Edit: I've so loved getting to talk to everyone! I do have to run, but I'll do my best to come back and answer more questions soon. I hope to see some of you in two weeks! I'm so excited to be back out there performing and conducting again.

Click HERE for tickets and festival info Click HERE to support live classical music with a donation.

For those of you interested, Mainly Mozart will be hosting a Zoom Happy Hour this Thursday at 6:30 PST in preparation for the festival. San Francisco Symphony Principal Bass Scott Pingel and other musicians will all be online, drinks in hand, ready to chat! Click HERE to rsvp.


Hey Reddit! My name's David Chan, I'm concertmaster of New York's Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. I graduated from Harvard and Juilliard and have actually taught violin at Juilliard for almost fifteen years now. I also love golf!

In two weeks, I'll be kicking off the Mainly Mozart Festival of Orchestras in San Diego, CA. It's a three part drive-in orchestral Festival bringing members of the world's top orchestras together, on one stage.

From February 10-14, I'll be conducting (and soloing on opening night!) the Mainly Mozart Dual Orchestra featuring musicians of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and San Francisco Symphony. You can view soloist info and programming by clicking this sentence.

From April 15-18, I'll be conducting the Mainly Mozart Dual Orchestra featuring musicians of New York's MET Orchestra and D.C.'s National Symphony. Again, view soloist info and programming by clicking this sentence.

In June, it'll all come together with the Mainly Mozart All-Star Festival Orchestra, conducted by Michael Francis, the largest annual gathering of concertmasters and principal players in the country pulling members from dozens of the world's top orchestras, including the Philadelphia Orchestra, Boston Symphony and New York Philharmonic.

So excited to be a part of this! CEO Nancy Laturno will also be available to answer any questions that arise re: logistics, COVID testing protocols, etc.

Concerts begin at $49 per carload.

Check mainlymozart.org/la-sf for details. Check mainlymozart.org/roster to view the Mainly Mozart Dual Orchestra roster.

You can follow me on Facebook here

You can follow Mainly Mozart on:



Proof: https://imgur.com/a/0oUYGlo

Comments: 353 • Responses: 52  • Date: 

ArgentumFlame261 karma

What are your thoughts on the Met Opera outsourcing it's gigs during this pandemic? Has there been any communication from the administration?

MainlyMozartSD255 karma

I don't want to dwell too much on this because I'd rather focus on positives (such as our exciting Festival of Orchestras coming up with Mainly Mozart!!) but your question is a very valid one. It's a terribly sad situation and doesn't speak well of administration that they would do this rather than employ people they should consider their own.

ArgentumFlame81 karma

Thanks for your response! I have a follow up for a little levity, do you have a post-performance ritual (like a way to calm down/relax)? If so what do you do?

MainlyMozartSD154 karma

A glass of Scotch never hurts!

Jebiba187 karma

The ratio of standard repertoire to “contemporary” music in the average orchestra’s season is fairly lopsided. Further, a good portion of what is programmed as “contemporary” is from closer to the beginning of the 20th century and written by composers long since passed. Do you think this model has staying power heading into the future? In your experience, are younger generations of patrons interested in the same type of programming as the old guard? Do you think there is enough emphasis on new works by living composers, and who is your favorite living composer to play (and bonus points for your favorite piece of theirs)?

MainlyMozartSD305 karma

This is a great question which could be discussed for hours. But to try to put it succinctly: my own programming model which I've used with my Montclair Orchestra is to bring together pieces from different periods, but the key is to have a connective thread. For example, for a concert inspired by Baroque concerto grosso, we did a Brandenburg concerto, then Schnittke, then Stravinsky, and ended with another Brandenburg. Chronologically this took us from 1740's to 1977 to 1947 and then back to the 18th century, but what made it work was the thread of inspiration from Baroque forms. You could do the same with music written in 2021 and Perotin from the medieval era .... for me the key is to have a musical connection between the works, and not throwing contemporary music on programs just to check a box.

Vaedur172 karma

What position do u play for the Mets?

MainlyMozartSD291 karma

Concertmaster chair warmer.

psychogasm63 karma

What are your thoughts on the Amazon Prime show Mozart in the Jungle?

MainlyMozartSD114 karma

My wife who is also a professional musician loves it. I sometimes get messages from Blair Tindall, the creator of the show. I still haven't seen it myself!!! 😂😂😂

Pianorama58 karma

How often are you distracted by movie/ad music being in the wrong key compared to what you're used to? And how do you feel about classical music being used/butchered in these situations generally?

MainlyMozartSD149 karma

I have the curse that there is no such thing as background music for me. If I hear something I recognize, my mind works on it full-time and I cannot concentrate on anything else. So yes, when I hear music being "butchered," it's torture for me! 😱😫🤪

baigish51 karma

Who do you see as one of the more promising new violinists on the horizon? If you had to pick ONE violin concerto to put on a voyager type space probe, which concerto would be your choice, and why?

MainlyMozartSD113 karma

Hi there! There are so many wonderful young violinists so I hate to ignore others by naming just a couple, but Richard Lin is one. He won the Indianapolis competition in 2018 and is just full of virtuosity and energy. Paul Huang is another. He's a bit more established than Richard (a bit older) but is just such a thoughtful player. They both remind me a bits of myself when I was that age.

Beethoven Concerto would be the one to send into space! It's eternal and inextinguishable.

Blinks10142 karma

What is your view on the level of financial support given to MET musicians during the COVID shutdown of the MET and how does that compare to other orchestras? What more could have been done to support the orchestra?

MainlyMozartSD104 karma

The MET Orchestra has received absolutely nothing since the end of March, whereas other orchestras have continued to receive some percentage of salary. My view of that is about what you might expect given those facts. Sadly, the Met's financial reality is the product of many years of fiscal irresponsibility, and the pandemic is just the straw that broke the camel's back.

supercaptaincoolman40 karma

dual orchestras sounds good, but what about duelling orchestras?

MainlyMozartSD65 karma

Two winners and no loser.

ChunkofWhat37 karma

If you could add one instrument to the roster of instruments that are considered "traditional" to western orchestras, what would it be?

MainlyMozartSD80 karma

Haha that's a tough question - so many composers have introduced "nontraditional" instruments into their pieces, especially in the last 100 years, so it's hard to add anything to that list. I will say that seeing the theorbo (giant lute-like instrument) in the pit for Handel operas was an eye-opening experience the first time. How on earth do you reach the end of that thing?

LikeAGregJennings37 karma

What do you think orchestras need to do to increase interest in music? Do you think "Pop" concerts are effective in bringing new people into the concert hall?

MainlyMozartSD90 karma

I think pop / crossover / movie soundtrack / video game music concerts can all be helpful to get people into the hall, but they cannot be an end in themselves. Otherwise the audience will come for those but not be "converted" to more traditional offerings. I think the key is to think outside the box in terms of venues, formats, and combining accessible with things that need more introduction. You need to offer people points of access and many times it's the personal touch or connection.

lareisdrinkingpepsi34 karma

Thoughts on Sibelius?

MainlyMozartSD63 karma

I love Sibelius! In the UK, orchestras play the Sibelius symphonies as much as they play Beethoven, and the tone poems as much as they play Strauss. Here in America, the 2nd Symphony and Finlandia get most of the love, but not many know some of the darker masterpieces such as the 4th Symphony.

jonnyinternet28 karma

What are you telling the musicians when conducting when moving your hands and arms through the air and how does ones training for that position differ from a musician in the orchestra?

MainlyMozartSD72 karma

When you are working with the highest-level orchestral musicians - like we do at Mainly Mozart - your function as a conductor is quite different than, say, if you're working with a junior high orchestra where your motions are more to give a beat and keep ensemble than anything. With pros of this caliber, it's more about providing line and vision because they are capable of playing together on their own. It's truly a joy and privilege to work with players of this level.

MainlyMozartSD52 karma

There is specific training for a conductor (technique, score reading, etc) but a foundation as a musicians cannot be over-emphasized. I am lucky to have 20+ years as an orchestral professional as a foundation behind my conducting.

fighting_astronaut21 karma

How's life going?

