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Kirk Trevor

ENTREPRENEURIAL MAESTRO

As the orchestra neared the end of its 50th season celebrations in May 1985, the Knoxville Symphony Society announced that Kirk Trevor would be the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra’s music director and sixth conductor commencing with the coming season. He was the unanimous choice of the board’s search committee even though Mr. Trevor remained committed contractually to the Dallas Symphony Orchestra as its resident conductor through the 1987-88 season. His leadership of the conducting program at the SMU Summer Conservatory in Dallas kept him largely in that city until late summer. However, this was at a time when there was nonstop commercial air service between Dallas and Knoxville; and, by September, he was in place and anxious to begin his first tenure as a music director and conductor of an American symphony orchestra.

Kirk Trevor was born in England and graduated cum laude in cello performance from London’s famed Guildhall School of Music. He continued postgraduate conducting studies there with the doyen of leading British conductors of the day, Sir Adrian Boult, as an assistant conductor in the orchestra and opera programs. A British Council Scholarship soon followed for Mr. Trevor to study in France with famed cellist and master teacher Paul Tortelier, one of whose protégés a decade before was another English cellist, Jacqueline Du Pré. He came to the U.S. in 1975 on a Fulbright Exchange Grant for further cello studies at North Carolina School of the Arts at Winston-Salem, but was again drawn to the podium, becoming an assistant conductor there, too. During this time he was also a cellist in the Piedmont Chamber Orchestra. Appointed an associate conductor of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra in 1977, in his five-year stint there Mr. Trevor conducted over 250 concert performances with the orchestra, while also serving as music director of both the Charlotte Regional Ballet and the Charlottetowne Players opera company.                                                          

A transformative step in Mr. Trevor’s career occurred in 1982 when the prestigious Exxon Arts Endowment Conductor Program tapped him for an assistant conducting post with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, an opportunity to work steadily with a world-class orchestra under a world-famous conductor, Eduardo Mata. Maestro Mata quickly came to rely on Trevor, appointing him as resident conductor to add continuity and assistance in Mata’s substantial guest-conducting appearances and recording sessions with orchestras throughout the U.S., Europe, Latin and South America. During the 1984-85 season, Mr. Trevor guest-conducted the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra in more than 30 performances as that orchestra also searched for a new music director. Perhaps it was sheer luck that New Jersey did not snatch him, as the New Jersey Herald heralded one of his concerts there as “clearly its best of the season.”

As it began its 51st season, the KSO found it still had much to celebrate. . .and challenges to surmount. The Masterworks concert series was at last moved to the Tennessee Theatre, a wish of the Society since 1981 when Dick Broadcasting Company (its president, James Dick, had long been on the Society’s board and is, today, an Honorary Director) purchased and renovated the theater in time for the 1982 World’s Fair. The KSO’s Chamber Classics series was presented there its first two seasons (1981-82 and 1982-83); however, moving the existing large-orchestra Masterworks series required more planning. These concerts would necessarily be presented in pairs and stage improvements were needed. As Mr. Trevor wrote to the audience in his Notes From The Maestro in the program book for his tenure-opening program October 17 and 18, 1985: “I am sure you are already aware of the physical beauty of the hall, [but]. . .[w]e have had built for us an orchestral shell with its own [flat] overhead lighting system,” giving true sound in the hall while providing shadow-free non-glare lighting for the musicians on stage. Maestro Trevor concluded: “I hope tonight you will join me in looking back at so many goals and dreams realized, while looking forward with excitement to the new challenges that lie ahead in making the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra the best that it can be.”   The very first music heard those two evenings was Ludwig van Beethoven’s Third (and most regal) Leonore Overture, which Richard Wagner once described as “less an overture to a music drama than a music drama itself.” This overture apparently has great meaning for Mr. Trevor as well, since he returned to it as part of the celebration of his 10th season with the KSO – the opener to that season’s concluding subscription program on May 4 and 5, 1995. Back to that first program of the Kirk Trevor era, there was one further cause for celebration as the concerts concluded with Camille Saint-Saëns’s Third Symphony commemorating the sesquicentennial of the composer’s birth.

