attending.
“Music has a way of moving and reaching people on a very visceral level,” Austin said. “No matter your taste in music, what you love to listen to matters to you. Music allows people to express themselves to others in a unique way, and when we can move others, that gives us a powerful tool to communicate.”
Austin should know. He came to the University of Houston in the late 1980s to study under famed violinist Fredell Lack. As a music school student, he participated in the inaugural Texas Music Festival orchestrated by David Tomatz, the festival’s first director, in 1990.
Twenty-three years ago, he became the director of the TMF. The job is year-round.
“Just like any arts organization, we spend our time planning – several seasons in advance – as well as fundraising and traveling to audition our applicants,” Austin said. “Organizing the lives of 95 orchestra members, and about the same number of guest artists, conductors and faculty is a big responsibility.”
Over the years, Austin said the caliber of musicians who participate as well as the competition involved in being selected to perform has continued to elevate the festival.
More than 390 applicants from across the United States and 22 other countries applied for the 93 positions in the orchestral institute. Orchestra fellows represent 37 institutions, including the Eastman School of Music, Manhattan School of Music, Yale University, New England Conservatory, Cleveland Institute of Music, Oberlin College and Conservatory, The Peabody Institute, Northwestern University, University of Michigan, Rice University Shepherd School of Music and UH Moores School of Music.
The fellows are chosen through competitive auditions and receive a full fellowship to fund their time in Houston.
“(The students) are very serious,” Austin said. “A lot of what they learn is how to function at a very high level. They learn to work together and rise to the occasion.”
Luminaries at this year’s festival include opening night piano soloist Kenny Broberg, the 2017 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Silver Medalist and TMF 2015 and 2016 alum; French hornist Ernesto Tovar Torres of The Philadelphia Orchestra, who played TMF in 2012; and Manhattan School of Music Precollege faculty member, violinist and opening night concertmaster Xiao Wang, who also is a 2012 alum of the festival. Maestro Franz Anton Krager, TMF music director and chief conductor, will conduct the TMF Season Opener, a tradition since he joined the Festival in 1993.
Guest conductors will be Carl St. Clair, who first conducted the TMF Orchestra in 1998, Rossen Milanov and Josep Caballé-Domenech.
“There is world-class music being made in Houston by classical music’s rising stars and their instructors,” Austin said. “TMF is the leading presenter of classical music in June every year.”
For more information about the festival, visit www.tmf.uh.edu. For tickets, visit www.music.uh.edu.