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Fouad Fakhouri, Saginaw bay Symphony Orchestra

“I’ve always loved music and I am from a musical family -- a fourth-generation musician. My great grandfather was a medical doctor who worked at the hospital and was also the church organist and assistant to the pastor. He played the organ during Sunday services.

And then my grandfather was one of the pioneers in music for TV where I was born in Lebanon. So, in the 1940s and 50s, he was instrumental in writing music for television, and doing shows on TV.

My father also went into music – as a composer and an academic. He ran the National Music Conservatory in Jordan for about 26 years. The Conservatory was a project that Queen Noor of Jordan started. My father retired about seven years ago from that and now he just teaches college.

I started playing piano when I was five and that's an interesting story. I was not and I'm still not the best pianist. I was not very disciplined at practicing, certainly not when I was very young.

I remember when I was 12 or 13, a time when all of my friends were playing basketball outside and having fun, and I had to sit down at a piano and practice and I hated that. I heard my teacher talking to my father and saying, ‘You know, you're wasting my time. He's not improving, and he's not doing whatever he needs to do. So why do it?’

After she left, I remember my dad looking at me and saying, ‘You know what, you think you're going to get out of this, or you think I'm going to stop lessons, but I don't care if you spend all of my money. You will continue to take lessons and you will start practicing. And if you don't, this is not going to go away. It's going to continue until you turn around.’

Shortly thereafter, I started practicing more and more. And then we switched teachers. I fell in love with the last teacher I had when I was young. She was an older Armenian teacher in Lebanon -- we have a big Armenian community there -- and she was just brilliant. She motivated me beyond belief and I really started practicing very hard at that point in time.

So piano was my first instrument and then I played saxophone in band -- that was my minor instrument in undergrad. I sang in choir in college as well. I think that was one of the most important experiences for me as a musician, because I was part of a group of people. And when you sing, you rely completely on your own instrument -- your voice. That was very helpful in my development.

Around age 16 or 17, I decided this was what I wanted to do as a career. I applied to universities in Europe, Canada and here in the States, and I got accepted at University of North Texas, in Denton, near Dallas. They gave me a scholarship, which waived my out-of-state tuition, so it was a very good incentive to come. I completed undergrad there and then went to Penn State for my two masters degrees, and then back to North Texas for my PhD.

After that, I got a position as a conductor in North Carolina. And I did that for 11 seasons. As I was finishing that, I applied to Saginaw, and got the position at Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra as music director and conductor.

What attracted me to Saginaw – and still attracts me to the orchestra and the organization in general -- is the level of musicianship and the level of talent in this area. The artistic talent is unbelievable in Michigan. I think it's largely because of the great universities in this one small area that really produce terrific musicians.

And I love The Temple Theatre – our performance venue is wonderful. All of that was what was most attractive about the job in Saginaw initially. Then, coming to Saginaw and seeing the community and meeting the people, and how great they are and how civic minded they are ... I fell in love with Saginaw. That's why we bought our place here.

We love living in Saginaw. And I think the potential for this city is huge. It just needs a little bit of promotion and a little bit of attention to its strengths. I feel like people take it for granted. But it is very special, very unique.

I typically don’t work in the city I live in. I'm almost always working in another city. I have the SBSO and another orchestra in Texas, the Wichita Falls Symphony Orchestra, so I'm always traveling to my jobs -- that's the nature of my work, which makes it easy for me to live anywhere. My wife Diane's job is in New York, so we have a home there, in Manhattan, and our home here in Saginaw.”

- Fouad Fakhouri, Music Director and Conductor,  Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra