Why is This Guy Waving the Stick? Meet Jesus Manuel Berard. Waving The Stick Is What He Does
By D.A. Phillips
To be able to step into the tremendous shoes of the late Charles Ellis as director of the Prince George’s Philharmonic, one must have presented him/herself with the wherewithal to leave the voting board with absolutely no doubt that this candidate (of the six candidates interviewed) would be the best choice to take up the baton.
Jesus Manuel Berard, born in Havana, Cuba and raised in New York City joined the Philharmonic in the summer of 2017 after being unanimously voted in by the board. In an interview with the Capital Gazette last year, president of the philharmonic board Susan Pearl said, “There really was no argument… In May the selection committee brought its findings to the board with Berard at the top of the list and the board unanimously approved it.”
And now, a year later, Maestro Berard is celebrating his first anniversary as conductor and musical director.
Listed in the 'About' column beneath the 50th Anniversary page under 'Musical Director', Maestro Berard’s bio is well documented. But what does he want to bring out of this talented group of men and women to give to Prince George’s County that sets him apart? Berard told The Suite:
“Despite being born and raised a Latino, my conservatory education was steeped in the great classical tradition, what we humorously refer to as 'the music of dead European white guys.' As critically important as this tradition is, there's a host of great music being written today—by men and women [who are] not necessarily white Europeans who've been influenced not only by the classical tradition, but by other cultural sources as well. The musical world is richer, more diverse than ever," he says.
"It’s wonderful and vitally important for an orchestra to reflect the community it serves. In my view, cultural diversity is one of the great strengths and promises of Prince George’s County, and the 53 year-old Prince George’s Philharmonic has long been at the forefront of diverse, quality programming. The orchestra itself is not only good and big, but richly diverse in its membership, and so are the great soloists we invite to perform with us. I want to capitalize and build upon these two tremendous assets of the Philharmonic—quality and diversity—so that we are known throughout the county not only because we’re its official orchestra, but because the music we perform is in some way relevant to every county resident; that there is always something every season that can be enjoyed by anyone, whether they’ve ever experienced orchestral music or not,” Berard explains.
Berard is working on a soon to be released biographical book, "Why is that Guy Waving a Stick? Everything You Wanted to Know About the Orchestra"