MainlyMozartSD31 karma

It's going well, actually, thank you for asking! I'm grateful to be busy and active during this time, especially with meaningful projects such as this Festival of Orchestras!

GrandMasterRimJob20 karma

Hello there David! Do you have any general advice for an aspiring conductor? I currently hold a bachelor's of music from a University in Canada and only recently came on the idea I'd like to conduct as a career. I plan to get a master's degree of some kind and am fully aware I have an immense amount of work ahead of me but this is what I want to do. Your resume sounds like something I'd love to aspire to.

MainlyMozartSD48 karma

I love this interview with Esa-Pekka Salonen: https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-25155333

The key point is developing excellence as a musician before you step on a podium. It doesn't mean being the best at your instrument necessarily; it just means a body of experience as a musician so that you have something to say to other musicians when you are up there. I see so many young maestros these days who have impeccable baton technique but haven't yet acquired something to really say (with their music, not their words) when they stand in front of an orchestra.

love_all_hate_all17 karma

Favorite instrument? You HAVE to pick one 😂

AdamTheTall119 karma

I mean... David Chan is a professional, award-winning, internationally-acclaimed violinist who married another professional violinist, and who spends his off-hours teaching violin students at juliard.

So, like, oboe or something?

love_all_hate_all24 karma

Someone has a sense of humor.

MainlyMozartSD74 karma

I couldn't make reeds for hours. My equipment costs a fortune, but at least it comes pre-made. 😂

MainlyMozartSD73 karma

I mean, violin .... right? 😂

orangejulius16 karma

What’s your favorite show you’ve ever played?

Have you ever worked on movie sets?

MainlyMozartSD36 karma

I have not worked on movie sets although I did play on some soundtracks when I was just starting my career.

The great thing about having spent 20 years of my career in opera is that it combines so many great art forms: music, acting, text, dance, sets etc. I've been privileged to play in many great productions at the Met, but the timeless Greek classicism of Jean-Pierre Ponnelle's sets for the Mozart operas have really stayed with me.

disqualifiiied15 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA!

As a grownup with no musical training and very little understanding of classical music, the entire field of "serious music" feels very unapproachable.

What would you suggest to a complete layman for understanding it better?

MainlyMozartSD30 karma

I can fully appreciate how the field can be forbidding for someone who lacks a point of access. Wine, which is one of my hobbies, is much the same way.

I would guess that you are here asking this question because you have heard something that you liked, that sparked your interest. If that is the case, find out what the name of that piece is, and get a recording. The advantage of the CD or LP days, as opposed to YouTube, is that there would be other works on the same album that you would inevitably listen to in the course of playing that one work that you recognize. That expands your listening repertoire, and you can go on from there by pursuing other pieces by the same composers, etc.

classy_lady8814 karma

What is the most challenging aspect of combining two orchestras that have never played together? How long is your rehearsal time?

MainlyMozartSD33 karma

I don't expect any trouble combining musicians from orchestras of this extraordinary caliber. I would say the most difficult issues will be posed by the social distancing and the amplification in the outdoor venue - the players will be forced to adapt to acoustical issues they don't ordinarily encounter in the concert hall. But here too, I would fully expect them to adapt very quickly despite having only one day of rehearsal for each program.

coryrenton11 karma

Are there any interesting musical pieces designed to be played by remote orchestras that take advantage of the latency problem (e.g. any given part can be offset by whole measures and still sync up)?

MainlyMozartSD28 karma

Not that I know of, but there is the famous Stockhausen "Helicopter Quartet" which was written to be played with each quartet member in a separate airborne helicopter, over the radio!!

shaokim11 karma


Who is your favorite composer in history?


MainlyMozartSD39 karma

Such a hard question with so many great composers in history!

But - not to be boring - I would have to say Mozart. The fact that we are named "Mainly Mozart" in itself tells you what you need to know - the music is so timeless and far-reaching in its beauty that you can plan entire festivals practically around his music.