The concert the following month opening the 5th season of the Chamber Classics series continued with programming flair from the new maestro. All four works programmed were performed for the first time by the KSO, including, before intermission, Carl Maria von Weber’s Second Clarinet Concerto played by the orchestra’s principal clarinetist, Gary Sperl (still with the orchestra today, 34 seasons and counting). As the audience trickled back into the Bijou Theatre auditorium following intermission, they saw people well-dressed much like themselves, but not formally like the orchestra’s musicians, arriving on a stage furnished to replicate the 1920s Carlyle Square drawing room of siblings Edith and Osbert Sitwell in Chelsea, London. There, William Walton’s Façade, music to the onomatopoeic word-rhythms of Edith Sitwell, was first played on Sunday afternoon January 24, 1922 before about 20 friends with the composer conducting the musicians and Miss Sitwell calling out her “poems.” Gary Sperl was already on stage, cleaning, assembling and tuning his clarinet and bass clarinet, and he was soon joined, interspersed among the guests arriving on stage, by flutist Tyra Gilb (doubling on piccolo), trumpeter Cathy Leach (still with the orchestra today, her 30th season, 27th as principal), John Snyder on alto saxophone, cellist Christopher Moehlenkamp, and percussionist Neil Rutland. The reciters, arriving just in the nick of time, were Peggy Castle (“playing” Edith Sitwell) and Kenneth Griffiths. As things materialized visually on stage, Kirk Trevor came out from the wings and spoke with the audience, as if drawing them into the Sitwell salon as well. At the appropriate time, he strode over to greet the reciters and then paused ever so slightly before giving the downbeat. The presentation proved a genuine hoot all around, giving a taste of the theatricality Mr. Trevor had in store for Knoxville audiences.

Mr. Trevor’s first season revealed yet another facet of his vision that has been carried on by the KSO to the present, the regular commissioning of new works. On January 16 and 17, 1986 the KSO gave world-premiere performances of Water Gardencommissioned from American composer David Ott. Violist Paul Neubauer, appearing as soloist in Hector Berlioz’s Harold in Italy, was so impressed with the new work that he steered the KSO to commission a Viola Concerto from Mr. Ott that Mr. Neubauer committed on the spot to premiere with the orchestra, which was done March 16 and 17, 1989. Meanwhile, another KSO commission from Ott was premiered on the Chamber Classics series April 11, 1987, his Concerto for Alto Saxophone with soloist Debra Richtmeyer, who later recorded the work. The first subscription season under Mr. Trevor concluded April 24 and 25, 1986 on a program featuring another world premiere, Symphony No. 60, “To the Appalachian Mountains,” by Alan Hovhaness, commissioned by Martin Marietta Energy Systems, Inc. in recognition of “Homecoming ’86,” a statewide celebration of the cultural heritage of Tennessee.

The concluding work on the above January 1986 Masterworks program was Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, commencing the most detailed attention to the symphonic canon of any composer by a KSO conductor. Within the programs of both the Masterworks and Chamber Classics subscription series, Mr. Trevor and the KSO traversed all nine of Beethoven’s symphonies within his first five seasons, through 1989-90. At the conclusion of his 18 seasons, Mr. Trevor had programmed two cycles of Beethoven’s symphonies, lacking only a scheduling of the Fourth Symphony to complete a third. In fact, Mr. Trevor went on to program Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony a fourth time, and concluded his performances of Beethoven’s symphonies with the KSO on January 23 and 24, 2003 with a third scheduling of the Pastoral Symphony. Near the end of his tenure, there were a few who thought Maestro Trevor had over-played this repertoire, but there is no disputing the positive effect music by Beethoven has on box office receipts.

