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The music director of the Baltimore and So Paulo symphony orchestras on evening work and getting by on short sleeps


I don’t have too many issues with sleeping. My main commute is between Baltimore and São Paulo, as I am the music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, and the time zones almost line up. It’s about letting my body do what it needs to do; if I’m up at 2am I just do some work. The latest I get up is 6am and I go to the gym. The cross trainer and running help me focus. When you do late-night concerts it’s hard to get an early night, so I’m fortunate I can get by on six hours’ sleep.


At home in Baltimore, my favourite thing is to eat with my family. In São Paulo, there are some wonderful restaurants. I’m a carnivore, so I do enjoy a steak. I like to eat something small, like a sandwich, before and after a performance. Often people go out for dinner after a concert, but I don’t sleep well after a big meal late at night, so I avoid that if I can. I don’t drink much alcohol; I don’t like feeling impaired.


I work for pleasure. It doesn’t feel like a burden. I have a good grasp of what music I need to be studying for future performances. It stresses me out if I feel my time is short for preparation. You can’t force relationships when you’re working with a new orchestra. My only concern is always for the composer and to do the best on his or her behalf. All the musicians are interested in is whether I’m genuine.


My partner, the former horn player Kristin Jurkscheit, is not playing in an orchestra any more. After studying for an MBA, she is working for a non-profit organisation concerned with race and equality. Our son, Auden, is 14. The teenage years are tricky to navigate. I need to be accessible and let him know that I’m thinking of him, and always contactable by phone or Skype. Not that he ever does either! He is passionate about rock climbing and, as a result, most of our holidays include that.


I love to read and to get outside into nature. I enjoy learning languages, though I don’t think I’m particularly gifted. I’m moving from Portuguese back to German, which I previously studied. That’s really all there is time for.

  • Marin Alsop will perform at The Proms 2018, 13 July to 8 Sept. Interview by Susan Gray

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