RIVER VALLEY and OZARK AREA — Israel Getzov, who was named after his grandfather, is sure Arkansans think his name is strange.
Most people call him Izzy, and most people see him walk out onto the stage full of life and confidence to greet an audience at the Reynolds Concert Hall in Conway before a performance of the Conway Symphony Orchestra.
He’s the conductor, you see. And that part? Well, it’s harder than it looks.
“Sometimes a performance can be a joy, and sometimes it can be a battle,” Getzov said. “Performing anything is a challenge. You are on the stage being watched by all sorts of people, and it’s a communicative process, and it’s why I do this.”
But it’s also a very small part of Getzov’s job.
“What most people see of the conductor is the final 1 percent of the process,” he said. “The concert is the final thing that we do in a long process that starts months and sometimes almost a year in advance.”
But he said he loves every second of it.
It’s much better than being an unemployed musician.
“I guess I was only an unemployed musician for about 48 hours, which is probably a pretty good track record,” he said.
Getzov was finishing up a graduate degree in conducting at the Cleveland (Ohio) Institute of Music when he got a call from a group called the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.
“I had to skip the graduation ceremony to come down and take the audition, but I was fortunate enough to win,” he said.
Getzov’s position in Little Rock was as a duel violinist and conductor, but because all conductors dream of having their own orchestra, he jumped at the chance to move to Conway and take over the symphony orchestra when the post became available.
“They liked me enough to give me the gig,” he said.
Getzov has been in Conway now for five years.
He says it is a good place to make music.
“It’s a privilege to be making music on a daily basis with such great people,” he said.
But, then again, it’s something he always knew he would do.
“I’ve played the violin since I was 3,” Getzov said. “I added piano and viola and percussion later.”
Getzov studied in his hometown of Chicago with the Civic Orchestra there before moving on to Cleveland and eventually Conway.
He encourages Conway residents to come out and listen to some of the greatest pieces of music ever written.
“These composers that we play are the greatest people that ever created music in the history of the world,” he said. “It’s amazing that you can drive 10 minutes, the parking is easy, and you have some of the best musicians in the state playing such great music.”
He also hopes new listeners will give the music a chance.
Vicki Crockett, general manager of the Conway Symphony Orchestra, said Getzov always does his best to make the music accessible to a wide range of audience members.
“He takes time during the concerts to explain the music that he’s playing,” she said. “I think that’s really helpful. There is a notion that symphonies are supposed to be very formal and stuffy, and that there is an invisible line between audience and conductor. He throws that out the window.”
But Getzov still listens to accessible, popular music as well.
“In popular music, its whole purpose is to engage people quickly in a three-minute time frame,” Getzov said. “We are aiming at a much different place.”
Getzov said he listens to plenty of popular music, but many of his favorites are classic jazz tunes.
What does he do when he’s not working?
Well, that rarely happens.
“I work a lot. Music is allconsuming.”
Getzov’s travel even revolves around music. These days, he thinks China is the new frontier.
“I think they are quickly progressing in terms of their skill level and their understanding of the art. There is so much interest and so much understanding, so it’s a great place to be starting to make music right now,” he said.
He just returned from his 11th trip to China to meet with some of the country’s conductorsand orchestras. Some of the students he saw there will soon be playing at UCA, where Getzov holds the titles of assistant professor and director of orchestras.
“I have exchange students form China coming and playing in Conway, and we are taking students over there,” Getzov said. “We’re doing joint concerts - all kinds of concerts. We’re playing Chinese concerts and all kinds of Western music. It’s truly a community over the Pacific Ocean.”
Crockett said she can tell that Getzov loves working with the students.
“He’s a professor as well as a conductor,” she said. “He loves to see the students get excited about the music, and training up the next generation of musicians is really important to him.” - czilk@ arkansasonline.com
getting to know Israel Getzov
My favorite book is: Animal Farm, by George Orwell
My favorite TV show is: PBS Online. I unplugged my cable a year ago.
My role model is: Daniel Barenboim. He’s a conductor in Germany now,
but he’s basically everywhere. I worked with him in Chicago. He was the
musical director of the training symphony orchestra I was a part of. He’s
one of the greatest, if not the greatest, pianists in the world. He has an
understanding of music and sound that’s different than a lot of people.
Someday I will: Master the piano, because I’m not a master pianist. I want
to really learn how to master the piano. It will take a lot of practice.
The best part of my job is: Seeing the audience members or the
musicians changed by the music that we’re dealing with