For the 1986-87 season, the Masterworks series was expanded from seven to eight concert pairs, with the season opening a month earlier in September. In his Notes From The Maestro that month, Mr. Trevor proclaimed, with some well-founded pride as it turned out: “One of the most distinguished faces you will see in the orchestra is our new concertmaster, Mark Zelmanovich, who joins us from the esteemed Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.” At the time, Mr. Zelmanovich was also Artist-in-Residence at the University of Tennessee, later becoming Associate Professor as well. He appeared as a violin soloist with the orchestra numerous times, and even more often played extended violin solos within orchestral pieces, such as Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben and Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade.  He would remain concertmaster for 24 seasons, through 2009-10, the longest of anyone to so serve and honored still today as the orchestra’s only titled Concertmaster Emeritus.

Without the usual fanfare of Notes From The Maestro, the final Masterworks program of Mr. Trevor’s second season, April 23 and 24, 1987, began the monumental cycle of his storied tenure, a cycle of all symphonies composed by Gustav Mahler, starting with the First. It was a cycle that would actually remain unfinished, in that the orchestra never played Mahler’s Resurrection (Second) Symphony under Trevor; however, he indicated that the omission was a conscious one since the Resurrection was performed just prior to his arrival, under Zoltán Rozsnyai on October 14, 1982 as the city overflowed with foreign dignitaries gathered to mark the closing ceremonies of the 1982 World’s Fair. “My first thoughts,” he wrote recently, “were to do the ones that had never been done,” after doing the First Symphony. In addition to the Resurrection, the KSO had only previously performed two of the Mahler symphonies, once each: the First Symphony under David Van Vactor on January 19, 1965 (its 30th season), and the Fourth Symphony under Zoltán Rozsnyai on April 5, 1979 with soprano Gail Robinson. The apex of Mr. Trevor’s Mahler cycle came in his 7th season, April 23 and 24, 1992 with, in Trevor’s words, “the largest performance of the Mahler 8 anywhere in years.” Subtitled “Symphony of a Thousand,” the Eighth Symphony was played by 115 KSO musicians (several doubling on more than one instrument), and a chorus of more than 600 drawn from no fewer than nine choral organization throughout the region, requiring the KSO to return to Knoxville Civic Auditorium in order to accommodate the forces required. After later repeating the First and Sixth Symphonies, the Third, and longest of the cycle, was done during Maestro Trevor’s valedictory season on March 27 and 28, 2003, again requiring a chorus, but one that could still be accommodated in the Tennessee Theatre.

The 1987-88 season, Mr. Trevor’s third, began in September with the first KSO appearance by violinist Midori. That concert also marked the last time the Masterworks series audience had the benefit of guidance from KSO program annotator George DeVine. George had followed David Van Vactor here in 1947. For the UT Music Department, he was department secretary and, later, librarian and lecturer in music history and literature. For the KSO, he was a bassoonist and librarian until the mid-1960s, and was now ending his 40 years of note-writing due to failing eyesight. George Devine passed away in summer 1999 at age 84, and Kirk Trevor dedicated the September 23rd and 24th KSO subscription concerts that fall to his memory, taking care to conclude the program with Peter Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony, the work that concluded that first KSO program in 1947 for which George had provided program notes. No single individual has meaningfully touched in so direct a measure more of the KSO’s audiences than has George DeVine.

On the other hand, the 1987-88 season saw the addition of two annual programs. In December the KSO presented the “Clayton Homes Holiday Concert” billed as “a special Christmas concert” of “holiday season favorites” at Knoxville Civic Auditorium.  Taking advantage of the auditorium’s show lighting and staging capabilities, Mr. Trevor sought out experienced producers and writers Mary Lou Horner and Kathy Hart to create themes and scripts “to hold the musical numbers together.” This program grew into an annual December run of five performances in 1999 and 2000, before settling into its current annual cycle of four December performances, now running at 24 years and counting. The program was, and is, made possible through James Clayton and family, sponsored by his business interests – Clayton Homes, Clayton Volvo, and Clayton Bank. Mr. Clayton, long-known and active in the community with many entrepreneurial and philanthropic hats, has been on the board of the Society since 1987, serving as president, 1991-93. He is also remembered by some of this city’s “older set” as a country music artist with his own local television show from the 1960s and ‘70s. On Sunday May 8, 1988, Mr. Trevor and the KSO, with the Knoxville Choral Society, inaugurated the second added program, a Mother’s Day performance of George Handel’s oratorio, Messiah. This annual Mother’s Day concert continued through 1995, except that the program changed for three of those years: 1991 and 1995 produced Joseph Haydn’s The Creation, and 1993, Felix Mendelssohn’sElijah.

