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Thomas Wilkins, Beating the Odds
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Author: By Greg Braxton
African-American Conductor

When conductor Thomas Wilkins takes his place at the podium in front of a major orchestra, he knows what he won't be doing.

"I used to wave my arms a lot when I was starting out my conducting career," said Wilkins, principal guest conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. "It was a very physical thing for me. But ultimately I learned that less is more. There are physical benefits of not over-conducting."

He added, "It's about trusting the orchestra, which allows me to put more focus on the essence of the music, the shape of the sound. The better the orchestra, the less need for them to be timed."

Wilkins, who will guide the orchestra Friday through Sunday in the Bowl's fireworks finale, "Blame It on Rio," is also aware that no matter what he does with his arms, he instantly attracts attention -- not only of musicians, but of audiences -- in another, more subtle way: He is one of the few African American conductors leading major orchestras.

As music director of the Omaha Symphony and resident conductor of the Detroit Symphony, Wilkins is gaining recognition as the ranks of major conductors grow more culturally diverse.

Venezuelan Gustavo Dudamel will make his debut next month as music director of...................

article continued at http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/arts/la-et-blackconductors9-2009sep09,0,5274113.story

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