New Haven Symphony Welcomes Back New Maestro: Alasdair Neale


Alasdair Neale will officially take over as music director and conductor of the New Haven Symphony Orchestra, the fourth oldest in the country, July 1, shortly after he is introduced to the community at a free concert on the New Haven Green on June 22. Having led symphonies in California and Sun Valley, Idaho, Neale replaces William Boughton, who ended his 12-year tenure with the orchestra in May.

I sat down with Neale, the 56-year-old, British-born maestro, at a downtown cafe in New Haven — familiar turf for Neale, who spent six years at the Yale School of Music, graduating in 1985 with a master’s in conducting, and another three years as conductor of the Yale Symphony Orchestra.

What’s it like to step into a Yale classroom with other students who all want to lead orchestras, all knowing how few positions there are? Is it like musical Survivor?

I think it was a lot more civilized than that. And to my recollection, no one got voted off the island. No, it was a very supportive atmosphere. I didn’t think we were in competition for jobs, though it is true there are a lot more conductors around than there are positions. I was too young to put that all together. I was there to study and I was lucky to get jobs after that.

You were taught by Otto-Werner Mueller, legendary professor in conducting at Yale.

I had a very good relationship with him and learned a great deal, such as what the conductor’s responsibilities are. He gave me a whole new understanding of what the standards were, what “good” meant. He was a tough teacher and never pulled any punches. I learned high standards and clarity of technique. He wouldn’t accept anything sloppy or wishy-washy.