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The KPAC Blog features classical music news, reviews, and analysis from South Texas and around the world.

Akiko Fujimoto, On Conducting 'The Nutcracker'

Liz Garza Williams

When AkikoFujimoto took over the helm of conducting the annual San Antonio Symphony performances of "The Nutcracker" in 2012, she had never conducted a ballet before.

"I knew that it was a completely different genre of conducting," Fujimoto says. She turned to a colleague that's been conducting Tchaikovsky's score for years, Boston Ballet's Music Director, Jonathan McPhee. "He said to watch out [because] how dancers interpret tempo is different than how musicians talk about tempo. We opened the score, and we went through everything page by page."

Now in her third season of "The Nutcracker," Fujimoto says she noticed something toward the end of last year's run. "I started to get comfortable enough that I started to really watch [the dancers'] feet right above my head, more than the orchestra. You always want to look at both, but the ratio started to get higher in looking at the dancers, which is a good thing, because the orchestra knows this piece so well."

Yes, about that...

There are eleven performances of "The Nutcracker" this year, not to mention rehearsals and student performances. That's a lot of waltzing flowers and dancing Sugar Plum Fairies. Is it tough to stay motivated?

"We might all pretend to grumble about it, but at the end of the day, the musicians know that this is some of the best symphonic music ever written, and it features the orchestra brilliantly," Fujimoto says, adding that at the Tobin Center the pit is able to accommodate a full-size orchestra, unlike the Symphony's previous home, the Majestic Theatre. 

"The repetition of it can be challenging," she continues, "but I usually find that once we're in the performance, once we are playing, we sort of leave those feelings aside. [The musicians] perform beautifully every time."

Performances of "The Nutcracker" continue through Sunday, December 7 at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts.