Conductor David Amado: Delaware Symphony Orchestra

A man of many talents, conductor David Amado remains a steady presence with the Delaware Symphony Orchestra.



David Amado has been the DSO’s man behind the baton for 10 seasons.

Photo by Joe del Tufo

Maestro David Amado makes a mean latte. Maybe it’s because he roasts his own beans, which he orders from California. Or perhaps the full-bodied flavor is due to the Expobar espresso machine, which squats on the kitchen counter in his Westover Hills Woods home. All that’s missing from this cup of caffeinated perfection is a music note carved into the froth.
This is Amado’s 10th season as the music director and conductor of the Delaware Symphony Orchestra, and it’s been an unconventional one. Last spring, with a new executive director at the helm, the organization announced it was scrapping its planned 2012-2013 season for fiscal reasons.

Then in October, the orchestra announced that an agreement with the musicians would allow DSO to perform an abbreviated classical series at The Grand Opera House and The Tatnall School. (DSO’s sold-out four-concert chamber series, which started in October, isn’t affected.) At press time, the classical series was set to start this month.

A number of people, including contributors Tatiana and Gerret Copeland, helped guide DSO through the turmoil. Yet few would argue that Amado has been a strong, steady presence throughout the period. “He’s a gem,” says Diana Milburn, DSO’s general manager, who was hired in August. “His leadership during this challenging time has been extraordinary. He’s funny and charismatic—the musicians like him.”

Tatiana Copeland would agree. “I very much value David both for his professional character and personal friendship,” she says.

It’s that affability—the man behind the baton—that I’m looking for when I visit the Amados’ home, a gracious Colonial built in 1929. Previous owners enhanced the kitchen, where the breakfast remnants of the Amados’ three children—twins Alex and Renee, 8, and Elena, 4—are on the table. Amado and wife Meredith added a family room off the kitchen. They also re-did the living room, a necessity after a tree crashed into the house during a 2009 storm. Amado, his wife confides, hates thunderstorms, and it’s no wonder. Last year she surprised him with a chainsaw as a gift, which he loved. When he’s not tackling storm-tossed trees, he can use it in Maine, where chopping wood is one of his favorite pastimes.

Amado’s white-painted study has a wall of framed pictures and letters related to iconic musicians. There’s a letter from composer-pianist Clara Schumann, for instance, and one from Johannes Brahms. There are also letters from composers to Amado’s grandmother, celebrated violinist Lillian Fuchs, who taught Isaac Stern.

Some pieces were gifts to Amado’s mother, accomplished violinist Carol Stein Amado. Meredith Amado, artistic director of the Pyxis Piano Quartet, plays her late mother-in-law’s violin, made in 1662 by Nicolo Amati.

On the morning of my visit, Meredith is rehearsing with Naomi Gray, the DSO’s associate principal cellist, and the plaintive notes drift into the study. Between the living and the legendary, there’s no shortage of talent here, and it’s slightly intimidating. There was a time when I could play a passable “Clair de Lune,” but talking shop with a maestro who spends a lot of time in a tuxedo is unnerving, especially one who graduated from Juilliard and whose father taught physics at the University of Pennsylvania.

If Amado is inwardly rolling his eyes at any of my gaffes, he never shows it, and soon I feel at ease. His conversation is measured, but the occasional everyday word is pleasantly surprising. In a WHYY interview, available on YouTube, he calls the economy’s affect on the arts “stinky.” He uses “yuck,” to describe the fallen tree and the storm. When we discuss why a violin could survive three centuries when other instruments turn to dust, he says perhaps it’s because crappy instruments don’t continue circulating. Makes sense to me.

The youngest of two boys, Amado grew up in Merion, Pa. He was 4 when he first took piano lessons, not because his famous family pressured him but because he gravitated toward the instrument. By the time he was in Lower Merion High School, he practiced about five hours a day, including an hour before school. “It’s diligence,” he acknowledges, “and it’s also annoying to everyone who didn’t want to hear the piano at 5 a.m.” That included his brother, Rick, who griped about it in his journal.

Amado also played trumpet in the school orchestra but not in the marching band. (“Too cold maybe?” he says as an explanation.)

Close friends were mostly musicians. “It was hard for me because I was so focused on something that didn’t resonate with a lot of other people,” he acknowledges. He felt liberated when he started pre-college classes at Juilliard on Saturdays. From the minute he got off the train on Saturday evening, he looked forward to the next Saturday.

