Artfully Edmonds: New Year begins on a high note with conductor Robert D. Collins

Robert D Collins
Guest conductor  for Cascade Symphony Orchestra Robert D. Collins takes time out from his busy schedule to grant an exclusive interview to My Edmonds News.

Artfully Edmonds begins 2016 on a high note with an exclusive interview of Cascade Symphony Orchestra’s guest conductor, Robert D. Collins.

We invite you to join us (AE) as we interview Mr. Collins (RDC) about his luminous career:

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Robert, it was a joy being among the audience members at your debut as guest conductor during the Holiday Pops performance by Cascade Symphony Orchestra. We realize that you are busy with your many orchestral engagements and thank you for taking the time to discuss some of the nuances and perspectives from the conductor’s stand.

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AE: Robert, let me begin with the observation that you have quite an expansive (and impressive) resume. Your achievements in conducting orchestras are certainly noteworthy for someone with such a fresh career; but I understand that you also teach and perform.

What instrument do you play?

RDC: I am a French Horn player.

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AE: You conducted the Everett Youth Symphony  and, as I mentioned, you teach – what message do you have for young people at the middle school level regarding staying motivated and inspired by music?  What are the compelling benefits of music that beginning musicians might not see at first blush?

RDC: Music is a life-long love. It challenges us and molds us into a better version of ourselves. When we engage in music we learn from the life experiences of the composers and when we make music with others we are challenged to put our own needs and desires aside to serve something greater than ourselves.

The achievements of our students are incredible, but we often fail to teach the importance of working in a group. Making music in an ensemble not only stretches the mind to be more effective academically, in stretches our social skills and emotions. This empowers students of music to become leaders among their peers, putting into practice a diplomacy and care for the community that is difficult to learn through individual study.

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AE: Should the audience watch the conductor?

RDC: I have always enjoyed watching conductors, it provides entertainment to watch cues and listen for the musical response, or to try and interpret what musical nuance is being conveyed. That being said, how interesting a conductor is to watch has little to do with how effective they are.

My encouragement to all audience members is to immerse themselves completely, body, mind and soul, in the music that is being performed. The real magic of live performance comes when we put aside all the worries of the day, and focus our entire being on the beauty that is being created in that moment. No recording can match that experience.

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AE: Quite possibly you have heard of the experiment conducted  — no pun intended 😉 — by Yiannis Aloimonos regarding how important, or how superfluous a conductor is to an orchestra. To recap: The findings are that in “the language of musical gestures” a “sensory motor conversation” is taking place between the members of the orchestra and their conductor. How chatty are you in this conversation?

RDC: This type of study is always interesting.

For me, my chattiness varies with the needs of the orchestra and the music, but whatever the case I seek to be fully engaged in music-making with the ensemble. If the reader attended Cascade Symphony’s “Holiday Pops” concert they would have seen a very relaxed and playful style of conducting. For this music the players need very little help from me and so I give them the freedom to be the excellent musicians they are with the occasional direction.

If one attends the Jan. 18 concert, which will feature fantastic repertoire of an entirely different nature, I will exhibit a very different style of conducting. For this music, much more direction and care is required.

You might compare it to the difference between eating an excellent bowl of ice cream or eating a five-course meal at a five-star restaurant. Both are delicious but the complexity of one requires more focus and effort than the other.

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AE: Considering whether a conductor is authoritarian or lenient with his orchestra – where are you on that scale, if being an authoritarian rates a 5; and being lenient rates a 1?

RDC: I believe strongly that music-making is a collaborative effort. In every rehearsal and performance I am both guiding and learning from the orchestra. There are times when, for the sake of unified expression, I make decisive choices that shape the music but those choices are largely limited to the big picture.

I try to leave decisions about how to play an individual part to the players. If our ideas are different I first try to understand their perspective and if it doesn’t fit with the big picture I am striving for, we work to find a compromise that will best serve the music and the ensemble. So the short answer is, I would probably give myself a 2.5.

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AE: What influences led you toward a life of music, and which conductors influenced you personally toward a career in conducting?

RDC: A few of my favorite conductors are: Herbert von Karajan for his attention to the character of sound, Carlos Kleiber for his beauty of gesture and the intense musicality of his interpretations, and Andris Nelsons because I love his energy and personality on the podium as well as his stupendous interpretations.

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AE: Robert, you have ties to the Pacific Northwest, I understand. Please tell us about the musical nature of your family – are your parents musically inclined?

