Meet Sameer Patel, one of the youngest symphony conductors in the world

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By Pradip Rodrigues

Sameer Patel is a voracious reader and a great conversationalist. Given his many interests, he can hold his own on just about any subject, including music!

On November 3, Sameer Patel Associate Conductor of the San Diego Symphony Orchestra and Associate Conductor of the Sun Valley Summer Symphony will be conducting the Mozart Experience for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at Roy Thompson Hall.

He is currently one of the youngest western classical music conductors in the world and is arguably among the best.

A recipient of 2016 and 2017 Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Awards, Sameer is currently in his second season as the Associate Conductor of the San Diego Symphony, where he was promoted after serving only one season as Assistant Conductor.

A lot of people mostly South Asians often wonder how a kid born to Gujarati immigrants in the US gravitate toward western classical music rather than become the stereotypical doctor or a Wall Street financial whiz.

In an interview with Can-India, Sameer credits his parents for encouraging him to learn to play the piano. “My parents had no musical background and unlike so many Indian immigrant parents who tended to push academics and sports on their kids, my parents believed music should be an important part of my education and started me on piano lessons at the age of nine. I guess they had no expectation I would pursue it as a profession,” says Sameer.

Sameer was born and raised in Michigan, he was like any ordinary kid who discovered his passion for music after which there was no turning back.

He joined the school band but found himself intrigued by the role of the conductor, which led him to study music at the University of Michigan.

The role of conductor allows Sameer to do what he simply loves doing- connecting with people and being the ambassador for the concert experience. “I think it is really important to demystify the art which is why I always go to the lobby after a concert to talk to the audience, especially kids and ask what they liked about the concert,” he says.

“There is something very powerful listening to live music. I used to have a math teacher who said something really powerful- “Listen with your eyes.”

Sameer has carried that advice and passes it on to young people. “When you watch a live concern, you are a triggering a self-perception as you watch something being created and listen. Watching an orchestra hard at work to create works of beauty touches us and can be the engine of empathy,” he adds.

Sameer’s parents immigrated to the US via Kenya and continue to have strong ties to India. In December 2015, Sameer and his family visited his grandparents in their village not far from Vadodara. The trip was special as it was really a great experience being in a home with four generations present.

Whether it is visiting India or traipsing across Europe, Sameer finds himself enriched by every one of his travels. He is so looking forward to his visit to Toronto a city he used to visit as a child with his parents. “We lived in Michigan and once in a while we accompanied our parents to Toronto where they shopped for Indian stuff on Gerrard Street. I have fond memories of the city and always look forward to an opportunity to visit,” he says.

The Mozart Experience is designed to appeal to both adults and children who are given a glimpse into the fascinating life of Mozart. It will transport the audience on a fun-filled and educational journey through the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

One thing Sameer is committed to doing is giving the audience, especially children ‘the best possible experience because it could be a child’s first and only time attending a concert’.

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