Despite his Juilliard experience, he went to the University of Pennsylvania, where an art history class made a lasting impression. If he could do anything else in the world—and have the skill to do it—it would be a job in the visual arts, he says. But after his freshman year, he transferred to Juilliard. “I didn’t feel like I was getting enough opportunity to practice” at Penn, he says. “It’s really what I wanted to do more than anything.”

A mutual friend introduced him to Meredith, a fellow student. He was 19, and she was 17 and still in braces. On their first date, they went to the Metropolitan Museum and to dinner. Afterward, they watched the film “Babette’s Feast.”

“I remember knowing then that we were going to get married,” he says. Meredith wasn’t convinced, but she found him amusing, she says. When they first met, he’d just given his father 50 eggplants for his 50th birthday. “He was a breath of fresh air in a very tense and stressful environment.”

Amado loved to practice, but he never entered a piano competition. He also lacked that burning desire to perform. “I really loved music … the piano was just my way to make the music,” he says. The desire to be a professional pianist ebbed. “I think my parents realized it before I did and didn’t say anything,” he says. “They realized that I needed to realize it.”

Yet the passion for music itself persisted. How could he use it? After graduating from Juilliard, he applied to and was accepted into a conducting program. He declined; he wasn’t ready. “I was like Groucho Marx: I didn’t want to belong to a club who would have me as a member,” he says. He took a year to study music scores before applying to programs in both academic music and conducting. He chose conducting. “Ultimately,” he says, “I felt there was something in me that needed to make the music rather than think about it.”

After getting a master’s in instrumental coaching from Indiana University, he returned to Juilliard for post-graduate work. It was here that he met David Loebel, then a guest conductor at Juilliard, who was working on a complicated contemporary music program; Amado helped with rehearsals.

“Even then David had all the prerequisites to be a fine conductor: a high level of musical talent and knowledge, curiosity, common sense and a personality that would easily gain an orchestra’s cooperation,” says Loebel, now on the faculty of the New England Conservatory. “I’d like to think that his subsequent success has proved me correct.”

Loebel played a part in that success. When the St. Louis Symphony in Missouri decided to add a staff conductor, Loebel, then the associate principal conductor, suggested Amado, who was working in Portland, Ore. He and Meredith, who were married by then, moved to the Midwest.

In St. Louis, Amado conducted performances for youth education programs. “The students really responded to his warmth and humor,” Loebel says. (The people with the best sense of humor are also the most serious about their work, he notes.) Amado also conducted some subscription events.

By 2002, when the DSO job was posted in a union paper, the Amados were ready to return to the East Coast, where there were more opportunities for Meredith to work as a violinist. The DSO announced Amado’s appointment in March 2003, and Amado quickly became the young face of the orchestra and an involved member of the community.

In just over a decade, the local nonprofit community has experienced the highs of MBNA’s halcyon days, punctuated with big donations, and the crushing lows of the recession. “We suffered from an alignment of circumstances that a lot of nonprofits that operate on razor-thin margins experience,” says Amado of the events of last spring. “There were realities that needed to be dealt with. We’re very happy that we’re going to have music this year. We just have to figure out how to be responsible.”

He’s talking about more than the symphony. The community needs to determine how to support the arts, which make people look at themselves and their surroundings in a new light. “The arts are an incredibly important part of humanity and what it is to be a complete person,” he maintains. “While the arts can be entertaining, they’re not necessarily an affirmation of everything you believe in; ideally, they challenge you … . We obviously need to think about how we’re going to fit into the cultural landscape.”

Education is key. “You can’t cultivate a plant in soil that’s incompatible with the plant,” Amado says. Fortunately for the DSO, Amado enjoys working with youth, who unlike their parents and grandparents aren’t necessarily taking the piano and ballet lessons that expose them to the classics at an early age.

It’s not easy when an audience is accustomed to instant entertainment and information, he acknowledges. Without the insight he likes to offer, an audience may struggle with hour-long compositions and abstract narratives. Big ideas, he says, take a long time to tell.

Before I leave, Amado asks if I want to try the ginger beer he’s making. It’s refreshingly fizzy with a gingery bite. His wife says he often threatens to open a coffee roaster-BBQ restaurant. Amado would make a good barista, but it’s hard to imagine him in a non-musical profession.

