Carmon DeLeone, Cincinnati Ballet’s Music Director, is celebrating his 50th Anniversary with the company this season. In First Position wanted to know more about Carmon’s interests and inspirations. Here’s what he told us:
Who was the most pivotal person in your life when it comes to music, and why?
There are so many people who have influenced my life in music, but the word “pivotal” is the key here. The most important person in my early musical life was, and is, my high school band director, Edwin Marini. He prepared me to be a caring musician in both disciplines – the classics and jazz.
But the most pivotal person was definitely Miss Eleanor Allen. She heard this high school senior (me!) play an audition on French horn one day in Canton Ohio, and with her southern charm and kindness, she convinced me to pack up and head for Cincinnati where all of my opportunities have followed.
What’s the most challenging part of writing a musical piece or score…starting it or finishing it…and why?
Because I am not a “trained” composer of music, I have to lean on my experience as an interpreter and devoted fan of all the recognized great composers and their masterworks. So, both the act of beginning a piece – with the intimidation and self-doubt that comes with staring at a blank page of musical manuscript paper – and also the confidence required to ever call a piece of music finished, are imposing barriers.
Every time I conduct one of my pieces, even if it has been done dozens of times before, I invariably make a few changes – hoping they are “improvements” on the original. I have been flattered that people have asked me to create some pieces of music – I hope that they bring enjoyment to the listener.
If there was one particular story that you’d love to be able to set to music as a ballet, what would it be?
Good question. For a while, after I wrote the ballets “Peter Pan” and “Princess and the Pea,” I thought that my musical assignments had to incorporate the letter “P.” So, I was anticipating “The Prince and the Pauper,” or maybe the “Pied Piper of Hamlin”. However, our current “Dancing To OZ!” has broken that trend, and I am very grateful to be working on this wonderful story.
Aside from that, I’ve always loved the story of “Pinocchio” – that would be a fun project. On a more serious side, after witnessing the great play, “An Inspector Calls,” I always thought it would make a terrific staged musical, and the story of the “Golem” might also be an interesting subject for ballet.
Do you ever get “musical writer’s block”? If so, how do you get past it?
Of course! Sometimes it can feel as if it’s a constant. Lenny Bernstein suggested that sleep sometimes cures a writer’s block, and yes, I have found that many good ideas can present themselves as you try to fall asleep or just as you wake. More often, though, for me at least, ideas come from studying the way other composers have solved similar moments within their musical works.
Are there any particular instruments in the orchestra that you particularly like writing for musically, and why?
Well, of course I’m going to answer with the instrument that I have studied and loved all of my life – the French horn! Seriously, I am a fan of ALL the instruments of the orchestra, and I treasure how each and every one of their voices adds to the color of music. But, I do frequently tend to feature the dark, beautiful sound of the horn somewhere in my scores.
What’s your long-term dream – musically or otherwise – for Cincinnati Ballet?
I just hope that I can continue with this amazing organization for as long as possible – to continue to watch these beautiful, athletic dancers and provide the very best possible music for them. I also look forward to the day when Cincinnati Ballet can move into a wonderful, spacious home of our own. By the way, on a personal note, a yearly vacation spot in Wailea, Hawaii would also be pretty cool.