THE CONDUCTOR

Mas-Arocas travels globe to lead orchestras

Octavio Mas-Arocas

The conductor of Marquette’s Symphony Orchestra, Octavio Mas-Arocas, is a busy, busy, man. Mas-Arocas is originally from Bunol, Spain, but travels the world conducting orchestras. He took a time-out from his conducting duties to sit down and talk with 8-18 Media about the man behind the baton.

8-18 Media: Do you compose your own music?
I compose music, but I do not prefer to perform my own music. I do arrangement when we I need to. On some occasions you just need to do some pieces that are not an arrangement for orchestra so I do that too. I do compose, but composing also requires time which I am not having right now. I wish I had more time to compose and I have a lot of plans for that. That is something that is part of my want to do list. There is something about not wanting to perform my own music. I want other people to perform my music.

8-18 Media: How does it feel it to conduct all of those people and all of those instruments for audiences all over the world?
It feels to me a privilege to do that. An honor. We have all these musicians and they have been playing their instruments and practicing their instruments for a long time. We are performing music that has been around for a long time or new music a composer has been doing, creating. It is a big privilege to be on top of all that: to be the person who connects all the dots, to be the person who makes the program and presents these things to the audience. I feel very privileged and fortunate to be able to do that.

8-18 Media: What is the funniest mishap that has happened during a concert that may not have been funny at the time, but is now?
When you are doing this for a long time there are a lot of stories. I remember once I went to a concert in Brazil. I had an apartment in Brazil because I conducted a lot in Brazil back then, but we had a concert that was two hours away from my apartment and so we drove there and we had a rehearsal before the concert in the new hall and we went to the concert and I was just relaxing before the concert. It was a half hour before the concert, twenty minutes before the concert, okay I start to get dressed for the concert in my dressing room and put on my pants and put on my shoes and I didn’t have my actual suit. I was like, what am I going to do now? I had a shirt that was very informal. So, what am I going to do? In the end I had to borrow a black shirt from the oboist who was much bigger than me and this was the shirt that he had been wearing the whole day so it was a very sweaty shirt. I had to conduct the concert like that.

8-18 Media: You have been all over the world, how do you keep from getting sick from all the different types of food?
Not getting sick? I’ve been sick. But, you eat what the people eat. I am a very curious person with foods. Now that I am vegetarian it’s a little more limited, but still there are a lot of options. I eat what the locals eat and I eat where the locals eat. I always ask where should I be? Where should I go? I know in advance where I’m going to be going. You don’t eat everything. I am from Spain so, now that I’m vegetarian it’s different, but in Spain we eat everything that you can imagine. We eat a lot of different foods. I was never afraid of eating things that maybe in America, in the United States, you would think it is not so good to eat, but in Spain, when I wasn’t a vegetarian you eat everything from the cow. You eat the intestines, you eat tongues, you eat the necks, you eat the brains of the cow, you eat the feet, the tails of the pigs, you know everything. I was born there and eating those sorts of things, so to me it was normal.

8-18 Media: What is your favorite food to eat?
Paella. Now I eat a vegetarian Paella. But I actually love all kinds of foods and I really like cooking. I am a pretty good cook because I really like to do it. My friends and family they always say they enjoy my cooking and it’s just because I really like to do it. I really like good food.

8-18 Media: What do you do to relax and have fun?
I read, I play with my kids, I run, I do sports. Not as much as I would like to. The thing is that yeah, I work a lot of hours and there is a lot of work, but it’s not stressful, but I tire more. There are a lot of things to be taken care of for the Marquette Symphony and for my other orchestras and gigs so there is a lot of organizing, but the work itself, when I conduct when I work with orchestras, to me that’s fun. I could be doing that for hours and not get tired. I think that is the great thing when you do something you have fun doing and I don’t get stressed. I am very intense, but I am always like that anyways. My point is when you do something that you really enjoy it is not work. I really enjoy what I do.

8-18 Media: If you had more spare time what would you do with it?
I would be more outdoors. I would compose more. I would spend more time with my kids and I would read more and I would put all those things together. I travel already, but maybe I would travel to places that I really want to be. I mean, I love coming here. Marquette makes me so happy every time that I come here. I want to bring my family here.

8-18 Media: What music do you like to listen to?
All kinds of music: classical obviously, rock, pop, jazz. I think I like all kinds of music that is good music. If it is good music I like to listen to it. All kinds of music. It’s kind of like when I was younger people would ask me, “What is your favorite color,” and I would say, well, the rainbow is my favorite color. All the colors I like. I think that you need all colors to have the contrast and with music it is the same thing. I think I like all kinds of music and all kinds of music have their own great things.

8-18 Media: You have traveled all over the world, how do you think people and kids are all essentially the same?
They are the same. People are the same. They laugh, they eat, they cry and they feel and they are good. People are the same here in Marquette as they are in other places. That’s the human being is the same human being. There is no difference on that. If you take someone who was born in Brazil and at birth bring them to Marquette you wouldn’t notice the difference. What is different is their possibilities. What they have around them. Their lack of something just affects their lives. People’s economic situations affect people. This is a very deep question, because there is no difference. Everyone behaves the same and reacts the same and it is what is around people and everybody always looks for the best for themselves and the people they love. That’s why today we have so many people who are migrating and looking for the best for their families and that’s no different from one country or the other. There is no difference between one color of skin or the other. It’s just skin. There is no difference. You want the best for your family. You want your family to be happy. It just happens that maybe they were born in a very unfortunate part of the country or world. Unfortunate situations create unfortunate decisions. People are the same.

If you would like to see Mas-Arocas in action conducting the Marquette Symphony Orchestra, check the MSO website marquettesymphony.org for upcoming events. Not only is he a talented conductor, but there is quite the entertaining personality behind the baton and it is certain he will entertain you with a great show.

Written by 8-18 Media youth reporters from the Father Marquette Catholic Academy Bureau: Ana Alexander, Madalyn Croney, Lydia Gorsalitz, Soloman Gorsalitz, Isaac Hagle, JoJo Holm, Grace Matt, Matthew Reilly, Michael Reilly and Lily Smigiel.

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