It’s also hard to imagine the DSO without Amado. “I enjoy watching him on the stage,” Copeland says. “He’s a fabulous conductor. I love the symphony; they are a great asset to the community.”

Amado hopes others feel the same way. “I know in Delaware we have the capacity to support a meaningful orchestra,” he says. “We just need to figure out what the community finds meaningful and actively pursue it. We need to find our sweet spot.”

 

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Our Winter Group Show features oil paintings by Rosemary Castiglioni, Jim Gears and Mary Ann Weselyk. Still-life paintings with subtle color variations by...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Nanticoke Health Services, in conjunction with CHEER and Care DE and The Methodist Manor House, hosts the Nanticoke Parkinson’s Education and Support Group on the third Thursday of...

Cost: free

Where:
Methodist Manor House
1001 Middleford Road
Seaford, DE  19973
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Telephone: 302-629-6611 x 3838
Contact Name: Tara Trout

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Explore some of the diverse ways that human beings have understood sex and sexuality, gender and gender diversity in this small but broad new exhibition, presented in conjunction with the 2015-2016...

Cost: Free with Museum Admission.

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
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Website »

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The Philly Home Show will inspire your inner HGTV star at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia from Feb. 12–14 and 19–21. The show will feature highly interactive...

Cost: $13

Where:
Pennsylvania Convention Center
1101 Arch St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
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What was behind the legendary story of King Midas and his golden touch? That is the question to be answered—not with chests full of gold, but with a spectacular array of ancient artifacts,...

Cost: Adults $20; seniors $18; students (with ID) $15; children (ages 6–17) $15

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
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More information

Two-hour guided tours are offered at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Guests will visit Eleutherian Mills Residence, the first du Pont family home built in America; the First Office...

Cost: $0-14

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Rd
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-658-2400
Contact Name: Meg Marcozzi
Website »

More information

This art exhibit features fine art works and three dimensional pieces that embrace the subject “red.” Artist are free to use their imagination and creativity, so works will include...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Gibby Center for the Arts
51 W Main St.
Middletown, DE  19709
View map »


Sponsor: The Gibby Center for the Arts
Telephone: 302-449-5396
Contact Name: Caroline Zeitler
Website »

More information

For more information, please contact: Dave Ruffner ​Rehoboth Beach Film Society 107 Truitt Ave. Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971 302-645-9095, ext. 4 administrator@rehobothfilm.com...

Cost: Free

Where:
, DE


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

More information

Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will host Lymphedema support groups on the third Thursday of each month at the Seaford Library and Cultural Center from 1:30 PM to 3:00 PM. This free support group is...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Seaford Library & Cultural Center
600 N Market St, Ext
Seaford, DE  19973
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Sponsor: Nanticoke Health Services
Telephone: 302-629-6224
Contact Name: Robert Donati
Website »

More information

Looking for something different for your children to do this summer? Look no further than the Summer Camp Fair at the Delaware Museum of Natural History on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016. This free...

Cost: Free

Where:
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
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More information

Nanticoke Physician Network General & Bariatric Surgery will be hosting bariatric support groups on the first Tuesday and third Thursday of each month from 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm at Nanticoke Memorial...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital
801 Middleford Road
Seaford, DE  19973
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Sponsor: Nanticoke Physician Network General & Bariatric Surgery
Telephone: 302-629-6611 x 8810
Contact Name: Shelly Geis

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Rebecca Kobrin of Columbia University will discuss her paper, “Credit to the Nation: Jewish Immigrants, the World of Immigrant Banking and American Finance, 1873–1914.” The...

Cost: Free

Where:
Copeland Room of Hagley’s library building
298 Buck Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Telephone: 658-2400
Contact Name: Meg Marcozzi
Website »

More information

Ditch the winter whites for a world of dazzling color at Longwood Gardens, where you can stroll through thousands of orchids in bloom. Kennett Square, www.longwoodgardens.org 

Where:
, DE

More information

Regional artists Carol Tippit Woolworth, Catherine Drabkin, Pahl Alexander Hluchan, Colleen Randall and Dan Jackson explore the concept of place—physical, emotional and spiritual—in...

