AICF grant recipient, orchestral, choral and opera conductor Avi Taler has recently completed his eighth year of high education at the Royal College of Music, London, where he worked with all performing ensembles, was trained by celebrated professors and internationally renowned guest conductors, assisted in opera productions and recorded in Abbey Road Studios. Prior to that, he completed two conducting degrees at the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music at Tel Aviv University, where his performances gained the highest reviews. Passionate for music education, Avi has served as the musical director of the Ness Ziona Youth Band, with which he went on a concert tour in Portugal. He was the director of the Akadma Ashdod Youth Concert Band as well, where he also coached choirs and chamber ensembles and ran a scholarship project for gifted students. Avi has performed with the Karlovy Vary Symphony Orchestra, the Ashdod Symphony Orchestra, the Havant Symphony Orchestra, and more. Based in London, Avi is currently developing his career and planning his future concerts. Avi has just launched his new site AviTaler.com.
What or who inspired you to want to be an artist?
My parents and family members were very pleased to see my interest in the performing arts at a young age, which naturally pushed me to go further. I was very, very lucky to have always been taught by teachers and professors who were passionate about music and music making – the way they spoke and felt about music was contagious, and seeing them on stage always thrilled me.
When I got older, watching live performances of conductors such as Gustavo Dudamel, Valeri Gergiev, Zubin Mehta, and Christof von Dohnanyi was life changing. Another milestone was attending a concert at the 2012 BBC Proms which inspired me in an unforgettable way.
What was your creative journey that has brought you to where you are today?
I started taking piano lessons at age 10, and I have been singing in a choir since. Somehow, the choral experience of making friends through music, captured me – I loved the fact that each of us had their own role and contribution, and I couldn’t imagine myself stopping, really. Winning competitions and going on amazing concert tours just made me more involved. I realized that I was addicted to performing and sounding the voice of late composers.
Although my military service had nothing to do with music, I kept practicing and taking lessons, and I started teaching. After four years of service, I realized that I wasn’t able to envision my life without music. Exposure to orchestral music, opera, and watching conductors, made me feel interested in facing musicians while they are playing, constantly communicating with them and finding our way to share and deliver exciting performances.
I was very fortunate to get into the B. Mus Conducting Course at the Buchman Mehta School of Music, where I was provided with the highest level of education and worked with the best of Israel’s future artists. Then, I was awarded a prestigious scholarship for my Choral Master in conducting, and later, I was given the only spot for a conducting student at the Royal College of Music. At the Royal College, I worked with and met the most talented students from around the world, and I had the fortune of taking classes and watching internationally acclaimed conductors and musicians.
What’s on your mind these days?
I’ve been thinking about Beethoven and what he would have thought about all the fame he now has and the celebrations of his birthday all around the world. I find it amazing that at times where it’s hard to find two individuals who agree on more than a couple of topics, Beethoven’s music succeeds in maintaining the consensus about its significance and value among musicians as well as the general public. As if he actually managed, as he had wished, to bring people together, to celebrate and rejoice.
How has the COVID-19 crisis affected your creative life and your relationship to your work?
The crisis has caused the cancellations of many exciting concerts I’d been looking forward to: a premiere in Southbank Queen Elisabeth Hall, a masterclass with maestro Bernard Haitink, and other orchestral performances with music by Schubert and Stravinsky. It was sad to miss out on all those opportunities as well as my last two terms in London, but I am very grateful for the online teaching I had access to, the repertoire I got to look at, and mainly the unlimited amount of time to reflect, rest and plan for the future.
I was, and still am, moved to see how people have been supporting and helping each other, how musicians reinvented themselves and found new ways to rehearse, record and make music. I am frustrated by the slow response of governments in helping and finding long-term solutions that would allow professional musicians to make their living, music students to keep studying, and amateurs to do the thing they love.
What project are you working on now?
I guess others will relate that there isn’t much, or not enough music going on right now, unfortunately. I am working on core repertoire I haven’t had the chance to study yet, and I am looking at operas and listen to a lot of lesser known repertoire and contemporary pieces. We are so lucky to have access to so much good music and good performances. My mind is constantly programming concerts for different sizes and levels of ensembles, but I am afraid I can’t share more than this at this very moment. I am applying to competitions as well and looking to commission living composers’ pieces. Mainly, I’ve been using the time to promote my professional social media pages, and to create my professional website, which has been a huge project to work on.
What do you need as an artist today?
I believe we all agree on how open-minded, creative and flexible we, as artists, all have to be. I am also very happy to see how celebrating diversity has become a prominent value in programming. I personally think that what I need as an artist today is patience for the situation to change soon, and for opportunities, concerts, festivals and events to resume. Until then, we have to work hard and make sure that when it happens, music will be able to reach all parts of society, including the unprivileged, and enrich their lives and worlds the same way it does for us musicians.