Meet your Maker: Adam Stern, Seattle Symphony Guest Conductor

Stern conducts live scores for classic movies in the upcoming series.
| Updated: November 27, 2018

ARTIST: Adam Stern, seattle symphony guest conductor

SPECIALTY: Conducting for the “symphonic cinema” program, in which the music is removed from a famous film (the dialogue remains) and the live orchestra plays the score as the movie screens overhead.

PERFORMANCES: Stern is conducting live scores for Casablanca (7/6 & 7/8) and The Wizard of Oz (7/7 & 7/9). Times and prices vary. Benaroya Hall, 200 University St.; 206.215.4747;

BD: How did you get involved in the symphonic cinema program?
Back in 2009, the symphony was contemplating a symphonic cinema presentation of Psycho, and Gerard Schwarz kindly lobbied for me to do it, since he was aware that I probably knew the script and the score backwards and forwards. I had a ball—especially when the audience shrieked during the infamous murder scenes! The best study for this sort of project is total familiarity with the film itself…and the movies in question are in my blood.

BD: How is conducting for a film screening different from doing so for a live show?
In a live performance with singers and dancers, we can all make minute adjustments to one another. With the timing of the singing and dancing set in stone on film, I have no leeway to be expressive with time; I must be an absolutely accurate accompanist.

BD: So how do you make it work?
AS: Every entrance by the orchestra has to be at a precise moment, so I have a screen next to my music stand that plays a film of an actual stopwatch synched with the movie. When a music entrance is approaching, I get a little “warning” signal, then a 10-second countdown to where the music must start. From there, it’s up to me to make sure I maintain the right tempos—or else there could still be love-scene music playing while a car chase has begun.

BD: Have you ever cued up The Wizard of Oz with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon to experience how well the album works as the movie’s score?
Hey, c’mon—I’m a classical geek!


Art as Big as All Outdoors
Seattle summer arts combine experimental with experiential

Keep an eye on Capitol Hill this month, when new gallery-slash-conceptual-center THE PROJECT ROOM (TPR) is slated to open in the space formerly known as the Copper Vine (1315 E Pine St.). Run by independent Seattle curator Jess Van Nostrand, TPR is “an interdisciplinary arts experiment” that invites artists and the public to answer a question. The first query is “Why do we make things?” which local fiber artist Mandy Greer will answer via her gorgeous and sprawling work (see Nearby, Alison Milliman’s MadArt project—devoted to helping people “discover art in unexpected ways”—launches MAD HOMES (7/14–8/7), a new indoor/outdoor installation in five neighboring North Capitol Hill houses slated for demolition. Selected local artists will enliven the empty 100-year-old homes with painting, sculpture and installations, giving the doomed spaces an artful sendoff to house heaven ( Finally, for the second year, 4Culture and King County Parks host THE LONG WALK (7/28–7/31), in which 50 artists walk for 50 miles of the Regional Trails System (from Puget Sound to Snoqualmie Falls), camping in parks and engaging in art along the way. Led by Seattle artists Susan Robb and Stokley Towles, the walk invites the public to join in at designated stops, such as McCormick Park in Duvall (7/29), where musicians and performers will enliven the outdoors with interactive art and sound (