ALEXANDER MICKELTHWATE - Classical Music Ambassador

Music Director Alexander Mickelthwate

As published in the April/May 2018 issue of Stylus Magazine
(CKUW 95.9 FM)

- By John Iverson

I first met Alexander Mickelthwate twelve years ago at a press conference that introduced him to the arts community as the new Music Director of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.  I was immediately captivated by his positive attitude, his enthusiasm, and his community spirit.  Born in Frankfurt, Germany, this well-liked and respected Maestro came to Winnipeg from a conducting position he had held in California.  It was an adjustment for him to say the least, but he moved his family to Winnipeg and made our cultural arts rich city his new home.

Alexander served the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, and indeed the Manitoba arts community, above and beyond what his position required of him during his twelve years here.  Under his leadership the orchestra became more immersed in the community than it had ever been previously, and this is clearly unprecedented.  There have been concerts in the park, at the Forks, and at various other venues throughout Manitoba outside of their regular concert calendar.  There were initiatives and activities involving everyone from budding musicians to the under thirty crowd and seniors, and no one has been deprived of the opportunity to enjoy live classical music.  Two fine examples of this are his co-founding of Sistema Winnipeg, an intensive music education program that focuses on children with the fewest resources and greatest need, and the creation of the Indigenous Music Festival.  As a result the orchestra now boasts a palpable presence in our community on a year-round basis.  Much of this success can be directly attributed to Alexander Mickelthwate and his ongoing commitment and dedication to our artistic community, and to classical music as a whole.

Alexander’s skill at leading the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra is clearly evident to anyone attending concerts he has conducted, right from the very moment he arrived here.  And there have been so many outstanding concerts over these past twelve years, including a milestone performance at Carnegie Hall in New York.  And he brought the WSO's New Music Festival to new heights.  He continually promoted audience interest in live classical performance.  He was superb at what he did, and he strove to be the best that he could be, and in turn he made the orchestra better.  And he gave so much of himself to achieve this.  The results are certainly clear to see, as the orchestra has enjoyed many successful years under his guidance, both artistically and financially.  The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra is in a very favourable position now, thanks in large part to Alexander Mickelthwate.

As a volunteer host of a radio program that features classical music, and is committed to promoting the music and activities of local artists and ensembles, I was delighted to have Alexander come down to our station every September to talk about the orchestra's upcoming season.  He was always readily accepting of the invitation to come down to CKUW and help promote the orchestra and its activities for the forthcoming concert season.  He came dependably every single year during his tenure here, and he did this primarily on his own personal time.  To me this speaks volumes about his commitment to the orchestra, and indeed to our arts community.

I know that I am only one of many who will miss Alexander when he moves on at the end of this concert season.  And so we now welcome a new Maestro, and he has big shoes to fill.  Hopefully he can continue to build on the legacy that Alexander Mickelthwate has set forth.  The bar has been set very high.

So if you happen to run into Alexander, or have the opportunity to speak with him before he departs, don’t forget to say “thanks” for everything that he has done for our orchestra and our community, and wish him well in his new endeavours.  Our artistic community has lost a great advocate and leader, a key player in our cultural landscape.

Auf wiedersehen Alexander, and thanks!

Hear music performed by the WSO on Shades of Classics on
Campus/Community Radio CKUW 95.9 FM in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

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