MCP24711 karma

Is Juilliard worth it if you get accepted? Is it better to just attend an average college for a lot cheaper or do you get what you pay for?

MainlyMozartSD39 karma

This is difficult to answer without more context, but if your goal is to reach the top levels of classical music, there is something to be said about being in a dedicated environment with like-minded people. It doesn't have to be Juilliard - there are other top conservatories and even universities with exceptional music departments can provide this as well, but the idea is the same.

Yourboogeyman10 karma

Do you listen to music in your spare time for fun? If yes what have you been listening to recently?

MainlyMozartSD16 karma

I don't! I spend so much time immersed in music between teaching, rehearsing, practicing, and studying that silence is golden. If there is such a thing with 3 kids in the house. LOL!

lostmyth10 karma

What is your favorite piece of music to listen to? Also what is your favorite piece to play? Any particular reasons for each piece?

MainlyMozartSD12 karma

I'm going to give the cliche answer of "whatever I'm working on at the moment." But it's a fair answer because you get immersed in whatever your current project may be, and that's how it should be.

courtney22229 karma

Have you attended any live music events (as a guest) during covid?

MainlyMozartSD20 karma

I have not - I've only been part of live music events (live audience) as a performer, both in Taiwan (where they've have no Covid in the community since April due to insanely strict quarantining rules) and in San Diego with Mainly Mozart in October.

zazawalla9 karma

Hi, and thanks for doing this AMA! How do you measure audible success as a conductor? Do you research and study an entire composition and focus on intonation/dynamics/tonality etc. beforehand and communicate to the orchestra? Or do you practice it with them first and make adjustments along the way? Thanks!

MainlyMozartSD13 karma

You have to have an unshakable idea in your head of what you expect to hear, even for a complicated modern piece. Hence most of your work takes place in a chair, or at a desk, or wherever you study best. It's all about studying the score - structure, harmony etc.

At the same time, you have to be alive to what you are hearing in front of you in real time - nothing will ever conform exactly to the soundtrack in your head, so you have be able to reconcile the two very quickly and on the fly.

Nobody said conducting was easy!! 😃

falalalano8 karma

What do you look for in your first chair musicians? How do they get picked

MainlyMozartSD13 karma

Skilled, beautiful playing; the ability to listen well and play with others; but most of all that intangible leadership quality. Difficult to find.

wolamute8 karma

What is your favorite movie highlighting classical music?

MainlyMozartSD22 karma

I remember vividly seeing a movie called "The Music Teacher" (Le maître de musique, in French) when I was in high school. It probably wasn't a great movie, but it featured the legendary Belgian bass-baritone José van Dam and some highlights from Verdi's La traviata. It was right around the time I was falling in love with opera, so it stayed with me for a long time.

kattannus8 karma

How much does a concert costs?

MainlyMozartSD12 karma

For Mainly Mozart, it's $49 per carload for Section B, $100 per carload for Section A, and then to get VIP seating you have to join Club Amadeus (their membership group) which starts at $500 (but you get VIP tickets to any three concerts of your choosing).

MainlyMozartSD8 karma

for Mainly Mozart? or in general?

Hamidxa6 karma

Do you insist people call you Maestro?

MainlyMozartSD5 karma

Absolutely not!

CosmicClamJamz5 karma

What's next for classical/orchestral music? Do you feel that the greatest musicians on Earth are participating in a nostalgia act? Or are they breaking new ground? What fresh formats have arisen and are causing excitement in the classical community? I realize this may come across as disrespectful, but I assure you I have the highest regard for your skill and insight on this topic!! Thanks

MainlyMozartSD11 karma

I don't think it's a nostalgia act in the least. We continue to study art and literature going all the way back to the ancient Greeks for a reason, namely they have something to say that is still relevant today. In the same way, the greatest musical masterpieces are inextinguishable in what they have to offer to the listener. What has to change is the way organizations are run; surely concert formats, venues, and the like can be modified, updated, etc.; but the music itself is of such value that it needs to be not only preserved but passed on to future generations.