Where:
, DE

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Our Winter Group Show features oil paintings by Rosemary Castiglioni, Jim Gears and Mary Ann Weselyk. Still-life paintings with subtle color variations by...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

What was behind the legendary story of King Midas and his golden touch? That is the question to be answered—not with chests full of gold, but with a spectacular array of ancient artifacts,...

Cost: Adults $20; seniors $18; students (with ID) $15; children (ages 6–17) $15

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »

More information

The Philly Home Show will inspire your inner HGTV star at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia from Feb. 12–14 and 19–21. The show will feature highly interactive...

Cost: $13

Where:
Pennsylvania Convention Center
1101 Arch St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »

More information

Explore some of the diverse ways that human beings have understood sex and sexuality, gender and gender diversity in this small but broad new exhibition, presented in conjunction with the 2015-2016...

Cost: Free with Museum Admission.

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »


Website »

More information

Two-hour guided tours are offered at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Guests will visit Eleutherian Mills Residence, the first du Pont family home built in America; the First Office...

Cost: $0-14

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Rd
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-658-2400
Contact Name: Meg Marcozzi
Website »

More information

For more information, please contact: Dave Ruffner ​Rehoboth Beach Film Society 107 Truitt Ave. Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971 302-645-9095, ext. 4 administrator@rehobothfilm.com...

Cost: Free

Where:
, DE


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

More information

This art exhibit features fine art works and three dimensional pieces that embrace the subject “red.” Artist are free to use their imagination and creativity, so works will include...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Gibby Center for the Arts
51 W Main St.
Middletown, DE  19709
View map »


Sponsor: The Gibby Center for the Arts
Telephone: 302-449-5396
Contact Name: Caroline Zeitler
Website »

More information

Meeting every Friday, Bayhealth Kent General Hospital, 640 s. State Street, Dover, 7:30 pm., Private Dining Room #3 in the basement. For those who have, or think they may have a gambling problem....

Cost: 0.00

Where:
Bayhealth Kent General Hospital
640 S. State Street
Private Dining Room #3
Dover, DE  19901
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Telephone: 800-855-2CALLGA
Website »

More information

A spoiled orphan girl is sent to live with her uncle on the Yorkshire moors and discovers renewed life, for herself and her sickly cousin, in bringing her dead aunt’s secret garden back to...

Cost: $15–$18

Where:
The Secret Garden
47 W Main St.
Middletown, DE  19709
View map »


Sponsor: The Everett Theatre
Telephone: 302-540-8561
Contact Name: Chris Everett
Website »

More information

Freud’s Last Session centers on a hypothetical meeting between legendary psychoanalyst Dr. Sigmund Freud and young, rising Oxford Don, C.S. Lewis, to his home in London on the day England...

Cost: $18 online, $20 at the door

Where:
Bootless Stageworks
1301 N Broom Street
Wilmington , DE  19806
View map »


Sponsor: Bootless Stageworks
Telephone: 302-887-9300
Contact Name: Rosanne DellAversano
Website »

More information

Regional artists Carol Tippit Woolworth, Catherine Drabkin, Pahl Alexander Hluchan, Colleen Randall and Dan Jackson explore the concept of place—physical, emotional and spiritual—in...

Where:
, DE

More information

Ditch the winter whites for a world of dazzling color at Longwood Gardens, where you can stroll through thousands of orchids in bloom. Kennett Square, www.longwoodgardens.org 

Where:
, DE

More information

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Pup-Purr-i...A little bit of everythng for pet lovers The PAWS for People 7th Annual Winter Conference is designed for pet enthusiasts, owners and all those who love animals.  Cost of admission...

Cost: $45 through 2.6; $50 after 2.6

Where:
Nemours A. I. du Pont Hospital for Children
1600 Rockland Road
Wilmington, DE  19803
View map »


Sponsor: PAWS for People
Telephone: 302-351-5622
Contact Name: Clarice Ritchie
Website »

More information

Our Winter Group Show features oil paintings by Rosemary Castiglioni, Jim Gears and Mary Ann Weselyk. Still-life paintings with subtle color variations by...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

The Philly Home Show will inspire your inner HGTV star at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia from Feb. 12–14 and 19–21. The show will feature highly interactive...

Cost: $13

Where:
Pennsylvania Convention Center
1101 Arch St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »

More information

What was behind the legendary story of King Midas and his golden touch? That is the question to be answered—not with chests full of gold, but with a spectacular array of ancient artifacts,...