As the orchestra commenced its 54th season, the KSO received word that in October 1988 it was to be recognized as Tennessee’s most outstanding arts organization at the Governor’s Awards in the Arts ceremony to be hosted in Nashville by Governor Ned Ray McWherter. The biennial award was initiated in 1971 to “recognize outstanding achievements, contributions, and support of the arts by individuals and organizations who make Tennessee an exciting place to live.” In that same month, the orchestra announced jointly with The City Ballet the collaborative presentation of three ballets, in pairs (six performances), for the coming season – Rosalinda (based on the Johann Strauss operetta Die Fledermaus), and Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker and Swan Lake. A local organization, The City Ballet allied with the Cincinnati Ballet (and, later, the Tulsa Ballet) to bring accomplished dancers to headline these productions with the KSO as pit orchestra. The series lasted the remainder of Mr. Trevor’s tenure, through 2002-03, or 15 seasons. Combined with annual performances of The Nutcrackerby the KSO and The Appalachian Ballet Company, a series that has been in place since 1972 (and continues to this day), the annual number of DecemberNutcracker performances by the KSO reached as high as eight during this time. The Masterworks program February 16 and 17, 1989 featured a performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina burana, typically for orchestra and chorus, this time including dancers with The Appalachian Ballet. The January 1989 program was the first of several subscription programs to be presented In Memoriam during Mr. Trevor’s tenure. Concluding with the second KSO performance of Serge Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony, the program was presented in memory of James H. Marable, a cellist for more than thirty seasons with, and later, an assistant conductor of, the KSO, who had passed away the previous November. Dr. Marable (he was a highly regarded nuclear physicist with cutting-edge computer skills) was the first conductor of the Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestra when formed in 1973 principally through the efforts of Dr. Marable and his wife, Barbara, a longtime KSO violinist, with financial support from the Knoxville Symphony League.

1989-90, Mr. Trevor’s fifth season with the orchestra, contained a certain celebratory air. The November Masterworks program continued with the third installment of the Mahler cycle, the Ninth Symphony. The January Masterworks program marked the world premiere of yet another KSO commissioned work, a piano concerto from American composer Joseph Lawson, performed with James Swisher as soloist. The commission was made possible by a contribution from longtime KSO patron Dr. Frank B. Galyon, Jr., who passed away in 2007 at age 83. The April Masterworks program concluded with William Walton’s large-scale masterpiece for baritone, chorus and orchestra, Belshazzar’s Feast. For the final Chamber Classics concert of the season, Maestro Trevor selected works to highlight the skills of the orchestra’s violinists, featuring four of them, each in one of the concertos of Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, plus concertmaster Mark Zelmanovich in the violin solo (Dance of the Tailors) within the orchestra’s performance of Richard Strauss’s Suite from his incidental music to Le bourgeios Gentilhomme. This concert exemplified two characteristics that marked Kirk Trevor’s tenure throughout. The first was his penchant to set aside at least one Chamber Classics program each season (sometimes more) for multiple soloists drawn from ranks of the KSO. The second was his tendency to program often music that had its origin in a stage production – a play, opera or ballet. There is an added layer of emotion, and often an episodic flamboyance, contained in such music which Maestro Trevor was most adept at communicating. His fifth season concluded in a May 1990 Masterworks program that ended with Dmitri Shostakovich’s powerful and intensely theatrical Fifth Symphony.

