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The Mind Over Finger Podcast

Feb 7, 2020

Today I’m really excited to speak with internationally recognized conductor James Gaffigan. 

I think you will resonate with James’ message and I hope that you walk away as inspired as I did after speaking with him!

In this episode, James discusses:

  • How he learns a score, from first glance to performance
  • How he likes to approach rehearsing with musicians and how their perspective on a work influences his own interpretation
  • His advice to young musicians on how to succeed as an orchestra member (and why he always looks at the back of the section!)
  • What he means by “Trust creates magic” and how important it is for him to create trusting relationships with all artists


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You can find my favorite websites, cds, as well as the other podcasts I like to listen to and the amazing books recommended by my podcast guests!


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Hailed for the natural ease of his conducting and the compelling insight of his musicianship, James Gaffigan continues to attract international attention and is one of the most outstanding American conductors working today.

James Gaffigan is currently the Chief Conductor of the Luzerner Sinfonieorchester and Principal Guest Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, recently extended for the third time. Since becoming Chief Conductor of the Luzerner Sinfonieorchester James has made a very significant impact on the orchestra’s profile, both nationally and internationally, with a number of highly successful tours and recordings. In recognition of this success his contract has been further extended until 2021.

James is in high demand working with leading orchestras and opera houses throughout Europe, the United States and Asia. The 2019/20 season features re-invitations to the Chicago, San Francisco and Detroit Symphony Orchestras, Orchestre National de France and Czech Philharmonic, as well as debuts with Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal, Melbourne Symphony and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra.

He undertakes four major opera productions in the United States including La Cenerentola at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Ernani at San Francisco Opera, Don Giovanni at Lyric Opera Chicago and Tristan and Isolde at Santa Fe Opera.

The 2018/19 season saw James make his debut with the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks and return to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, National Symphony Orchestra, WDR Sinfonieorchester and BBC Symphony Orchestra. In the US he made house debuts at Metropolitan Opera for La bohème and San Francisco Opera for Carmen while European productions included a new production of La Fanciulla del West and Don Giovanni at Bayerische Staatsoper and Porgy and Bess at Dutch National Opera. Regularly conducting at major opera houses around the world, James’ recent appearances include La bohème, Don Giovanni, La Traviata and Le nozze di Figaro at the Wiener Staatsoper; Così fan Tutte, La Cenerentola and Falstaff at the Glyndebourne Festival; Salome for Hamburg Opera; La bohème for the Opernhaus Zurich and Così fan tutte for Chicago Lyric Opera.

James also works internationally with many leading orchestras and recent guest appearances include the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, London Philharmonic, Münchner Philharmoniker, Orchestre de Paris, Orchestre National de France, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Deutsches Symphonie-orchester Berlin, Dresden Staatskapelle, Wiener Symphoniker, Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra, Zurich Tonhalle, Seoul Philharmonic and Tokyo Metropolitan.

In North America he has worked with New York Philharmonic and the symphony orchestras of Philadelphia, Cleveland, St. Louis, Baltimore and Toronto, among others. Born in New York, James was named first prize winner of the 2004 Sir Georg Solti International Conducting Competition.

In 2009, he completed a three-year tenure as Associate Conductor of the San Francisco Symphony, in a position specially created for him by Michael Tilson Thomas. Prior to that appointment James was Assistant Conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra, where he worked for Music Director Franz Welser Möst.


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Most sincere thank you to composer Jim Stephenson who graciously provided the show’s musical theme!  Concerto #1 for Trumpet and Chamber Orchestra – Movement 2: Allegro con Brio, performed by Jeffrey Work, trumpet, and the Lake Forest Symphony, conducted by Jim Stephenson.

Also a HUGE thank you to my fantastic producer, Bella Kelly!