Cost: Adults $20; seniors $18; students (with ID) $15; children (ages 6–17) $15

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »

More information

Guests can explore three floors of exhibitions in the Visitor Center, stroll along the river through dozens of historic structures from the Industrial Revolution, and explore the gardens and...

Cost: $0-14

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Rd
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-658-2400
Contact Name: Meg Marcozzi
Website »

More information

Explore some of the diverse ways that human beings have understood sex and sexuality, gender and gender diversity in this small but broad new exhibition, presented in conjunction with the 2015-2016...

Cost: Free with Museum Admission.

Where:
Penn Museum
3260 South St.
Philadelphia, PA  19104
View map »


Website »

More information

Create and innovate at Hagley! Enjoy a family-friendly festival of invention, creativity and resourcefulness in celebration of the Maker movement. It will feature demonstrations from area...

Cost: $0-14

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Rd
2
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-658-2400
Contact Name: Meg Marcozzi
Website »

More information

For more information, please contact: Dave Ruffner ​Rehoboth Beach Film Society 107 Truitt Ave. Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971 302-645-9095, ext. 4 administrator@rehobothfilm.com...

Cost: Free

Where:
, DE


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

More information

This art exhibit features fine art works and three dimensional pieces that embrace the subject “red.” Artist are free to use their imagination and creativity, so works will include...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Gibby Center for the Arts
51 W Main St.
Middletown, DE  19709
View map »


Sponsor: The Gibby Center for the Arts
Telephone: 302-449-5396
Contact Name: Caroline Zeitler
Website »

More information

Hailed by The New York Times as "a young piano visionary" and "one of the leading figures in the current renaissance of performer-composers," pianist Michael Brown, a 2015 Avery...

Cost: $30. Free for ages 10-18 & accompanying adult. $10 for students 18 & older.

Where:
Bethel United Methodist Church Hall
Fourth & Market Streets
Lewes, DE  19958
View map »


Sponsor: Coastal Concerts, Inc.
Telephone: 888-212-6458
Contact Name: Edna Ellett
Website »

More information

The St. Elizabeth High School Alumni Association is hosting an art exhibition and auction on Saturday, February 20, 2016. The event will be held in the newly refurbished Grant Hall...

Where:
Grant Hall at St. Elizabeth Church
809 S Broom St.
Wilmington, DE
View map »

More information

Featuring Diane Monroe, jazz violinist in "What Is This Thing Called Freedom? The Transforming and Timeless Songs of Protest." Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016 at 7:30 p.m....

Cost: Free

Where:
Trinity Episcopal Church
1108 N. Adams Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Jackson ImmunoResearch
Telephone: 302-652-8605
Website »

More information

A spoiled orphan girl is sent to live with her uncle on the Yorkshire moors and discovers renewed life, for herself and her sickly cousin, in bringing her dead aunt’s secret garden back to...

Cost: $15–$18

Where:
The Secret Garden
47 W Main St.
Middletown, DE  19709
View map »


Sponsor: The Everett Theatre
Telephone: 302-540-8561
Contact Name: Chris Everett
Website »

More information

Freud’s Last Session centers on a hypothetical meeting between legendary psychoanalyst Dr. Sigmund Freud and young, rising Oxford Don, C.S. Lewis, to his home in London on the day England...

Cost: $18 online, $20 at the door

Where:
Bootless Stageworks
1301 N Broom Street
Wilmington , DE  19806
View map »


Sponsor: Bootless Stageworks
Telephone: 302-887-9300
Contact Name: Rosanne DellAversano
Website »

More information

Direct from TAO’s successful, sold-out, world-premiere run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, this brand-new production, "TAO: Seventeen Samurai," stops at The Playhouse on its...

Cost: $33–$39

Where:
The Playhouse
1007 N. Market Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »

More information

Ditch the winter whites for a world of dazzling color at Longwood Gardens, where you can stroll through thousands of orchids in bloom. Kennett Square, www.longwoodgardens.org 

Where:
, DE

More information

Regional artists Carol Tippit Woolworth, Catherine Drabkin, Pahl Alexander Hluchan, Colleen Randall and Dan Jackson explore the concept of place—physical, emotional and spiritual—in...

Where:
, DE

More information

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