Finding a dream home is never easy.
But when the majority of your life is spent in front of an audience, you yearn for privacy at home, making the task that much more difficult. Andrew Litton, musical director for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, knows this: He saw 96 houses over nearly two years before landing in his Preston Hollow home.
The search was based on a long list of requirements. Ease of access to the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center was important. Land and trees were a necessity, as were three living areas, with one removed from the rest of the house to serve as Litton’s study. There, he could listen to music and edit recordings…at midnight.
“I was looking for something really specific because I need space and privacy,” says Litton, 43. “When I’m in public, it’s fine to be seen. But my private persona is very private.”
The glare of the spotlight isn’t new to Litton. Before being appointed DSO conductor in 1992 (his work here didn’t begin until 1994, a delay common in the classical conducting business), he was with Britain’s Bournermouth Symphony for six years and remains its conductor laureate to this day. He also has served as guest conductor for more than 100 of the world’s orchestras and opera companies.
But though he’s often abroad, Litton was raised in Manhattan, making the DSO gig a major accomplishment: Only a handful of big-city orchestra conductors are from the United States.
“As an American, getting an American orchestra was just amazing,” he says.
To that end, Litton decided to set his goals high: He wanted to improve awareness of the symphony both domestically and internationally.
“The key is exposure. When people come to a concert, they hear how beautiful and uplifting it is…they realize there is a lot to gain from it,” Litton says. “We try to create those experiences. Then, if they don’t like it, I can rest easy.
“Great music can never be taken for granted, and the performance of that music cannot, either.”
Litton’s colleagues believe he has been successful at fulfilling his mission.
“Andrew is one of the most energetic and giving people I’ve ever worked with,” says fellow Preston Hollow resident Eric Barr, who plays the oboe in the symphony. “He has devoted innumerable hours to the orchestra, far above and beyond the call of duty.”
Jan Mark Sloman, who has been with the symphony since 1977, is another Preston Hollow resident impressed with what Litton has brought to the conductor’s stand.
“We’re playing the broadest possible spectrum of orchestral literature,” he said. “Andrew has tried very hard to expand our breadth and depth.”
In fact, Litton doesn’t seem to be resting on his laurels. The Dallas Morning News called the 2002-03 DSO concert series “a season of risk,” and added, “the Dallas Symphony Orchestra is promising some of its liveliest programming in years.” In a June show last year, the orchestra even included some electronic modification of its music.
All this excitement is earning Litton extra work. He recently was named principal conductor and artistic adviser of the 236-year-old Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra in Norway, an appointment he’ll begin in the fall.
Not surprisingly, Litton knew from a pretty young age that he wanted to pursue a career in classical music. Though he had an early fascination with being a fireman, he says those plans changed after an outing to the Young People’s Concerts series, where conductor Leonard Bernstein led the New York Philharmonic.
“I was 10 when they did this piece by (Ottorino) Respighi called The Pines of Rome,” Litton recalls. “Bernstein set it up so interestingly, describing what the setting looked like, and then he’d play examples, I just walked out of there and said to my mother, ‘I want to be a conductor.’”
Litton was serious. He already had some exposure to music, taking piano lessons at the urging of his kindergarten teacher.
Litton’s passion grew as he became older. He attended a private liberal arts high school, taking piano and conducting lessons on the side. At Julliard, he majored in piano, and eventually entered the conducting program.
When Litton was with the Bournemouth Symphony, he met his future wife, Jayne, who happened to be a violinist in his orchestra. They were still there when he received the offer to return to the United States to head the DSO.
“We decided on Preston Hollow because we liked the neighborhood so much. The Park Cities are beautiful,” he says, “but I felt I really needed to live in Dallas as the music director of the Dallas Symphony.”
One weekend following his appointment as musical director, Litton was guest conducting in Dallas when he decided he’d found the “dream home.” Jayne flew here to see it and, on Sunday, they agreed to put a contract on the house. That night, Jayne flew home.
On Monday, however, Andrew received a phone call from his Realtor, telling him he’d found “the house.” Litton, en route to the airport, soon found himself in front of another home, a mere four blocks away from the other.
The small lot had plenty of trees and, best of all, it was totally private in the back. Litton called Jayne, waking her in the middle of the night.
They can now laugh about the conversation, during which Litton waxed poetic about the home’s “karma.”
So, what changed his mind and landed the couple in the Preston Hollow home they still occupy to this day?
“The selling agent had the intercom playing (Nikolay) Rimsky-Korsakov,” a leading 19th century Russian composer, Litton says.
“So subconsciously I’m listening to it, and I strategically placed myself by the main intercom in the kitchen as it was finishing. And the radio announcer said ‘…and that was conducted by Andrew Litton’”
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