Arts January 13, 2017

Passionate About Music

New symphony director embraces growing, enthusiastic audiences

Music from “The Wizard of Oz” emanated from the Sun Valley Pavilion as Jenny Krueger and Sun Valley General Manager Tim Silva walked the perimeter of the Pavilion lawn where nearly 9,000 people were enjoying the Sun Valley Summer Symphony’s Pops concert.

It was a record-breaking crowd. And Krueger, the symphony’s new executive director, wanted to see how lawn speakers and other things could be enhanced to provide a better experience for the symphony’s ever-growing audience.

“We grew our audience at every concert this year, with more than 50,000 people altogether. If there’s one thing I’ve noticed with this organization, it’s that there’s one trend you can count on, and it’s growth. We need to be prepared for that growth.”

Krueger came to Sun Valley in June from Lafayette, La., where she had directed the Acadiana Symphony and spent Sunday afternoons tapping her foot to the music of the sons and daughters of those who forged Cajun music.

She hit the ground running as she tried out various seats in the Pavilion and the lawn to learn what the experience was like. “What struck me was how experienced our audience was,” she said. “I remember sitting on the lawn during the Prokofiev performance. Prokofiev, though brilliant, is not a top 10 audience favorite, and I assumed the audience would not be very engaged. But pianist Joyce Yang finished and the lawn audience jumped to their feet. In my opinion, the only thing that counts is when you’re so moved that your immediate reaction is one like that.”

Krueger grew up on a horse ranch near Las Cruces, N.M., where she was introduced to classical music by her grandmother, a concert pianist from Madrid who trained at a conservatory in Hong Kong. Krueger spent Saturdays and Sundays practicing flute for the sheer joy of it. And it paid off when she won all-state as a freshman.

At 15 she won an audition to play professionally under a feisty, fiery Italian conductor. And the intoxicating applause convinced her that music was her calling. She played with the El Paso Symphony, then accepted a job teaching music in her hometown. “I realized then how passionate I was about music education,” she said. “It was where I thought I could make the biggest impact.”

In Lafayette Krueger co-created “Do Re Mi,” using music to teach 4-year-olds reading and math.

She’s eagerly delved into creating new experiences for the 400 youths involved in the Sun Valley Summer Symphony’s Summer Music Workshop and the 300 youths enrolled in its School of Music. She brokered a partnership with the Blaine County Schools for symphony cellist Ellen Sanders to teach cello and lead the chamber orchestra. And she’s working on a student music exchange that she says could be life changing for students involved.

Krueger has embraced her new life in Sun Valley, which she calls “paradise on Earth,” with equal relish. She made the rookie mistakes of wearing flip flops to go camping and white pants to go hiking, as dust turned them beige. But she loved being able to pack a full day of activities in after work, thanks to Sun Valley’s long summer days. And she loves being able to go camping a few miles north of Ketchum after work, returning to the office the next morning.

Jenny Krueger. Photo by Nils Ribi, courtesy SVSS.

Jenny Krueger. Photo by Nils Ribi, courtesy SVSS.

“My 11-year-old son Ben loves being able to be outside and the freedom he’s experienced here,” she said. “And he has learned how to engage with adults because everyone is so friendly. He liked that he could walk into Johnny’s Sub Shack and they’d say, ‘Hey, Ben, how’s it going?’ ”

Krueger was not disappointed by the symphony, either, as it performed a wide range of selections from “Firebird” with its giant puppets created by those who created the puppets for “War Horse,” to Mahler Symphony No. 3 in D Minor, which featured the largest orchestra to ever perform here.

“Wow! It was the finest orchestral experience I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a lot of them. It was eye opening how good they are,” said Krueger. “Our crowds were unbelievable and the musicians so happy. We work hard to plan things according to how they figure into what Alasdair (Neale) calls the Gross Domestic Happiness quotient.”

She and Music Director Alasdair Neale have spent many hours going over the components of the upcoming season to keep it fresh and make sure it meets the expectations of an audience that has come to expect every season to top the season before.

Krueger is full of exciting new projects and ambitious ideas, said Neale: “Jenny brings to the Sun Valley Summer Symphony an infectious blend of energy, experience and personal charm. I’m very much enjoying our partnership in shaping a vibrant future for the organization.”

Longtime Board Member Carol Nie praised Krueger’s efforts to collaborate with various arts organizations: “The symphony has always been a future-oriented organization. It has never stood on its laurels, always trying to bring new musical experiences to the Wood River Valley. And Jenny is on top of that. “

The kick-off for the 2017 season will salute the Pavilion’s 10th anniversary with an encore performance of “Hymn of the Sun,” which was commissioned for the Pavilion’s debut and “Fanfare to the Common Man,” which honored the late Earl Holding, who built it.

“I wish I could have met Mr. Holding—such a gift he gave us,” Krueger said. “Even Kristin Chenoweth was very inspired—moved by the Pavilion and the symphony. She said it was so magical here, and she’s been all over.”

The season will close with the rarely done “Verdi’s Requiem,” featuring some of the biggest names in the vocal world, along with 150 chorus members and an antiphonal brass providing surround sound.

The classical garage string trio Time for Three will conclude its three-year residency with a concert featuring original works and their arrangements of pop favorites. And the symphony’s trumpet section will perform together during the In Focus Series.

“Our trumpet section is the best in the world,” said Krueger. “To have them all here together will be something that’s not to be missed.”

This article appears in the Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.