May 29, 2023

Kevin Bartram: A Note of Success

Kevin Bartram has shared the stage with the best of the best – Paul Anka, Tony Bennett, Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell. The list goes on.

That didn’t happen by accident for the director of UMW’s Philharmonic Orchestra.

Kevin Bartram, Behind the Scenes Q&A

He was chosen for the All-State Band in eighth grade, then interned in high school with the National Symphony. Bartram directed orchestras at a Maryland high school and at Gettysburg College before bringing his baton to Mary Washington and the Philharmonic.

He launched the Celebrity Series in 2004 to honor his teenage memory of sharing a piano bench with legendary jazz artist Count Basie at the Kennedy Center. The series draws celebrated artists to campus and exposes students to incredible talent.

It’s a lot of work. Yesterday alone, Bartram did an NPR interview, prepped for a December concert with PBS travel star Rick Steves, and worked on a pair of new courses he’ll teach in the spring – Music Business and Introduction to Music Education.

And he put the finishing touches on Saturday’s instrument petting zoo at 3 p.m. and Fiddlestix Spooktacular Halloween concert at 4. Held in Dodd Auditorium, they’re free and open to the public.

Q: When did you come to UMW?
A: I won the grand prize in a Diet Coke giveaway (with a free cruise!), and was offered the job at UMW on the same day in 2002. Fate?

Q: What’s your favorite part of your job?
A: I love every aspect of being an orchestral conductor: study, rehearsal, performance. Our music students and community musicians understand that what we accomplish isn’t ordinary. The joy is in the hard work. It’s not every day that an artist like Paul Anka tells you backstage: “Tony Bennett told me I was going to have a really good time here in Fredericksburg.”

Q: Why should people attend this weekend’s Halloween concert?
A: For kids, it’s an opportunity to come in costume and get up close and personal to symphony orchestra instruments. The concert is packed with spooky classics like Night on Bald Mountain and Danse Macabre. It ends with a costume parade, with kids joining the orchestra onstage! But the entire Philharmonic is featured. It’s not just for children.

Q: What’s your proudest accomplishment as Philharmonic director?
A: Having the great flutist James Galway warming up in the dressing room next to mine was quite a thrill. I’m proud of our students and community musicians whose efforts inspire me to do something special for them each year.

Q: Any funny stories of mishaps onstage?
A: The great Judy Collins sang a song on piano that she’d written for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. That night there was a terrible thunderstorm, and the roof in Dodd sprang a leak. And a stream of water began pouring down right on top of the Steinway. It was beautiful to watch, I suppose!

Q: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A: I’m a Rotarian, Master Gardener, Master Tree Steward, and former soccer player and tennis coach.

Q: Any mantras you live by?
A: “This is true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.” George Bernard