Dominique Royem, Music Director of the Fort Bend Symphony Orchestra as well as Music Director and Conductor of Bayou City Concert Musicals, was in college when she conducted her first orchestra. As part of a class, she conducted "How Lovely is Thy Dwelling Place" from the Brahms Requiem. "I had fun," she tells us, "but didn't think anything about it. After the performance, Dr. Robert Linder, who happened to be in the audience, pulled me aside and told me that I had a spark that 'couldn't be taught' and [that I] should pursue conducting professionally. I said 'Uhhhh... sure?' and that was that."
Soon after that, Royem was appointed as assistant conductor for a production of The Marriage of Figaro. At the time she had only a small amount of training, but it was then that she first called herself a conductor. "The title of conductor or music director is a job description, but it's one you have to earn. [With that production of The Marriage of Figaro,] I jumped head first into something I didn't fully understand. Things move very quickly in the theater world, and there is no time for self-doubt. Through that experience I learned that I had to call myself a conductor if I wanted to be one; no one else could bestow the title on me."
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What she does:"As a conductor, I am a guide. I guide audiences into new experiences through the creation of concert programs and seasons, helping the audience and the orchestra create community through the act of live music. I'm also a leader, but I don't really dictate direction as much as [I] actively create [a] space where it is possible for the musicians around me to do the best job they can at any given moment. During a concert, I find the best path through a musical work for that specific moment in time that allows every musician on stage to perform with utmost musicality."
Why she likes it: "Most people consider being a conductor a selfish, self-indulgent pursuit, one someone engages in to feed their ego. I actually like conducting because of how much collaboration it requires." She works to get lost in the music, Royem says, to create an enjoyable musical experience for both the audience and orchestra. In order to do that, "no ego need apply."
What inspires her: "The power music has to move you comes from the passion that each musician is pouring into the work, magnified by the number of musicians on stage. It is that passion and dedication, from so many people, that inspires me."
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If not this, then what: "I wanted to be an astronaut when I was growing up, but that hope was dashed by bad eyesight. Realistically, if I was not a conductor, I would want be leading a non-profit as an executive director, or operations staff. I love helping people create art, and the act of creating opportunities for other artists doesn't only happen on stage."
If not here, then where: "My heart will always belong to Chicago, my hometown, but all I want is to create art and help others create and experience art - and I can do that anywhere! Houston is a fantastic town for this - I don't think there is a better place I could be!"
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What's next: "Fort Bend Symphony Orchestra's ... popular annual Christmas concert, Deck the Halls, is [coming up] on December 7th. [Houston Baptist Univeristy's] Schola Cantorum will joining us and we will have Mayor Scarcella of the City of Stafford reciting Twas the Night Before Christmas. On December 14th, I'll be giving a lecture for Bayou City Concert Musicals on Music as Drama."
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