After over two decades, Maestro David Mairs is stepping down from his role as Music Director of the Mid-Texas Symphony, a professional orchestra that plays in Seguin and New Braunfels.
“I think that it's part of life,” he muses philosophically about the departure.
Mairs had two tumors removed from his liver last fall, and a later scan discovered four more, for which he’s being treated. “Other than getting fatigued, I feel fine,” he says.
Speaking on two levels, Mairs continues, “You just have to figure out ‘when is this season of life going to end?’ So I let Mid-Texas Symphony know last year that I thought that this was a good time. And then they can move on, and so they've been nice enough to say 'yes let's celebrate our 40th [season as an orchestra].'”
But Mairs is a music-maker, and has been his whole life. Before Mid-Texas, he worked at both the San Antonio Symphony, and Youth Orchestras of San Antonio (YOSA). What’s ahead?
“Mark Rogers from the old Southern Music Company came to me a year or two years ago and said, 'look we've been reborn,'” Mairs explains, referencing the re-establishment of the longtime music publisher based in San Antonio. “He said they don't have people who are can write quality music for your second and third high school bands, your middle school bands, which they would call grade three and grade four. And he said, 'would you be interested in doing that now?' I said ‘yes’ because I've been arranging since I was in college, and I've loved it.”
However, Mairs goes on to explain that he’s always felt nervous about composing. “The ‘little man’ on my shoulder appears again constantly and says ‘you can't do this.’”
But the restrictions of writing for grade school-level bands and orchestras, he says, are actually a good thing. “It really takes away that angst,” Mairs says, referring to feeling the need to compete with other contemporary composers. The limitations he has to set on himself to write for students are actually liberating, Mairs explains. “It allows me the freedom not to get hung up in what am I going to write, and I can maybe contribute to young kids playing something that will be meaningful… something that they'll like so they can grow in their music.”
In the meantime, there is a show to do, and the Mid-Texas Symphony opens their 40th season at 4 p.m. on Sunday, September 17 at Jackson Auditorium in Seguin. On the program is Beethoven’s “Emperor” piano concerto, and Jean Sibelius’ heroic Symphony No. 2.
Daniel Anastasio, a former student of Mairs’ during his time at YOSA, returns home to play the solo part on the Beethoven concerto.
“I met Daniel in 2002,” Mairs remembers. “He was only about 12 or 13. Lo and behold, several years later he won our Young Artist Competition for Mid-Texas Symphony.” Anastasio has since gone on to a career as a concert pianist, and is based in New York City.
The Sibelius was inspired by a generous donor to the orchestra, whose favorite piece is the Sibelius Second Symphony. “Why not?” Mairs says with a smile. “For a long time, the Sibelius Second has been the most well-received.”
It’s clear that although this is Mairs’ last season with the Mid-Texas Symphony, there’s plenty more great music to come, this season and beyond.
Nathan Cone, Texas Public Radio
See Events for upcoming concerts in the 40th Anniversary Season