When the Modesto Symphony Orchestra's new conductor, David Lockington, takes the baton this weekend, the objective is more than music. His goal is the truth -- seeking it through music and understanding the composers behind the works.
"I want people to love the journey of discovering music," Lockington said.
The conductor and director of music spoke by telephone from his Michigan home. He amplified his views on music and his deep appreciation of those who write it. "I hear things in texture -- light and shadow and sometimes color. It's also emotional archaeology. You are exploring the past with your own talent.
"Music is a whole mixture of things, and some are very affected by the life of the composer."
He cited Dmitri Shostakovich. "You can hear in his music that he lived in the Soviet Union and that he was being repressed as an artist and human being."
Then there's Ludwig van Beethoven and his work for quartets, Op. 132. "(That) was a prayer of thanksgiving after an illness," Lockington said. "There's this calm feeling that turns to playfulness. That's a key part of plugging into the power of the universe. Beethoven had such suffering and he was not broken by life. That's his gift."
Lockington stands in awe of Henryk Gorecki's Third Symphony, which put concentration camps and suffering into music.
And on another plane, he mentions Bach and Mozart and their ability to touch God.
"Every piece of music has its own environment and journey," Lockington said.
He will try to share historic keys of understanding and the background of composers during his preconcert talks with symphony audiences. The talks begin one hour before the concerts and last about
Lockington has seen how music can give people new horizons. "My chiropractor (in Grand Rapids) just started coming to the preconcert talks and to the concerts," Lockington said. "It's changed his life. Now he's bought a subscription and it's opened up an emotional world to him."
Lockington said he always strives to discover how the lives of composers fit into the music they made. "Rossini lived to be quite old, but his composing career was over when he was 30. Mendelssohn died in his late 30s and Mozart in his mid-30s," he said. "They wrote sophisticated music early in their lives, and the wisdom they poured into their music has survived."
Mozart's genius remains a marvel, Lockington said. "His symphony written just before he died was both dark and light and entertaining and fluffy, but this symphony was almost considered emotionally subversive (at the time). It's very personal and brooding. There's a lot of light, but also fire."
The markers that set Lockington's course to music came early. His childhood was spent on the south side of the Thames River in London. "I was outdoors a lot," he recalled. "Soccer and friends. I played in a wonderful world that no longer exists."
His lifetime love of music began within his family circle. "My father was a cellist. Listening to him play -- I loved the music he played with such passion."
Lockington began on the piano at age 8 and he was singing at 9. His professional career started at 11.
"I was cast in 'Noah's Flood' and that was a springboard to an audition for the English National Opera. I was the alto of three boys in 'The Magic Flute.' "
It never occurred to Lockington to be nervous during childhood auditions or performances. "I had a fair amount of experience, but as a kid, you don't think about (what's happening). You sing on stage and all you can see is the floodlight.
"But I had kind of a spark as a kid, and like some kids, I felt comfortable on stage. For me, even during the first little operetta, 'Pirate Captain,' I got it -- it was just fun."
Later, his father started a youth orchestra, and that combined a few things he loved. "Playing with other people was like you're sharing these emotional secrets on stage," he said.
From singer to solo cellist with his father, Lockington gradually turned to composing as a teenager and then to conducting. "After I played with the national youth orchestra, conducting provided a different pull. I really liked steering the music. A soloist is almost lonely. You focus and then it's back to your room."
Composing has not left him altogether, but today, "I write when it hits me, usually for special occasions."
While conducting was his inclination from age 20 on, he said he wasn't ready until experience seasoned him. He has filled that position in Grand Rapids since 1999.
As much as music means to him, family is at the heart of who he is. "I would like to be remembered as a good father and husband; all those familial relationships are central to my life," Lockington said.
He and his wife, Dylana Jenson, a concert violinist, have four children.
Mariama, 22, is "teaching in Daly City. I see her more now than in the four or five years she was going to college here in Michigan."
Eva, 20, is a junior in college in Grand Rapids. "She couldn't stand being asked if she was David Lockington's daughter, so she changed her name to Jenson (her mother's maiden name)."
Devan, 16, is a "great hitter and baseball player." Lockington said he's been to thousands of games and is "a big baseball fan."
Inessa, 6, is the artist, "a drawer and our family's earliest reader."
Lockington said if he could choose his legacy, he would "want to be remembered as a man of integrity -- that I am a man of my word -- and a man who poured his soul into everything he did.
"Also, I hope they remember me as someone who served music and his communities well."
Bee staff writer Roger W. Hoskins can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2311.