Youth Symphony: Michael Neumann

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Q. This year marks your 30th anniversary with the Sacramento Youth Symphony. How would you sum up the journey?
It’s been absolutely very gratifying—otherwise, I never would have continued to do it. Working with young people who are so motivated, so enthusiastic and so open to learning has been an inspiration to me.

Q. Was it always your dream to work with young musicians?
Yes. From the time I first conducted a youth symphony in Birmingham, Ala., it was something that seemed to come very naturally to me. I seem to resonate with and get along in a very compatible way with young people.

Q. I’m sure they look to you as a mentor. Do you give them advice?
I give many inspirational talks. I focus not just on the music, but also the bigger picture of life. One thing I tell them is to follow their passion, to follow their dream and not to be swayed by others who say, “Don’t go into music—there’s no money in it. You should get a real job.” I believe it’s important to love what we do in this life.

Q. Any plans to retire soon?
No, because I love what I do, and I’m still going strong. I’ve built my life around this youth symphony, and I love it. It’s not just a job. To me, the bottom line is to make the world a better place than I found it, and I do that through music. I believe this is what I’m meant to be doing.