Alasdair Neale applauds the local community

  It’s obvious that Conductor Alasdair Neale has a passion for music. The long-time music director of the Sun Valley Music Festival (SVMF) has led orchestras all over the globe and there’s nothing he enjoys more than collaborating with a group of talented musicians to perform for an enthusiastic audience in a beautiful place.

   That’s why he loves Sun Valley and the Wood River Valley community so much.

   “Pavarotti said that applause is oxygen for him. It’s the same for most musicians. It helps us breath,” Alasdair said. He added, however, that it’s more than just applause and the fresh mountain air that makes Sun Valley such a magical place to perform.

   “There are so many things that make Sun Valley special. The physical beauty is absolutely something special. The Pavilion is an extraordinary site to play music, but the people really make it,” Alasdair said. “The wonderfully close and reciprocal relationship between the musicians and the audience is unlike any other relationship I have ever seen between the orchestra and the community.”

   Born in England and raised primarily in Scotland, Alasdair’s career has led him to conduct everywhere from the American West to Australia, with dozens of other orchestras in between. In addition to the SVMF, he serves as music director for both the New Haven and Marin symphonies. This summer, Conductor Neale celebrated his 25th year at the helm of the annual summer orchestra in Sun Valley.

   “I didn’t know anything about Sun Valley when they first brought me here, but I fell in love instantly,” Alasdair said, noting that the leaves were falling on that fateful bluebird day. “It has been an amazing journey. It has brought me more excitement, and beauty, than I could ever have imagined at the time. I never take for granted how truly fortunate we are.”

   Under Conductor Neale’s leadership, the SVMF (formerly known as the Sun Valley Summer Symphony) has grown from 40 musicians to over 100, including some of the finest guest musicians in the world like Renée Fleming, who said the Pavilion was one of the best facilities she’d ever seen.

     “The musicians appreciate the excellence and generosity of their colleagues. They love the venue and being in the beauty of the West,” Alasdair said. “And they appreciate the support of the small, tight-knit community.”

    Musicians stay with local families during the six-week concert series. It is one of the big reasons why Sun Valley is able to host the largest free symphony in the country. Anywhere from three to seven thousand people enjoy the symphony on any given evening.

   “We feel the excitement of the audience. Everywhere you look there’s a palpable joy in the air,” Alasdair said about performances in Sun Valley. “There’s a deep, enduring power that reverberates long after the music has stopped. It’s a real powerful and beautiful thing.”

The Sun Valley Music Festival is currently planning their Winter Series. Go to for more information. For more information about The Chamber, go

All photos courtesy of Nils Ribi and the Sun Valley Music Festival.

By Mike McKenna

This story originally appeared in the Weekly Sun.

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