RDC: I do indeed have ties to the Pacific Northwest. I grew up in Kenmore. My family is quite musically inclined but largely as amateurs and appreciators. My mom is the main exception. She has been the choir director at Bethany Community Church for upwards of 20 years, and is one of the major musical influences in my life. Her own musical studies deeply enriched my own as I was just beginning to bloom as a musician. We would talk about what she was studying, which greatly broadened my knowledge and understanding of music. We still go to each other to talk about music and to work out problems we encounter as conductors. My parents have been such an amazing support to me, challenging me not only make safe decisions but to also reach for my dreams with intentionality and purpose.

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Well, the watchwords “with intentionality and purpose” are such worthy goals for any artist. What fine words to end our interview on. My Edmonds News would like to thank you for this exclusive interview. We’ll look forward to your being a guest in the Artfully Edmonds column any time you have news to share with us.

Best wishes, Robert and we will look forward to seeing you on Monday, Jan. 18 at Edmonds Center for the Arts as the Cascade Symphony Orchestra performs under your baton.

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9a Edmonds Arts Commission 2015As we look past New Year’s Eve 2016, exhilarating events promise to catch the attention of art lovers on a regional level. Here are some highlights of events just around the corner as well as this month’s upcoming high-profile happenings:

Edmonds Arts Highlights ~ 2016

4th Avenue Corridor of the Arts

Edmonds Arts Commission notes that in 2016 we can look forward to completion of Iole Alessandrini’s “Luminous Forest” – a 1,200- foot corridor of solar lights leading from Edmonds Center for the Arts toward downtown along the 4th Avenue Arts Corridor.

City of Edmonds Arts & Culture Manager Frances White Chapin tells My Edmonds News, “Alessandrini’s installation on 4th Ave. will take place in 2016 when the weather is a little warmer.”

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Cascadia Art Museum _Salish Crossing
Cascadia Art Museum, 190 Sunset Ave. #E, Edmonds

Cascadia Art Museum (CAM)

Board Members of Cascadia Art Museum invite the community to help CAM in reaching a membership goal of 700 members by September 2016. The benefits of membership include admission to special events, exhibition previews and so much more.

Follow to this membership link.

Hours: Thursday, Dec. 31 the museum hours are 11 a.m.-3 p.m; and Friday, Jan. 1 the museum will be open 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

The museum is welcoming visitors with a 16-percent discount off all tickets. Check the museum website for the details of this offer.

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Driftwood Players
Wade James Theatre
950 Main St.

Driftwood Players’ Education Programs will feature four segments – Page to Stage beginning in February.

Spring and Summer acting and production workshops and classes for tweens, teens and adults are listed at this link. Take advantage of the drop-down menu for options and opportunities.

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4a Phoenix Smiling 2015

Phoenix Theatre
Firdale Village
9673 Firdale Ave.


Phoenix Theatre will continue with its selection of raucous Broadway-caliber hits through 2016.

But we also see the theatre expanding its acting class repertoire with a Winter Break Acting Camp set to coincide with the Edmonds School District break from Feb. 15-19.

Details on the acting camp are at this Phoenix Theatre website.

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Unclad 2016 _Best FormatUnclad 2016

March 19-20
Edmonds Yacht Club
326 Admiral Way

Unclad, “The juried art show celebrating the nude figure in art,” is enjoying a revival thanks to the efforts of Stanwood artist and art activist Gayle Picken.

Call for Art

Jan. 15 entry deadline! A ‘Call for Art’ has gone out for artists seeking inclusion in Unclad 2016.

Patrons can track the progress of this exhibition here at Artfully Edmonds, where we will carry interviews and behind-the-scenes news.

The Edmonds Yacht Club has been set as the venue for this popular, well-attended show. Tickets go on sale starting Jan. 15.

For specific inquiries about the call for art, or exhibition details, contact Gayle Picken

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Arts’ Dates for January:


Driftwood Players production of "Proof" begins Friday, Jan. 8.
Driftwood Players production of “Proof” begins Thursday, Jan. 14.

Thursday, Jan. 14
8 p.m.
Driftwood Players
Wade James Theatre
950 Main St.

“Proof” by David Auburn
Directed by Rick Wright

“Proof” premiered off-Broadway at the Manhattan Theatre Club in 2000 and quickly moved to Broadway before Auburn won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

A survey of the play is offered by “’Proof’ revolves around a young woman, Catherine, and her reaction to her father’s recent death, her sense of self, her connection with her sister, and a new relationship with one of her father’s former students.

On the night before her twenty-fifth birthday, Catherine prepares for her father’s funeral and her newly arrived sister, who has her own plans for Catherine.

Catherine also deals with Hal, a scholar who is searching through her father’s numerous notebooks for new ideas and possible sparks of inspiration for new mathematical discoveries.”

This Rick Wright-directed production runs Friday, Jan. 8 through Saturday, Jan. 16. Ticket information can be obtained at this ticket link.

