We caught up with Dr. Steven Errante, conductor of the Wilmington Symphony Orchestra. What we already know: He lives in Wilmington with his wife Sandy, who is the founder and director of the Girls’ Choir of Wilmington and owner of Kindermusik with Sandy Errante. Their two daughters are in college. Let’s get to know him a little better…
Livin Out Loud (LOL): Tell us about your early life: where were you born; what was the first musical instrument you ever played; what are some of your favorite childhood memories?
Steven Errante (SE): I grew up in the Detroit area with two younger sisters. My mother’s formative years were during the big band era and she was able to play the piano by ear, leading me as a very young kid to assume that’s what you do, and why not? So I imitated her by also playing by ear, as well as learning to read music in my brief stint as a piano student. My dad had discovered classical music in college because of an inspiring music appreciation teacher, and so there was a lot of Brahms and Mozart being played on the single-speaker phonograph when I was young. I remember how many 78-rpm disks it took to listen to just one Brahms symphony movement.
LOL: Are you a fan of The Beatles?
SE: I remember my younger sisters becoming fans when the Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan, but as a Beethoven lover, I would have none of it. That is until my 12-year-old self discovered if I played a Beatles song on the piano at school, 12-year-old girls would gather around.
Like every other kid growing up in the ’60s, I also played guitar and, with my musical friends, performed songs by groups like Peter, Paul and Mary. So it was a definite thrill a couple of years ago when Paul (Noel Paul Stookey) appeared as a guest with the Wilmington Symphony Orchestra.
Another connection with my youth will be made March 19 when the Wilmington Symphony presents Symphony Pops! and performs “Classical Mystery Tour” with a quartet inspired by the Beatles.
LOL: Tell us how you discovered a passion for music.
SE: My lifelong connection to music was encouraged by music teachers in the public system who challenged me to create arrangements and compositions for various school choirs and orchestras – I have no idea how they were able to determine that I was capable of doing such things. Before my senior year in high school, I spent eight weeks at Interlochen’s National Music Camp and watched Aaron Copland for an entire week rehearsing a concert of his own music, and that’s when I became sure I wanted to be a conductor and composer.
LOL: What’s the worst and best advice you ever got?
SE: When my wife Sandy and I moved to Wilmington in 1986, I was advised that the career path for a conductor was to keep moving every four years or so to a bigger, higher-budget orchestra. Not only was I not cut out for the kind of full-time self-promotion required for that kind of advancement, but we had two daughters and soon decided we loved Wilmington too much to want to move.
LOL: What are some activities you and your family do together?
SE: My wife and daughters are avid surfers and we also like mountain hiking, so our many family vacations have been spent in surfing locations, like Costa Rica and Southern California, as well as in the Appalachians, the Adirondacks and the Colorado Rockies.
LOL: What are some of the items you have left to accomplish on your bucket list?
SE: In my professional life as a symphony conductor, I’ve maintained a bucket list of the great works for orchestra. I still have quite a few of those left to perform, even after almost 40 years at this. But, lately, I’ve been thinking more in terms of what professional legacy I’d like to leave, and that is to make sure Wilmington has a healthy, well-supported symphony orchestra and especially younger generations of performers and audience members are cultivated and ready to be involved.
Dr. Steven Errante’s Principal Compositions
2007: Music for “Made of Salt and Water” (documentary film by Terry Linehan)
2003: Sing to the Lord a New Song (commissioned by the Vanguard Voices)
2001: Festival Dances (commissioned by the Dearborn Symphony Orchestra)
2000: Music for “Where Is Death?” (short film by Buckley Hubbard)
1998: Music for “The Anniversary Waltz” (short film by Terry Linehan)
1995: March, recorded by the North Carolina Symphony
1990: Symphony No. 2 (commissioned by the WIlmington Symphony Orchestra)
1986: A Celebration Symphony (commissioned by the Dearborn Symphony Orchestra)