Meet the (new) maestro

Don’t be fooled by Scott Seaton’s youth--the new symphony conductor has been around the musical block

North State Symphony music director and conductor Scott Seaton.

North State Symphony music director and conductor Scott Seaton.

Scott Seaton makes his Chico debut as North State Symphony conductor with Now Presenting ..., on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2 p.m., in Laxson Auditorium. Free pre-concert talk at 1 p.m. in Rowland-Taylor Hall.

Tickets: $6-$36 ($13 for students)

Laxson Auditorium

The most memorable moment during Scott Seaton’s “tryout” concert last February for the position of music director of the North State Symphony had nothing to do with music. Rather, it involved his father.

As Seaton excitedly told the Laxson Auditorium audience before the music began, his dad was present and, for the very first time in their lives, would see him conduct a classical program.

By this time Seaton, who’s just 33 years old, had been a guest conductor of numerous concerts, but none had been in the vicinity of his father’s home in the Sacramento area. And his most regular employment, as music director of the symphony orchestra in Minot, N.D., for the past three years, was a long slog from Northern California.

Now that Seaton has been selected as the new music director and conductor of the North State Symphony, replacing the much-admired Kyle Wiley Pickett, his dad will be able to attend as often as he wishes. Indeed, he may want to attend his son’s season-opening concert this weekend.

Like most ambitious young conductors, Seaton has led a wandering life. During a recent interview in downtown Chico’s Upper Crust Bakery and Eatery, Seaton said his travels began long before he decided on a career in music. His parents divorced when he was quite young, and he lived with his mother. She remarried a man who, like her, was in the Air Force. Like most military families, they moved often, and Seaton lived in about a dozen different cities while growing up. He’s been on the move ever since.

Until now, that is. He says that for the first time in his life he feels like staying put. Chico is “a comfortable town,” he says, “with a good vibe” and plenty of entertainments. He likes that it’s close to the Bay Area, close to his father’s home, and close to nature. And he loves the orchestra. “They’re good. They’re very good,” he said.

One of the North State Symphony’s goals is to attract more young people to its concerts, and Seaton should help in that regard. He’s young, he’s stylish, and he’s super fit, the result of frequent long-distance running and bicycling. This summer he did a 43-day solo bike ride from the Oregon coast to Boston, and two weekends ago he ran a marathon in Ventura County. His goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon, and he intends to keep running until he does so.

Seaton says he started playing the saxophone in the fifth grade, led his high school marching band as its drum major and, while attending Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, led the Nashville Youth Symphony for four years.

He continues to play the saxophone, as well as several other instruments, but he’s known since a young age that he wanted to be a conductor. At his relatively tender age, he’s already conducted dozens of excellent orchestras and worked with many exceptional musicians, composers and conductors. (For details, go to biography.)

He says he hopes to make each concert a mix of the new and old, the fresh and familiar. This weekend’s Now Presenting … program is a good example. It will open with the overture to Bedøich Smetana’s famous opera The Bartered Bride, a defining work in Czech music. That will be followed by Tchaikovsky’s iconic and hugely popular Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, with guest soloist Alpin Hong, another hip young artist with an impressive resume (

After intermission, the orchestra will return with Michael Slayton’s contemporary Fifth Prelude for Orchestra, which was written to accompany such iconic works as Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, with which the NSS program will end. That symphony is at once perhaps the most recognizable in the repertory and, Seaton suggests, one that still has secrets for orchestras to reveal.

Will Seaton’s father attend? That’s another secret waiting to be revealed.