No sooner had the season ended, the American Symphony Orchestra League announced in June 1990 that Kirk Trevor had won its prestigious Leonard Bernstein conducting competition, leading the National Symphony Orchestra at Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. As jubilant as the KSO and its supporters were at this news, it was dampened one month into the 1990-91 season when the namesake of the award died October 14, 1990 at age 72. In his memory, at the orchestra’s November 1990 Masterworks concerts, a visibly moved Kirk Trevor led the orchestra in a performance of Leonard Bernstein’s “Somewhere” from his Symphonic Dances drawn from the composer’s Broadway and film triumph, an American opera, really, West Side Story. Fittingly, the program ended with Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony, as it was already scheduled before Bernstein’s passing. But even before October’s tragic news, two days before the start of the KSO season the sadness hit much closer with the announcement that Zoltán Rozsnyai had died in San Diego. Kirk Trevor paid tribute to his predecessor by announcing that the entire Chamber Classics program on October 6th would be in his memory. The gesture was fitting in so many ways. The Chamber Classics series was founded by Maestro Rozsnyai, and this was the opening concert of its 10th season. The orchestra had scheduled all six of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos that season, works Rozsnyai believed were core to the chamber orchestra repertoire; and, Mr. Trevor saw to it that the program, in addition to the Third Brandenburg Concerto, was stocked by music toward which Rozsnyai felt similarly disposed. Added to the program were two works in which Kirk Trevor appeared for the only time in his tenure as a KSO subscription program cello soloist: Gabriel Fauré’s Elégie for Cello and Orchestra, and Vivaldi’s G-Minor Double Cello Concerto (with guest cello soloist Denis Brott), a work which Maestro Rozsnyai had conducted on his first appearance as guest conductor following his tenure as the KSO’s fifth conductor. Fortuitously, the Society began presenting the Chamber Classics concerts in pairs the following season, 1991-92, adding a Sunday matinee to the existing Saturday evening performances.

There were more KSO memorial tributes to follow during Kirk Trevor’s tenure, and he prepared respectful programs each time, revealing his regard for others and his art. David Van Vactor, the KSO’s third, and longest serving, conductor died in Los Angeles March 24, 1994 at age 87. The Masterworks series finale for the 1993-94 season on May 5th and 6th, originally set to open with a typical concert overture, was changed to include Mr. Van Vactor’s Salute to the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, a work the KSO had commissioned from the composer for its 50th season celebrations in 1984-85 and had opened the December 1984 program for which Mr. Van Vactor was guest conductor. Conductor Eduardo Mata, whom Kirk Trevor freely acknowledges even today as his mentor, died January 4, 1995 at age 52 when his private plane crashed in Mexico.  Along with conducting the Sixth and Fifth Symphonies of Beethoven in Mata’s memory the following February 23rd and 24th, Maestro Trevor, now in his tenth KSO season, published in the program booklet a moving full-page tribute to Mata, a tribute that acknowledged the elder man’s incredible influence on the KSO’s sixth conductor. Edna Duncan, who came to Knoxville as a music teacher in 1929, and was a patron of the KSO since its founding, died October 29, 1997 at age 92. When she retired from teaching in 1973, she began to volunteer much time in service to the orchestra, serving three stints as KSO manager during the 1970s and early 1980s. The Masterworks concerts on November 13th and 14th, already, fittingly, had scheduled Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony, the Pathétique, now performed “in respect and admiration for the remarkable contributions [Mrs. Duncan] made to our community.” In addition to the memorial performances for George DeVine already noted previously in this chapter, another program announced for November 9 and 10, 1995 is worthy of mention here, comprised of John Corigliano’s Symphony No. 1, Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, and Richard Strauss’s Death and Transfiguration. In his Notes From The Maestro directed to this program, Kirk Trevor reminded that music can range across many emotions, “joy and sadness, agitation and tranquility. . .Death is a subject we have touched on before. . .by the losses of some universal figures as well as personal friends in the music world. . .during my [KSO] tenure.” Corigliano’s Symphony No. 1 was selected for this program for its “great emotional impact. . .drawn from the composer’s dedication of his work to those who have died of A.I.D.S. In Mr. Corigliano’s own words ‘the symphony was generated by feelings of loss, anger and frustration. . .and I wanted to memorialize in music those I have lost and reflect on those I am losing to this most ugly and deadly disease, for which no cure has yet to be found.’” Mr. Trevor went on to remind that A.I.D.S. “ha[d] recently struck our own KSO community with the death of former horn player David Coobs. . .We pray that the world’s medical research will soon find a cure for this terrible disease.” The composer was to be present for the KSO performances. He experienced an unavoidable scheduling conflict, but was still able to address the Tennessee Theatre audience via video tape made for the occasion. 

