Yutaka Sado: an enthusiastic conductor impressing people around the world

Yutaka Sado, a conductor for the younger generation, is playing an active part in the world. He is the last disciple of Leonard Bernstein, a conductor in the twentieth century. Sado conducts many top-ranking orchestras in Europe and Japan. His activities expand through genres such as opera, chorus, wind music, jazz, pop and so on.

Seeking to be impressed by various forms of music, Sado conducts over one hundred performances a year, irregardless of whether they were at the professional or amateur level. In Europe alone, he has conducted 40 orchestras. His concerts are enthusiastically supported in every place.

In 1961, Yutaka Sado was born in Kyoto. He learned piano from his mother, an opera singer, and majored in flute studies at Kyoto City University of Arts.
He also studied conducting on his own.

He said, “I was interested in how I can create tones to attract the human heart rather than how I should play the flute. Impressed by tones, and interested in pleasing people, I thought I should perform the role standing at the podium to bring out the tones from musicians.”

Sado sought opportunity to direct anything, ranging from wind music clubs at high schools to chorus clubs organized by mothers. At that time, he had already believed that what moves peoples’ hearts is the same anywhere in the world.

At the age of 26, he applied, with little expectation, and received the opportunity to participate in the Tanglewood Festival, a gateway to success for young musicians. There, he was discovered by a conductor, Seiji Ozawa, and got the chance to have lessons from Leonard Bernstein in 1987. Sado’s global debut was at age 28.

“A conductor never plays a tone at all, so what is important is how to make about one hundred musicians willing to play, and also how to express each performance to the audience,” he said.

When reading scores, Sado stops to think at all times: What did Beethoven want to do? What did he try to express with this part? “If you have a passion to make musicians understand what you mean, they are willing to play, to get a feel for the meaning of the performance, and find the responsibility to put into practice.” He thinks that only learning music is not enough to express these words. “Though I sometimes made mistakes in past performances, I think the important thing in concerts is not to do well or make mistakes, but what you can leave behind at each concert.”

He is leading a renowned orchestra in France.

Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureaux in France, one of the orchestras where Sado is the principal conductor, is the oldest orchestra, with a proud history of over 120 years. This is a unique orchestra as it is self-operated by its members/musicians, whose mission is to spread classical music to the general public.

Sado became a principal conductor when he was only thirty-two years old in 1993, and brought up the level of Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureax, which had not been impressive. His reputation was established due to these achievements: Every succeeding time a concert was held, the number of audiences increased, and regular membership expanded to as much as four times. Ninety-eight percent of tickets were sold, occasionally attracting the activities of ticket scalpers.

However in 2005, Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureaux faced difficulty and was driven to give a final performance. Miraculously, on the day before the last concert, the media’s strong support and passion from fans and members moved the province and city of Paris to aid Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureaux.

The members call Sado “Leader,” and said they are happy to continue creating music with him. No contract exists between Sado and the members. In their own words, to sum the relationship: “We would like Yutaka to continue wielding the baton while he is passionate about us.”

Sado wrote on his webpage: “The orchestras I love and feel proud of the most are Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureax and Siena (Wind Orchestra). I am always thankful to them for teaching me to feel proud of where I work.”

At the end of every year, he conducts “Symphony No. 9,” where ten thousand people become united in chorus, from first graders to seniors. Rehearsing begins three months before the concert, which is only performed once. He said, smiling, that because of these tight schedules, he has to increase the number of rehearsals every year, but doing this drives him into a tight corner. He finds “music beyond music” with these concerts, like a sense of achievement after each performance, or a rediscovery of the fascination with music that makes all people kind.

He believes that clinging to courage is necessary to fulfill a dream. Sado devotes himself to training juniors, promoting communities related to him, and educational activities through music.

When he went to his old school, Kyoto City University of Arts, to give a lesson to the orchestra, he asked from the podium if they had any questions, as he wanted to let them know from the bottom of his heart that “the gate to dreams is open only for those who have courage.”

As expected, there were no questions. And so, Sado left a strong message: “I’m leaving now. Remember that all of you missed the chance right at this moment.”

There is no prospect for those who have no will to cling to. There are many who have only a dream.  But few possess a dream, evaluation, and continuous passion, and few have the will to conquer any obstacles. These are the very words from Sado, who focuses on what he likes, and takes action to fulfill his passion.

Sado has never stopped loving Kyoto, where he was born and grew up.”Leaving Japan, I realized how wonderful this city is. Each time I look at Kyoto from abroad, I think that it is a lovely place. After leaving Kyoto, I met Seiji Ozawa and Leonard Bernstein, and had experiences in different countries. These are meaningful to me, but having grown up in Kyoto is also a big influence on my improvement.