Naze named conductor-in-residence for the NW Edvard Grieg Society

SEATTLE – To think that the current conductor-in-residence for the NW Edvard Grieg Society almost gave it all up.

“I’ll be honest, a number of times, even since I finished graduate school, I’ve really questioned what I am doing and whether it’s sustainable and whether I can handle another rejection,” said Abbie Naze. “But I stuck with it, kept my options open, and finally this opportunity came up.” 

Naze ’15, majored in music, with her main instrument as the cello, and after she graduated Minot State, she set on an impressive career as a conductor. She served as conductor of Pierce College Orchestra while an adjunct faculty member and was most recently named conductor-in-residence of the NW Edvard Grieg Society.

At MSU, lessons with Erik Anderson, low strings professor and Division of Performing Arts chair, stressed the analysis of the multiple voices found even within one-instrument pieces, jumpstarting Naze’s interest in conducting.

“In many pieces written for solo instruments, such as the Bach cello suites, the music is written in a way that there are multiple voices, even though it is one solo line,” she said. “And Dr. Anderson had me dissect it and play just the first line or first part in order to then see the difference in the various voices. Taking a piece and dissecting it into its various parts and then putting it all back together is a lot of what a conductor does.” 

After learning more about what the duty of a conductor entailed, Naze started leaning towards it, seeing how she was inclined to appreciate the role given her previous experience in music.

“The conductor takes all these individual pieces and creates one cohesive sound for the audience, knowing which parts to bring out more here and where to soften or lessen parts in another area,” she said. “Having that experience as a solo cellist, I recognized that I could have the same sort of experience on a larger scale as a conductor, and that was very appealing to me.”

During her senior year at MSU, Naze firmly decided that conducting was the career path she’d take at graduate school after she won the concerto competition with the Minot Symphony Orchestra and had the chance to play the cello, front and center stage, with the rest of the orchestra.

“I took the time to not just study my solo part, but I also studied the individual parts of the entire orchestra,” Naze said. “When I was playing the concerto in performance, I knew what was happening all around me and all the various parts, the oboe, the other cellists, the violins, and the timpani. I knew how my individual part was supposed to fit with all the rest.”

Following an inspiring senior year at MSU, Naze traveled to the University of Washington in Seattle to complete her master’s in orchestral conducting where she was offered a full scholarship and a stipend to study conducting and be a teaching assistant. But even more than the financial advantage, Naze had a rare educational opportunity to advance her conducting skills. 

“The Seattle Symphony, which is a professional-level orchestra, had an amazing conductor at the time, Ludovic Morlot, who essentially became my second teacher,” she said. “That’s a really rare opportunity for conducting students at that level to be able to have an educational experience where they get to learn directly from a professional conductor of a professional orchestra and observe rehearsal with some of the best musicians in the world.

An impressive career of conducting at various masterclasses and festivals around the world, directing multiple choirs and ensembles, and contributing to the NW Edvard Grieg Society succeeded Naze’s college career.

“As it existed before I came into the picture, the NW Edvard Grieg Society was really a small set of musicians who chose to program smaller, more intimate works. They’ve been established for a number of years. But now my part in it is to try and incorporate more string orchestra repertoire or even full orchestra,” Naze said. “So it benefits both of us in that I get the opportunity to conduct musicians and a string orchestra, and they get the opportunity to present a larger variety of music to their audiences that they wouldn't normally get to do without a conductor.

“In addition, my Scandinavian heritage has always been something I’ve been passionate about, just as many North Dakotans are. And so this is a special opportunity for me to be able to share the music that I love of my heritage and even learn more about Nordic composers.”

Following her expressions of happiness and gratitude at having the opportunity to get involved with the NW Edvard Grieg Society, Naze reflected on her years as a conductor after college so far.

“All these times of trying to put myself out there, it's made it worth it because now I'm actually doing something that I'm really passionate about, instead of just picking a different career or taking a job that I wasn't excited about," she said. "So, I hope that, in a way, it's like a motivation for people not to give up and not to settle for a job or a career that they might not be as passionate about, and to trust that, if they keep their options open and work hard enough — and make the right connections with really solid people who care just as much and want to support them— more opportunities will happen.

"It will all be worth it.”

About Minot State University
Minot State University is a public university dedicated to excellence in education, scholarship, and community engagement achieved through rigorous academic experiences, active learning environments, commitment to public service, and a vibrant campus life.

Published: 05/26/22   

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