            As he was ever attentive to the memory of friends no longer with us, Mr. Trevor was ever mindful of music’s future. During his tenure, the Society commissioned and the KSO gave subscription-concert world premieres of no fewer than 18 works, plus the world premiere of another commissioned by Martin Marietta. For the first time, world premieres occurred on the orchestra’s Chamber Classics series, one series program presented February 5 and 6, 1994 containing two world premieres by alto saxophonist Kenneth Radnofsky: Gregory Dmitriev’s Concerto and Allen Johnson’s Nightsong. The orchestra’s most ambitious commissioning undertaking was its Millennium Fanfares Project, the world premieres of four individually titled fanfares with the common subtitle, “Fanfare for a New Millenium,” each presented on separate concert pairs from September through November 2000 as the world ushered in the new millennium. To cap the series in January 2001, the KSO presented yet a fifth commissioned world premiere, Fanfare for a River by Hilary Tann, inspired by the composer’s visits to Knoxville and a quotation carved in the pavement at Volunteer Landing on the Tennessee River: “’Like a river flowing, past merges with present to become our future,’ Wilma Dykeman, Tennessee State Historian, Novelist and Educator.” From Afar was commissioned from Ms. Tann by the Society and premiered by the KSO in November 1996, and her With the heather and small birds received its Tennessee premiere to commence the 20th anniversary season of the Chamber Classics series September 9 and 10, 2000, the only year in which the KSO season commenced with a Chamber Classics program.

A significant speed bump during Kirk Trevor’s tenure – a serious one at the time – proved to be relatively short lived. In September 1993 the Society announced that it ended the 1992-93 season, Mr. Trevor’s eighth, with a $150,000 deficit, “the first significant shortfall in over a decade,” and as a result, “the KSO’s artistic quality and services to the community are now in jeopardy.” Audience and patrons were encouraged to become members of and contribute, or increase their contribution, to the Society, thereby “investing in the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra – a center for excellence in music for over 50 years.” In the 26 months between April 1991 and May 1993, the KSO had presented nine large works with chorus, sometimes involving several area choral organizations, including the monumental Mahler “Symphony of a Thousand.” Compared to the typical orchestra concert with soloist, choral works usually present additional costs while box office receipts are diminished. In each of the next two seasons, only two choral works per season were presented, none on a particularly large scale. The KSO also undertook to expand from three to as many as seven programs (most in concert pairs), and marketed as a separate series, its KSO Pops concerts, while reducing its Masterworks series from eight concert pairs to seven. At the conclusion at the 1995-96 season, the Society closed the fiscal year with an accumulated surplus of $32,000 and at the end of the 1996-97 season announced that, as a result of record ticket sales, both season, series, and single tickets, the Society had a $96,000 surplus. In March of that season, the orchestra presented a “KSO Season Gala” pair of concerts with the ever-popular trumpeter Doc Severinsen to such success at Knoxville Civic Auditorium that he returned to perform another concert pair on the KSO Pops series April 7 and 8, 2000. The Masterworks series returned to eight concert pairs in 1997-98, where it remains today, and the KSO Pops series has gone on to generate a significant portion of the Society’s earned income.

Still, Maestro Trevor’s 10th season was not without fanfare, including an added “gala concert” program March 30 and 31, 1995 with violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg in a program of Richard Strauss’s Four Symphonic Interludes drawn from his opera Intermezzo, Ms. Salerno-Sonnenberg soloing in Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, concluding with Maurice Ravel’s brilliant orchestration of Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. This was followed a week later by a pair of concert performances of Giacomo Puccini’s last opera, Turandot. Two other KSO opera performances ensued in later seasons. In April 1999 George Gershwin’s masterpiece, Porgy and Bess, received three performances at Knoxville Civic Auditorium. Though the opera premiered in New York City in 1935, this KSO program was of the composer’s original score, with recitatives and cuts fully restored, as first performed in a concert version by Lorin Maazel and the Cleveland Orchestra in 1975. In Kirk Trevor’s 17th season, there was the concert version of Act I from Richard Wagner’s Die Walküre, in turn from the composer’s crowningRing-cycle achievement, presented October 25 and 26, 2001. Trevor recently recalled that these concerts were “especially important for me because I had been a Wagnerite since I was 13 and never thought I would ever get to conduct a Wagner opera, but these performances,” he said with discernable pride, “allowed the orchestra to prove itself in a genré it had never played before.”

