Monday, March 9, 2009

Exceeding expectations

Kimbo Ishii-Eto will begin his third season this fall as conductor and music director of the Amarillo Symphony. The well-traveled Kimbo, raised in Taiwan, was trained in Vienna and Juilliard School in New York, and worked with the Boston Symphony and New York Philharmonic as well as Komische Oper Berlin, which is, not surprisingly, in Berlin, Germany.

And that's just a small sampling of where he's worked and trained. Amarillo certainly is as different culturally as anywhere he's lived, yet...

"We expected it to be the best place we've lived," Kimbo said after speaking Monday to the Amarillo Downtown Kiwanis Club, "but I never thought it would be this good. It just seems so natural for our family. The people here are nice and kind, and have a real love of the artistic life."

Even a certain smell, when the wind is right, doesn't bother Kimbo.

"I grew up in Taiwain," he said, "and we had the same smell except we didn't say it smelled like money there."

The only drawback about living in Amarillo, Kimbo said, is travel. He is also the principal guest conductor of the Osaka Symphoniker in Osaka, Japan.

"The adjustment is that little extra flight of Amarillo to Houston, or Amarillo to Dallas," said Kimbo, who has extended his contract with the Amarillo Symphony through 2012. "If I'm going to Japan, I might have to take a 5 a.m. plane to Houston and then stay in the airport for four hours before I leave."

Seven concerts are scheduled for the 85th season of the Amarillo Symphony, which begins in September. The first concert on Sept. 25-26 will feature Joel Smirnoff and wife Joan Kwuon. Smirnoff, who was a finalist for the Amarillo conductor position in 2007, will be the featured solo violinist and then will conduct the second half of the concert.

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