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Call for auditions: Driftwood Players are now casting for Christopher Bailey's riveting production.
Call for auditions: Driftwood Players are now casting for Christopher Bailey’s riveting production.

Jan. 9/10
Casting Call
Driftwood Players

“Man Defeats Nature” by local playwright Christopher Bailey, takes place a year after the 1980 volcanic eruption of Mount St. Helens. A father grapples with coming to terms over the loss of his son to the devastating historic events of the previous year.

The production directed by Nikki Fey-Burgett is holding auditions Saturday, Jan. 9 ~ 5-7 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 10 ~ 5-7 p.m.

Callbacks will be Monday, Jan. 11, 7 p.m.

Location: Driftwood Training Room, 306 Main St., Edmonds (lower back door of the Bank of America building)

Casting for the following:

Two Women:

Kay: A homemaker in her 50s, with a thinly veiled sexiness and sense of irony. Married to Wayne. She is mother to the missing Tim, who appears to have been the victim of a volcanic eruption.

Amber: A nurse in her early 30s, outwardly naïve, but with a steel underbelly. She is married to Tim, who has been missing for a year.

Two Men:

Wayne: A logger in his 50s, verbally and physically intimidating. Has never given up the passionate search for his missing son.

Carl: A journalist in his 40s, physically fit, educated, eloquent. His life is connected with the other three characters on many levels.

About the play: The play takes place in a rural house in the foothills of a coastal mountain range, some time toward the end of the 20th century. The playwright has created an intriguing story revolving around four adults whose lives have been deeply affected and intertwined by a violent, destructive volcanic eruption, much like that of Mount St. Helens in 1980.

Required for auditions: One- to two minute memorized monologue demonstrating range and depth of emotion, and versatility as an actor. The characters in Man Defeats Nature are “real” people, dynamic and interesting, and those auditioning should bear this in mind when choosing audition pieces.

Sign up here for audition time.

Fill in Registration Information here.

If called back, all candidates will be asked to read Carl’s opening monologue in Act I, in its entirety, as well as other selections from the script.

Click here for monologues.

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7 Kidstock 2016Edmonds Center for the Arts
410 4th Ave. N.
Saturday, Jan. 9
9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.


This free annual family event at ECA features musical performances, theatre, arts education workshops, and activities for kids.

Pre-register online or call the ECA Box Office at 425-275-9595.

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apres le bain from David
Apres le Bain by David Varnau. 

Begins Wednesday, Jan. 13
1 p.m.
David Varnau
Drawing and Sculpting From Life

The Edmonds Sculptors/Drawers Group meets weekly on most Wednesday afternoons from September through May, informs local artist and sculptor David Varnau.

Describing the setting, Varnau says, “We have a live model who poses the same long pose for three consecutive Wednesday afternoons from 1-4 pm. There are usually 8-10 artists here each afternoon–a mix of drawers and sculptors with a wide range of experience, from beginners to professional artists.”

For more information, contact or go to the artist’s website for additional information.

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Robert Joffrey is among the Cornish subjects featured at Cascadia Art Museum's upcoming exhibition.
Robert Joffrey is among the Cornish College of the Arts subjects featured in Cascadia Art Museum’s upcoming exhibition.

Thursday, Jan. 14
Cascadia Art Museum (CAM)
190 Sunset Ave. #E
Exhibition Opening: “Looking Back, Moving Forward”

CAM brings the Northwest a centennial tribute to Nellie Cornish and the Cornish College of the Arts. .

In its exhibition, the museum will present historic artwork from private collections that feature dance films, costumes and artifacts by key Cornish figures such as Merce Cunningham, Robert Joffrey and Mark Toby.

Ticket information can be obtained at this website.

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Dance! into 2016
Friday, Jan. 15
7:30 p.m.  
Cedar Valley Grange
20526-52nd Ave. W., Lynnwood

The Skandia Third Friday Dance Party is lively and fun!

The dance party to be held on Jan. 15 begins with the dance class for the Sønderhoning, with teachers Larry Reinert and Jennifer Roach. This is a turning dance from tiny Fanø Island off the west coast of Denmark.

Evening dancing kicks off at 8:30, with the unique sounds of Sprida Ut—musicians Kris Johansson and Brian and Nola Nelson. At the midway point of the evening, North and South, the duo of Leslie Foley and Martha Levenson, comes to the center of the floor for more great music.

If your New Year’s resolution is to cross learning to dance off your bucket list, get all the details at the Scandia Folkdance website or (425) 954-5262.

— By Emily Hill

EmilyEmily Hill is the author of two novels and a short story collection. She also writes the “Lynnwood Lifestyle” column for Lynnwood Today. Emily is retired from a career in public information and news media relations. If you would like your event listed, or featured, in Artfully Edmonds, Emily invites you to contact her at


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