Hilt to direct orchestras

In high school, new Upper School Orchestra Director Mark Hilt entered into the world of music when he began playing the trumpet.

“My mom made me play the trumpet, and I hated it. I was terrible,” he said.

When he didn’t make the band, he switched to the bass clarinet because no one else played it.

Eventually, Hilt discovered choir.

“It was what I was really interested in,” he said.

Hilt’s musical “schizophrenia” did not end in high school or college. Since coming to the school as an accompanist to the choral ensembles more than a decade ago, he has also taught sight-singing, coached singers, conducted and served as music director of the annual musical theatre production.

When last year’s director, William McClain, announced he would leave at the end of the school year, Hilt jumped at the opportunity.

“I was very interested in doing it,” he said. “Of course I will miss being with the students on a regular basis, the singers that I’ve known and everything, but I’ve become more of a conductor in the last eight years.”

Hilt has a vision for the program: quality over quantity. He plans on only having three concerts this year instead of the usual four. The first concert will be in January, giving students an extra month to prepare and perfect.

“I think it’s more important to play less music really beautifully, than a lot of music sort of okay, because you guys are under a lot of pressure to do fast, and get things done, but that’s not what art should be about,” Hilt said. “Art should be about living with a piece for a long time, and feeling really great about it. When the orchestra sits down to play the concert they’ll know what they’re going to do, and they’re going to exceed what they’ve done.”

Another change to the program is the elimination of the Symphony Orchestra’s Concerto Concert.

For many years, the Concerto Concert has served as a showcase for individual talent. Winners in the Concerto Competition were given the chance to perform as soloists with the Symphony Orchestra.

“I felt like it was more important that the orchestra play as an orchestra, rather than as an accompaniment to soloists,” he said. “Granted, there is a lot of great repertoire, and we have a lot of great soloists, but people signed up for the class Symphony, or Concert Orchestra.”

Hilt plans on breaking up the Symphony into several smaller ensembles for the January concert.

He also has plans for a collaboration between his orchestras and a small group of Chamber Singers for the January concert.

“He is an incredibly talented guy. I’m sad he won’t be with us as our accompanist anymore, but I think he’ll also make a wonderful conductor,” Susanna Wolk ’10 said.

Hilt also runs a concert series in Santa Monica called Jacaranda, and is the director of music at his church, where he conducts a choir and plays in services.

“I want students to realize that music is not just something that they do when they’re kids,” he said. “You can still do it all your life. Our society is not really built for that, like it used to be.”