Palm Beach Symphony conductor Ramon Tebar (right) started his musical career as a pianist. Now, he’s one of the youngest conductors in the world.
Born in Spain in 1978, Tebar made his American debut in Palm Beach and even met his wife at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach, where she was a singer in the Palm Beach Opera’s chorus. The father of two daughters, ages 3 and 2, lives with his family in Miami and spends the off-season conducting in Cincinnati, Brazil, Armenia, Peru and Europe, including his home country.
Palm Beach Illustrated sat down for a private interview with Tebar after the symphony’s last concert of the 2013-14 season. Relaxed on a couch in his dressing room at the Kravis Center, perspired after another enthusiastic concert, Tebar is as animated when he talks as he is on the podium, further conveying his emotions by using hand gestures as though conducting his speech. From this candid, backstage perspective, it’s easy to see why conducting comes naturally to him.
“For me, it’s not a job. It is not even a profession. For me, it’s just my life,” he says.
Patrons can see Tebar in his element again starting December 3, when the symphony hosts its first concert of the season: “Serenading Chopin,” at the Society of the Four Arts in Palm Beach. Tickets go on sale November 12 and cost $40 for balcony seating, $45 for orchestra seating. (561-655-7226)
When did you know you wanted to become a conductor?
I didn’t know it. People were telling me, “You’re a conductor. You play [piano] like a conductor.” [Conducting] became natural to me. When I was rehearsing with musicians, I was doing [hand] expressions. So all of these [moves hands as though playing piano dramatically] were already conducting gestures.
What skills or qualities would you say are needed to be a good conductor?
You have to love to make music with people and to communicate and to explain the vision of a piece. [Conducting is] also trying to conserve and preserve the truth in the score. In certain ways, [it’s] like a priest does with a bible or a sacred book: You read it and then try to transmit it. It’s the same thing.
We study so many hours at home and think about how to phrase certain sections, motifs, themes, which [translate] what you have in your mind or what you think the composer would have wanted to do. There is a lot of straddling in the process.
But you have to love it. You have to love what you are doing. I think it is the best thing I can do.
What would be your dream concert to conduct?
The best concert is when you have an orchestra in which all the musicians are engaged, committed and giving 150 percent in rehearsals and in concert. Regardless of the music, I think this is the most important thing. … The dream concert would be that moment … when everyone is connected, you feel the energy coming from [the audience] and then—it’s magic. But this happens very randomly, very rarely.
Do you have a favorite composer?
I have many favorite composers. I love Mozart, Puccini, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Brahms.
I try to make my favorite composer the one I’m conducting at the moment. I have to fall in love not only with the composer but with the piece. …
Many times, you have to conduct pieces that probably are not the closest to your heart, and then you feel something is not working—probably like getting married. If you are not with the partner you are madly in love with, I don’t think it works. You can survive, but it is not [true love].
The same thing with conducting … You have to make an effort to like it. Then, if there is not a connection with the piece … people don’t get this magic.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time outside of music and conducting?
Nothing. Just silence. I think silence is so important, because the material I’m working with is sound. [I spend] the whole day with sound. So when I have my time and I’m alone, I try not to listen to music. … Then, I can appreciate even more the way of making, producing sound.
I don’t have hobbies. This is my hobby. That’s why I’ve been doing this my whole life.
Other than that, [I enjoy] spending time with my daughters, my wife, my family, my parents when I can. But if I am alone, silence is the best gift.