I met Darrold at the SoHoTea & Coffee Café at the corner of 22nd and P in DC.
He was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts on June 29, 1941. The son of a construction worker and an electronics factory worker, he comes from a modest family with a strong affinity for the arts. His mother and older brothers sang and his father played guitar. Darrold was no exception. He started performing with his family at an early age. His dedication paid off too, getting him accepted to study music at the prestigious Juilliard School for Music in New York City.
In 1970 he founded the Urban Philharmonic, a nonprofit symphony orchestra that performs high quality music in diverse urban settings without all the formality often associated with symphonies. Maestro Darrold moved the Urban Philharmonic to Baltimore and then to DC in 1978. He and the Urban Philharmonic have been here ever since. Darrold says he likes DC. “I like that I can see the moon rise and set,” something he says he wasn’t able to do in NYC. “I miss Manhattan though; the quantity and quality of the arts and performing arts.”
“The Washington community is just beginning to harness its own political power,” he states. This sounded a bit strange to me because I usually think of Washingtonians as being politically savvy so I asked him to expand upon this. “The institutions here are powerful, however, until recently the people themselves have not had any power.” He talks about how former Mayor Marion Barry used his power to leverage the power of the people. I can see that, but he also used his power to benefit himself tremendously. Not to mention that he was a convicted on various counts of drug use and tax evasion.
The conversation naturally moved to music and Maestro Darrold told me how excited he was to conduct Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony, Eroica. “It’s an interesting piece,” he says as he paints me a mental picture of Beethoven running off to follow Napoleon to try to understand war, pain, death and dying. “Beethoven succeeds in sharing his inner most feelings with the listener; this is what makes him so great!”
I asked him what great musicians influenced him when he was young to pursue a career in music. He grinned widely and told me that Billy Holiday and his mother. “She was soprano and had a beautiful voice,” he told me still smiling
I loved feeling the excitement in Darrold’s voice when he spoke about the Urban Philharmonic. Due to a lack of donations, the Urban Philharmonic came critically close to fading away for good. But Maestro Darrold dug deep and found the strength to push on. He is fighting now to keep the organization alive. At almost 70-years-old, he is committed to bringing back the Urban Philharmonic with an aggressive schedule of six concerts this next season. To do that, it will depend on donations from people like you. If you would like to learn more about the Urban Philharmonic or make a donation, please click here.
Darrold is going to use the $10 to help buy food this week.
Below is a brief video of part of my conversation with Darrold. Hear first-hand what it feels like to conduct a symphony!
Note: I was so impressed with the potential of this organization that I have agreed to volunteer some of my time to help with strategic planning and overall management of the organization.
UPDATE: Nov. 14, 2013
I’m sad to share that I learned yesterday that Maestro Hunt passed away last Wednesday Nov. 6th at his home. I don’t have much more details at this time, except that there is a memorial service being held on Friday Nov. 15th at the Church of the Holy City (Emanual Swedenborgian Church) located at 1611 16th Street NW (16th & Corcoran). Doors open at 6:30 p.m. followed by service at 7pm.
Darrold exuded love and kindness. His enthusiasm and passion could hardly be contained within his body. It was impossible not to be moved by his ardent smile which he shared unselfishly. DC, and the world of music, has lost one of the greats.