In his travels, André Raphel has discovered every different place he goes to adds new feeling and meaning to his music.
“There’s life in these small communities, and small places where you can discover what makes music breathe, and what makes it live, and why it’s important to people,” he said. “And to me, that’s the beauty of [it].”
Raphel has been conducting for more than 30 years and worked in Europe, Asia, South America and all over the United States. He was recently appointed as the conductor of the newly established Temple University Concert Orchestra.
Raphel has been playing the trombone since he was a kid, but said he felt that he could connect better with the musicians and audience by conducting.
“I wanted to communicate with people [in a way] that went beyond the trombone,” Raphel said.
He earned his bachelor’s of music from the University of Miami and a master’s of music from Yale University. He has since conducted at the Curtis Institute of Music and the Juilliard School of Music.
After Juilliard, Raphel was appointed as a conductor at the Norwalk Youth Symphony in Connecticut and also worked with the Affiliate Artists/National Endowment for the Arts, an organization that sponsored young conductors with major orchestras for assistantships before ending in the late 1990’s.
Raphel said he considers Philadelphia his home. He spent six years in the city with the Philadelphia Orchestra in the late 1990’s.
Terell Stafford, the director of jazz studies at the Boyer College of Music and Dance, believed forming a new orchestra to join the Temple University Symphony Orchestra would benefit the musicians.
“For a school that’s aiming for excellence, having a second orchestra will help develop a really high level of musicians,” Stafford said.
Raphel worked with Maestro Luis Biava, the previous conductor for the Temple University Symphony Orchestra, before his retirement, so Raphel was already familiar with working at Temple.
“It’s not often that you get the opportunity to start a new orchestra, so that was really exciting to me,” Raphel said.
Raphel said he enjoys working with students in general because he gets the opportunity to mold amateur musicians.
“Sometimes with a professional orchestra, they can play the music. They don’t always need you so much,” Raphel said. “They need you to inspire them, but there’s a different feeling, a different energy about working with students.”
Raphel said he also sees the opportunity as a way to “continue traditions.” Raphel is the student of German-born conductor Otto-Werner Mueller. He first worked with him at Yale and continued the partnership at Curtis and Juilliard.
Mueller passed away earlier this year, and Raphel is hoping to continue the legacy of his teachings.
As well as conducting the new orchestra, Raphel will be teaching an advanced instrumental conducting class, primarily to seniors and juniors.
He said he hopes this new orchestra will not only help students develop technically on their instruments, but also musically, “so they start to get an understanding on how to play different styles of music.”
Raphel said he is also excited about the possibilities for the orchestra, and would be interested in potential collaborations with the dance department or the jazz band.
The new orchestra had its first rehearsal last Tuesday and will have its first concert on Oct. 27. The performance will feature work from American composers John Corigliano and William Schuman.
“It will be interesting,” Raphel said, “because it combines, not only standard work by [Johannes] Brahms and [Antonín] Dvořák, but because it has some important Americans’ works in it.”
Raphel said he likes incorporating popular works with works that are not as well known, because he believes it provides a balance — he said he wants to “challenge the orchestra sonically.”
“Music should be a combination of exploration and comfort,” he said.
Busola Towolawi can be reached at email@example.com.
CORRECTION: A previous subhead for this article misstated the name of the college Raphel is joining. It is the Boyer College of Music and Dance, not the Boyer School. The name of the college was also misstated in the article. The headline misstated Raphel’s job status; he is joining the faculty of the college, not the staff. A photo caption in print and online misstated the name of the orchestra Raphel is joining; it is the Temple University Concert Orchestra, not the Temple University Symphony Orchestra.