“Hamlet,” however, Maestro Trevor has opined, “was artistically perhaps the most amazing thing that ever happened in my time [in Knoxville]. It was truly an amazing collaboration that took more than a year to bring off.” Hamlet, of course, was the KSO collaboration with the Clarence Brown Theatre at the University of Tennessee staged March 2000. It was an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s play with incidental music arranged, edited and adapted by Trevor from the Hamletmusic of five composers: famous feature film scores by William Walton and Dmitri Shostakovich, incidental music by Serge Prokofiev to a Soviet staging of the drama, Peter Tchaikovsky’s Hamlet, Fantasy-Overture after Shakespeare, Op. 67, and Franz Liszt’s symphonic poem Hamlet. There were “maybe 30 different musical scenes I created for this production, some long. . .some short,” said Trevor, creating what he termed a “symphodrama.” “I wanted to do more of them,” he recently recalled, “but the energy taken to do that one exhausted us all beyond measure. I still have three huge boxes of my notes,” he mused, as if he would like to revisit the project. “We probably went through 50 versions of text.” The musicians were visibly clustered about the actors’s stage entrances, with the brass stationed “on duty” on the castle ramparts 12 feet above the stage. Perhaps the most dramatic surprise occurred front and center when Kirk Trevor and Hamlet (Jack Paglen) exchanged baton for sword as a scene concluded with Hamlet directing the music and Trevor exiting the stage with sword in hand. This was Kirk Trevor’s idea, coming during rehearsals, yet he thought it was the only convincing way to end the scene, since Hamlet was “pulling everybody’s strings. . .It was one of those moments people. . .never forgot.”

As the 2001-02 season neared, Kirk Trevor entered the second year of his sixth three-year contract as KSO music director and conductor. Thus, it came as a surprise when the Society and Maestro Trevor announced that the current contract would be his last, carrying through the 2002-03 season. His final two KSO seasons were memorable and celebratory, and he seemed to make an effort to bring in distinguished soloists with whom he had a particularly warm relationship to help him say an appreciative and heartfelt au revoir. The first guest was pianist Alexander Toradze in his fifth KSO appearance, all under Trevor’s tenure. He performed Serge Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto for a second time, and the orchestra concluded the September 14, 2001 “Gala Opening Night Concert” at Knoxville Civic Auditorium by reprising Rimsky-Korsakov’sScheherazade.  For the January 26 and 27, 2002 Chamber Classics program, KSO audiences heard an arrangement by Trevor of familiar music, his version of Mendelssohn’s famous Octet for the strings of the KSO. Debra Richtmeyer, who on April 11, 1987 had premiered the Concerto for Alto Saxophone the KSO commissioned from David Ott, returned April 25 and 26, 2002 to perform her own transcription for soprano saxophone of Richard Strauss’s Oboe Concerto on a Masterworks program that included a reprise of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony. The following month, Ms. Richtmeyer and Maestro Trevor made world premiere recordings of the music she had played with the KSO 15 years apart, in the Bratislava, Slovakia studios of the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra with whom Trevor had developed a particularly close relationship. The Chamber Classics season finale May 4th and 5th gave the KSO audience an opportunity to hear a soloist with whom they and Maestro Trevor shared a strong connection. Chloé Trevor was born to Kirk and Heidi Trevor September 1, 1987, just as he began his third KSO season; and, now, the 14-year-old prodigy appeared on her first KSO subscription program in Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto.

