100 Creatives

100 Creatives 2012: Viswa Subbaraman

When Viswa Subbaraman was an undergraduate at Duke University, he had no idea where he would end up. He had played trombone and violin, but music as a career to him did not seem like an option. He had come from a family of doctors and was planning on becoming one himself -- that was, until his sophomore year. It was while studying abroad in Vienna that he realized that his passion was music and that he wanted to be a conductor.

Today, only a little more than a decade later, he is the Artistic Director and founder of Opera Vista, a company he has been running in Houston for the last five years. He says that the mission of Opera Vista is to make opera more accessible to our generation and to make opera a lot more fun. "People come, hang out, drink wine, and talk about opera."

In addition, he has already conducted many symphonies with different orchestras all over the world, including Paris, London and New York.

What he does: He already has an extensive résumé that includes degrees in music and biology from Duke University and a master's in Music from Texas Tech. He speaks five languages fluently including German, French and Italian. He served as an assistant conductor of the Orchestre National de France and was the first person to ever receive an extended Fulbright grant by the French Fulbright Commission.

What inspires him: Viswa Subbaraman has had a lot of great teachers over time. He mentions some of the conductors he worked under while at Duke that have helped build him into the person he is today, but he then says that his biggest inspiration has been his mentor Kurt Masur, Music Director of the Orchestre National de France in Paris.

"A 75-year-old musician who has conducted every major work and has studied every major work and can talk about music in a way of such depth of experience it just blows your mind, the way he conceptualized music was very much like I did...and to have someone at the level who felt the same way I did gave me permission to do it as well. In a lot of ways he changed my career, he changed the way I look at music and he really changed the way I conduct."

If not this, then what? Although Viswa couldn't see himself doing anything else, after thinking about it a second he says that if he weren't doing what he's doing, he would like to have been a college basketball coach. When asked why that is, he says:

"I like the idea of the leadership, the organization that goes into making music, and there are a lot of similarities to being a conductor and being a coach because you're trying to inspire, you're trying to put people in the position to make great music or to make great plays, and I think that idea is very similar."

If not here, then where? Eventually he would love to get back to conducting opera and orchestras, but for now Houston is where he will remain, at least for the next five to seven years. He is working on a strategic five-year plan for Opera Vista. His goal is for Opera Vista to become more self-sufficient and he believes Houston deserves a company like Opera Vista to be successful.

"I would love to see Opera Vista grow and become a very solid part of the Houston art scene."

What's next: At the moment he is busy planning Opera Vista's annual festival, a festival he describes as being "kind of like American Idol for Opera." He will also be conducting a concert with the East Texas Symphony in April, where he will be doing his first Beethoven's Fifth symphony.

More Creatives for 2012 (In order of most recently published; click here for the full page).

Emily Sloan, sculptor and performance artist Sonja Roesch, gallery owner Enrique Carreón-Robledo, conductor Sandy Ewen, musician Camella Clements, puppeteer Wade Wilson, gallery owner Magid Salmi, photographer Carl Williams, playwright

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