Olivier Ochanine: New kid on the PPO block

by Nickie Wang

French-American conductor and music educator Olivier Ochanine has an impressive portfolio of work experience at a very young age. At 30, his resume boasts a number of achievements ranging from awards and recognitions to academic degrees in music education. But guess where this new kid on the block wants to perform:

“Given a chance, I would want to perform in places like schools, hospitals, jails and in some undeserved areas where music education is inaccessible, where performances staged by symphony orchestras like the PPO are not usually witnessed,” Ochanine poured his heart out in an interview with the Standard Today.

Ochanine takes the helm as Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra’s new music director and principal conductor. He was selected after an exhaustive two-year search process done by the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the country’s leading symphony orchestra. He arrived in the country in March to start a three-year mission with a promise to bring change. And he wants to start this noble task by going around the country and expose young kids to music.

“I believe that PPO should stage the Young People’s Concert twice or three times a year. This is the best venue to start introducing music education and to encourage more kids to watch classical performances,” he affirmed.

In his personal view, starting young is the perfect time to hone future music artists. As a living example of that idea himself, Ochanine began his musical studies in his native city of Paris, France at an early age of seven.

The passionate maestro started with the flute then eventually with the contrabass. He studied the art of playing the woodwind instrument in Germany while he studied contrabass playing in the United States, where he also developed an interest in orchestral conducting while pursuing a degree at the University of Kentucky.

Ochanine is a man who travels the world simply to expand his learning on different musical cultures. While in the UK, he studied flute with Gordon Cole and bass with Matthew Zory (Cincinnati Symphony), and frequently performed on flute and double bass with the award-winning UK Wind Ensemble under Richard Clary.  He studied conducting with Dr. Robert Baldwin (Director of Orchestral Studies at the University of Utah).  He also served as auxiliary bassist with the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra.  In 1998, Ochanine was invited to perform as bassist for the celebrated American Spiritual Ensemble’s Gershwin Tour of Spain.

In 2001, Ochanine began his Masters Degree studies in Orchestral Conducting at USC’s Thornton School of Music, in Los Angeles, where he gained conducting experience while working with the USC Symphony, Chamber and Concert Orchestras.

Before moving to the Philippines, Ochanine was chosen by the legendary Jorma Panula as one of his students in the 2009 Masterclass in Milan, Italy, with the I Pomeriggi Musicali Orchestra.  Panula has been a primary teacher of conductors such as Esa-Pekka Salonen, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, and Osmo Vänskä.

This year the young maestro was selected from a large pool of conductors to study with Gustav Meier and Marin Alsop (Baltimore Symphony) and perform at the 2009 Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in Santa Cruz, California.

Promise of change

Apart from espousing music education among children and the less fortunate, Ochanine plans to visit the Cebu Detention Center, where he could conduct seminar and provide inmates a different kind of entertain. It is his way of continuing community outreach activities that PPO is known for.

“My mission as the new director of the PPO is to bring change and take all the chances to perform in places where there are meaningful gatherings…definitely not in the malls. Visiting Cebu is just one of the great things I want to do before my contract ends with PPO,” Ochanine enthused.

The PPO music director believes that he is a position that entails a lot of responsibilities and he considers them as exciting opportunities to introduce new programs. Ochanine wants to make a mark in a relatively small but vibrant classical music culture in the country.

“I must admit that this great passion to accomplish all my plans will not be possible without the support of people I currently work with. I’m just an enabler; I don’t have the solutions to everything,” he affirmed.

Wielding the baton

For his inaugural season with the country’s leading symphony orchestra, Ochanine opens the PPO season with La Musique Française on Sept. 10.  Japanese violist from the Seattle Symphony Sayaka Kokubo, whose Paganini was referred to as “dazzling” by The America Viola Society Magazine, performs Berlioz’s Harold in Italy. The concert will also feature the rarely performed Milhaud’s Le Boeuf sur le Toit, Honegger’s Pastorale d’Ete and Ravel’s well-loved Bolero.”

Also this month, Ochanine will spearhead the CCP’s orchestra festival dubbed Magnitude 7, which is a grand reunion of the seven of the best symphony orchestras in the country.

And as his closing project for 2010, Ochanine wields the baton in a Christmas concert Ring in the Holidays on Dec. 9, featuring Ives’ The Unanswered Question, Romero’s Philippine Portraits and Tchaikovsky’s Francesca da Rimini: Symphonic Fantasy after Dante, Op. 32 along with Christmas medleys and songs.

All PPO concerts will be at the CCP’s Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater) at 8 p.m.

Ticket prices: P1000/800/500/P350/200, with discounts available to students, senior citizens and groups. For inquiries, call the CCP Marketing Department (832-1125 loc. 1806), the CCP Box Office (832-3704) or Ticketworld at National Bookstore (891-9999).

2 responses to “Olivier Ochanine: New kid on the PPO block

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