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The vibrant arts community of Duluth is unlike any other. With world-class organizations like the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra, an evening of inspiring performance is not hard to find. Dirk Meyer is celebrating his 10th season directing the DSSO, so we caught up with him to find out more about what this community means to him and what patrons can expect from the symphony’s upcoming season.
What’s your Duluth story?
After a competitive interview process, I served as the DSSO Music Director Designate for the 2012-2013 season and moved to Duluth in 2013. I looked forward to moving to this wonderful community, even though I knew the change in weather would be significant. (I moved from Florida!) Now, this current season marks my 10th anniversary as DSSO Music Director.
Congrats on 10 years! What changes have you seen with the DSSO over the last decade?
The DSSO has grown immensely over the past decade. While the artistic level of the orchestra has always been very high, we have never sounded better than in the last few seasons. In addition, we have made significant advances in our outreach into the community by performing with smaller ensembles throughout the Twin Ports. We have an extensive chamber music presence during the summer and our Bridge Sessions, a project that brings together the worlds of Pop/Rock and orchestral music, is extremely popular with audiences and musicians alike.
You split your time between Duluth and Georgia. What about Duluth keeps you coming back?
From the moment I first moved to Minnesota, Duluth has been close to my heart. I love the people, the nature – the whole spirit of Duluth is simply infectious. I met my wife in Duluth and we both still have lots of connections to the Twin Ports. She even still works for a Minneapolis-based law firm. But, most importantly, it’s the wonderful musicians of the DSSO and our most enthusiastic audiences that always make me look forward to returning.
What do you hope the DSSO provides for patrons?
I hope our art will provide respite and inspiration to our audiences. That can come in the form of joy and elation, or it may be pensive and reflective. But I do hope our patrons leave Symphony Hall with a feeling of renewal and a sense that their batteries have been recharged, in order to deal with the turbulent world that we live in.
What is a typical day like when you’re in town for rehearsals?
A typical day for me consists of three things: 1) Meetings, emails and mulling over the creation of programs (what to play, and when, and why), 2) Score study, 3) Being on the podium for either rehearsals or concerts. The thing that takes up most of my time is actually the second item: Learning music. It takes a surprising amount of time to really get to know a composition. And, of course, the longer and more complicated a piece is, the more time you need to spend with the score in order to feel comfortable conducting it.
What makes the Duluth arts community so special?
The arts community in Duluth is truly outstanding. If you consider the size of our community, it is amazing to see the diversity and quality of the arts you can find here. From theatre and music, to film, dance, literature, alternative, you name it! This is a variety that can rival with many communities much larger than ours. I also love the spirit of collaboration and mutual support amongst the arts in Duluth. A great example for that is the Season Splash that kicks off the season for many arts organizations each June. Last summer we had almost a dozen arts organizations share the stage at Wade Stadium to bring this free event to the community.
What can patrons expect from the upcoming DSSO season?
At the DSSO we always try to mix familiar and beloved works with something that is new and/or unexpected. In addition, we try to mix styles and feature a variety of music, so there’s something for everyone in our concerts. But, most importantly, I think patrons can expect to leave Symphony Hall renewed and refreshed.
What are some of your favorite things to do in Duluth?
I love visiting my go-to bars and restaurants, such as Bent Paddle, OMC Smokehouse, the Duluth Grill, Lake Ave and more. I also enjoy spending time outdoors, with Brighton Beach and Hartley Nature Center being two of my favorite spots. And, of course, spending time with friends.