Justin Freer

September 02, 2016

1. Q: You made your first conducting debut when you were a teenager. How did your entrée into music begin?
I was given two CDs when I was a very young child – one with Solti conducting Mahler 5 and another called By Request the Best of John Williams and the Boston Pops Orchestra. I knew immediately after listening to these astounding recordings that I would be a composer and conductor, it felt like a calling very early on.

2. Q: What was it like growing up in Huntington Beach?
I love Huntington Beach, such a laid back and fun city. To this day one of the only things I consistently can turn to for minimizing stress levels is the ocean, I like to think that had something to do with growing up as half fish.

3. Q: You studied music composition at UCLA. How did that experience influence your career today?
I think studying composition makes us better conductors, and studying conducting makes us better composers. I was lucky enough to be trained in both by some wonderful teachers and I adore so much how these two art forms work so well hand in hand together. I would have never met Jerry Goldsmith if it wasn’t for UCLA and he had a profound impact on my childhood listening to so many of his genius film scores. That I was blessed with an opportunity to study with him before he passed away is an experience I will always cherish.

4. Q: What inspired you to bring a full orchestra to a film experience?
I think the art of film music is one of the most important in all of music history, and certainly John Williams’ score to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is one of the great scores in our literature. When music and film work well together it is magical, you can’t describe fully the power of music in film when it works well, but certainly seeing and hearing it live in person is like no other experience anywhere else available. That 90 musicians can play the entire music score synchronized to picture from beginning to end, all on stage with a movie screen above them, is both a testament to how far technology has come and to the power of the art form itself.

5. Q: What film was your first with CineConcerts?
We launched with the Ridley Scott classic, Gladiator, with music by Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard. Here we are many films and several years later launching the Harry Potter Film Concert Series loving every minute of each project we can share with other musicians, and of course the public at large.

6. Q: What do you want audiences to take away from seeing “The Godfather” and “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone”
with a live orchestra at Segerstrom Center for the Arts?
If we on stage have found a way to emotionally connect with even just one person in the audience, then I think we’ve done our job. I hope that people can take away a newly found or stronger appreciation for what music can do for a film. Film without music feels naked and without a certain kind of purpose. The drama of Nino Rota’s score to The Godfather and the magic of John Williams’ score to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone both represent some of the best music in our craft, set to some incredible film making. What a treat to experience an orchestra performing the music score right in front of your eyes as the film is simultaneously screened.

7. Q: What are some of the challenges of this production?
Keeping the music in synch from beginning to end is both mentally and physically exhausting, but ultimately incredibly rewarding. These music scores were never meant to be played live, back to back to back music cues for several hours. These projects are very demanding for the musicians on stage and for me on the podium, but the opportunity to collaborate with some of the world’s finest musicians is a very humbling experience each and every time. I believe we have a responsibility to preserve and present this art form, so I hope we’re contributing in some small way.

8. Q: You’ve performed with some of the world’s most renowned orchestras, composed music for films and for Major League Soccer Championship Cups. Now, you’re in demand as a composer and conductor for everything from orchestral literature to chamber music at the world’s most renowned concert halls, festivals, music clinics and conventions. What are you most proud of?
Raising two beautiful daughters and the woman I’m married to, a lot to love there.

9. Q: What's a typical day like for you?
Very long! Starts early and ends late generally, filled with music making and life, wouldn’t want it any different.

10. Q: What's currently on your playlist?
I just recently listed to Dave Grusin’s amazing scores to The Firm and The Goonies, he’s an incredible talent. I rounded out my morning today with some Dixieland and will likely have some 80’s pop music on at some point before an upcoming concert in my dressing room, good fun rekindling with the every day music of my childhood. One of the more impressive recordings I recently rediscovered after a few years apart from it was the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Simon Rattle performing Belshazzar’s Feast. Fantastic.

11. Q: What’s your most prized possession?
The impetus to wake up in the morning and try and create something each day.

12. Q: What’s next on your “to do” list?
Probably fixing something at my house, seems to be always something to do there.

13. Q: Who were your musical heroes in your formative years?
The list is long! Shostakovich, Bach, John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, George Gershwin, Bobby Shew, Miles Davis, McCoy Tyner, Mahler to name a few.

14. Q: What do you love about being a conductor?
Collaborating with the many musicians around the world that make up some of the great orchestras in our business – making art with like minded colleagues is very rewarding.

15. Q: What do you like doing outside of music?
I really enjoy white water rafting, roller coasters and just about anything that comes with a hefty dose of adrenaline.

16. Q: What or who inspires you?
People that create something good for the world is admirable, I hope we can all approach our lives with that same desire in mind.

17. Q: If you had to choose a different career, what would it be?
I have very few regrets, but one of them is not committing to BUD / S after my undergraduate work to become a Navy SEAL. A very big part of me wanted to be a SEAL and then come back to music. Alas, I continued my music studies but will always admire the many unsung SEAL heroes out there.

18. Q: Where is home today?
Right now home is a hotel in Tokyo as I prepare to conduct Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone with the Tokyo Philharmonic, but my family and I call Los Angeles home.

19. Q: What types of music do you listen to that might surprise us?
I was born in 1980 so I’m very much an 80’s pop music sucker. I enjoy very much Depeche Mode, Cyndi Lauper, The Bangles, Falco, a-ha and others.
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