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Five Questions for Matilda Hofman


Photo courtesy of the Diablo Symphony

For eight seasons, acclaimed conductor Matilda Hofman has led the Diablo Symphony—and broadened the reach of the Walnut Creek orchestra. “Come and try a concert, and say hi to us afterward,” says the native Brit, who works with groups throughout Europe and the Bay Area. “We’re a friendly orchestra, and we perform great music.” 


Q: This month, Diablo Symphony is performing its Family Concert—a tradition you started shortly after you took over as music director. Why is it important to you to expose children to classical music?

A: I think it’s our responsibility to ignite the spark in the younger generations, especially with the cuts in [school] music programs. If they get inspired, it can bring them meaning for their whole lives.


Q: How does the Family Concert differ from your other concerts?

A: It’s a little shorter … and there’s no intermission, so we keep the excitement. I want to include music that hopefully will be familiar for the kids. So we’re doing John Williams’s Jurassic Park, as well as the Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saëns, in which many different instruments represent different animals. … After [one of the concerts], we have an instrument petting zoo. Children can come and try the harp, the percussion, the wind instruments, or the strings.


Q: You’re also providing musical accompaniment for the Diablo Ballet’s Coppélia performances on March 20 and 21. What is that like?

A: This is the first time we will be performing a full-length ballet with Diablo Ballet, and we will be down in the pit. So we’re all excited about that. I know for the dancers, and for the audience, having live music really transforms the whole ballet experience.


Q: Contemporary classical music is a passion of yours. How do you bring that into your programming with the Diablo Symphony?

A: We’ve had composers write pieces for us, and I try and include a world premiere every season. … I think an orchestra like the Diablo Symphony should be performing young composers, living composers, and local composers, so it’s part of a living tradition.


Q: What do you love most about the East Bay?

A: There are all these wonderful arts organizations—Diablo Ballet, San Ramon Valley Chorale, Festival Opera—so there’s always something to go to and [have] a wonderful experience. At the same time, there’s incredible nature right on the doorstep. Having the energy of the city and nature so close together is very unique.


The Diablo Symphony’s Family Concert takes place on March 28 at Ygnacio Valley High School (with instrument petting zoo), and on March 29 at the Lesher Center for the Arts. diablosymphony.org.


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