Closet cellist

Donald Andrews

Photo By David Robert

There’s a new guy in the Reno orchestra scene, and he’s raring to kick up some classical for the northern Nevada community. As the Reno Philharmonic’s new executive director, Donald Andrews seems to have the gumption to take the orchestra to exciting new places. Andrews was most recently the chief executive officer of the Utah Symphony in Salt Lake City. He’s also held administrative positions with the Aspen Music Festival, the Illinois Symphony and the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera in Tennessee. Now, the California native and Stanford University graduate says he’s come full circle to be closer to family and friends in Sacramento and the Bay Area. He’s looking forward to enjoying the area’s many events and outdoor activities this fall, as well as the Reno Philharmonic’s 34th season of MasterClassics concerts, which begins Sept. 22. For more info on the Reno Phil’s upcoming concerts, call 323-6393 or visit

How’s the job so far?

I came in mid-August, so I have a couple of weeks under my belt. I know enough to be dangerous. It’s thrilling, though. I love orchestra. I love classical music. I love living in the West.

Yes, you seem to be moving farther west.

I have, and it’s wonderful. We had a wonderful experience in Tennessee, Illinois and Utah, but it’s always nice to be closer to the people we love. My wife and I both learned to ski at the Tahoe resorts. That’s a nice circle to bring around.

Will you be doing some skiing?

Oh, sure. As soon as the snow flies. I’m not a great skier; I’m an OK skier, one who loves being out on the slopes.

What part has music played in your life?

I’m a Gemini and that’s not exactly musical, but it plays out in certain traits. I was a cellist, and I loved orchestral music. I played a lot. Then I discovered singing [opera], and I sang a lot. Not just in California, but in France and Italy. So I have that dual love. I feel I’m familiar with the making of music, not just the business of music.

Do you still make music?

I sing occasionally. I’m a closet cellist; the cello sits in the closet. But I still own one. I didn’t give it up. You never know when they might need me to fill in.

How important is music to a community?

The arts in every form are terribly important to a community. It’s the essence of what we stand for as human beings, and is a record of our achievement as creative personalities.

What CDs do you listen to at home and in your car?

I have pretty universal tastes. I like Van Morrison as much as Yo-Yo Ma the cellist, and in between come Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris and lots of Mahler.

What excites you about the Reno Philharmonic?

It has a wonderful past and a great future. The group has a high level of performance and it’s deeply rooted in the community, especially through educational efforts and involvement in such events as Pops on the River. Those are all healthy signs.