Although his final season contained concerts led by candidates seeking to succeed him, Kirk Trevor continued to mix spectacular works and soloists with whom he enjoyed working. In September 2002, Midori made another “Gala Opening Night Concert” appearance, performing Jean Sibelius’s Violin Concerto, while the orchestra gave another energized reading of Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’sPictures at an Exhibition, the fourth program on which the work had appeared during Mr. Trevor’s years here. He looked to the KSO’s own principal trumpet, Cathy Leach, as soloist for the February 2003 Chamber Classics program, performing Georg Neruda’s Trumpet Concerto. She had been a soloist in Johann Nepomuk Hummel’s Trumpet Concerto in Trevor’s first KSO season, and numerous times in between. The program concluded, also for the fourth time, in a performance of Alberto Ginastera’s Variaciones concertantes, a piece that showcases at some point about every first-desk player in the orchestra. At the end of that month on the Masterworks series, Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem was programmed for its third time by Maestro Trevor. His “farewell” followed in May with Cliburn Piano Competition Gold Medalist Olga Kern in white-hot performances of Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto. The program also included Ravel’s La valse, poème chorégraphique, which was on the very first program Trevor conducted with the KSO when he “auditioned” for the post in March 1985; and his tenure concluded as Richard Strauss waltzes filled the air, his concert suite from his operaDer Rosenkavalier, a favorite Trevor had placed on three prior Masterworks programs.

That final season was filled with public accolades for Maestro Trevor, much of it within the leaves of the KSO’s program books published that year. In the March book, Bette Bryan, Society vice president of education and past president of the Knoxville Symphony League, particularly remembered Trevor’s “passion for education” as he expanded the Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestra to four levels, “the Sinfonia, the Sinfonietta, the Philharmonia and the Youth Orchestra,” giving children at all skill levels the experience “that only an ensemble can provide. . .Kirk,” Mrs. Bryan continued, “[was] also the creator and driving force of Strings in Our Schools, an innovative project to provide string instruction within our public schools” involving professional musicians from the KSO, the University of Tennessee and local public schools in the instruction of “more than 200 enthusiastic students learning to play a stringed instrument.” Of course, the annual concerts for school children at Knoxville Civic Auditorium employed by his KSO predecessors were continued with missionary fervor by Trevor. Mrs. Bryan reflected that “Kirk is constantly seeking new ways to make classical symphonic music. . .to foster and develop music lovers and music makers,” dubbing him the “Entrepreneurial Maestro.” In his own salute in the April-May book, Kirk Trevor thanked “[f]irst of all the [Society’s board], who are this organization’s greatest supporters. Through good times and difficult times, the KSO board has always been there. . .I just hope I got it right,” he said. “I showed up to the party in Knoxville at exactly the right time and hope I am leaving early enough so that you will notice my absence.” The board named him Music Director Emeritus.

In the two seasons following Kirk Trevor’s tenure, the orchestra’s Music Director Emeritus returned to guest-conduct three concert pairs. He and his then-23-year-old daughter, Chloé Trevor, both returned to Knoxville for the KSO’s 75th anniversary celebrations, performed in March 2011. In the years since leaving Knoxville, Trevor has continued his posts as music director of the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra (which he has held since 1988) and the Missouri Symphony Orchestra (since 2000), and principal guest conductor of the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (since 2000) with more than 50 recordings released with that orchestra. He has made another 80 or so recordings for Naxos Records involving several orchestras. Trevor continues, and has expanded, his work with the International Workshop for Conductors in Bratislava and other cities in both Europe and the U.S., and also holds other conducting workshops at U.S. and European universities and conservatories. He still maintains a hectic schedule of guest appearances on podiums throughout the world. Kirk Trevor, now married to Slovak harpist Maria Duhova Trevor, and their two young children, Sylvia and Daniel, maintain homes in Bratislava and Columbia, Missouri.

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This chapter, Kirk Trevor: Entrepreneurial Maestro, is written by Rudy Ennis. © 2011 Knoxville Symphony Society. All rights reserved. No portion may be reproduced in whole or in part without written consent from the Knoxville Symphony Society, 100 S. Gay Street, Suite 302, Knoxville, Tennessee 37902.