Huanger014 karma

Hey David. I'm Mitchell Huang. I like many of my Asian brethren played violin as a tot finally giving up on lessons after high school and not playing much since. I know this may not be applicable to you but do you have any fun ways to keep up my chops keeping in mind that I live in an apartment building where practicing isn't the easiest thing to do without annoying the neighbors?

On another note, if you're ever looking for someone to play golf with. I'm always game!

MainlyMozartSD20 karma

My golf game and my violin shape are usually in inverse proportion ... if I'm doing a lot of one, I'm likely neglecting the other!!

I would say that, if you're playing only occasionally, you should play something you really want to, and also not be too ambitious. Just because you could play Wieniawski f# minor when you were 14 doesn't mean it's a good choice for now. If your sessions are fun for you, you'll be likely to do it more often and stay in better shape just by virtue of that.

Askymojo4 karma

I was lucky enough to see several operas at the Met around 2010-2012 and I was blown away at how good the Met Opera pit orchestra was. They were the best live performances by an orchestra I have experienced and better than the NY Philharmonic, imo. Does the Met Orchestra ever perform just as an orchestra without the opera singers?

MainlyMozartSD7 karma

Yes the MET Orchestra has performed as a symphonic ensemble at Carnegie Hall and on tour since 1991!

greenmtnfiddler4 karma

If we are to refill our concert halls and bring live orchestral music back as a regular human activity, how much is up to the orchestras and their choices/PR, and how much needs to come from societal changes?

Can we bring back the audiences of the past without also making changes to wages, working hours, access to health care, educational costs?

MainlyMozartSD3 karma

I think there is a huge onus on orchestras and their choices. Societal changes will impact things, to be sure, but those changes are not going to be made with the needs of classical audiences in mind. Orchestras will need to make choices based in part on the state of society.

alwaysbreakinballs984 karma

What are your favorite pieces to conduct?

MainlyMozartSD7 karma

Oh that's a long list .... Mahler 4, Shostakovich 9, Sibelius 2, Bizet Symphony in C, Mozart 29 ..... but this is just throwing pieces out there off the top of my head.

shadowsoldier674 karma

Have you ever met and played with Gustavo Dudemel? If so, how was that experiment?

MainlyMozartSD3 karma

Yes, he is marvelous!

Chris20nyy3 karma

Have you ever considered playing for the Yankees?

MainlyMozartSD6 karma

Yes but they wouldn't want me.


Would you rather fight 1 horse sized duck, or 100 duck sized horses?

MainlyMozartSD7 karma

Neither? 🤷🏻‍♂️

pulseczar873 karma

Hi David thank you for doing this ama! Two questions: Do you see the giant concert hall format staying relevant in the future or will smaller venues/more intimate settings be the new wave of concert going experience? Also, what is the best golf course you've played at?

MainlyMozartSD3 karma

I do see the giant concert hall format staying relevant, but smaller venues and more intimate settings are the key to paving the way of the future - as well as for getting people into the large concert hall format. The music and wine festival that I co-founded in the Burgundy region of France was an object lesson in that. Because of the beautiful surroundings and intimate setting, many people who came for the wine were introduced to music on a level they had never previously experienced. Subsequently, many such friends came to the concert hall which had previously been a place they never visited. So one can most definitely help the other.

I've been invited to plenty of wonderful and exclusive golf clubs. I can't name them all, but a few that stand out are Oak Hill (Rochester), National Golf Links of America (Southampton), and Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe (SD)

PIE_Stealer3 karma

Favourite string quartet?

MainlyMozartSD3 karma

Impossible to answer! I will say that the Verdi quartet, although I would never say it's my favorite quartet (or even a completely successful one), occupies a special place in my heart because my own quartet (comprising all Met musicians) has played it a lot with our connection to Verdi.

500scnds3 karma

How do multiple concertmasters share tasks among themselves, and how key is the communication with the director?

MainlyMozartSD4 karma

It depends on the orchestra, but for the most part multiple concertmasters are free to divide up the duties however they see fit, as long as all the concertmaster responsibilities are covered. Communication with the music director is essential. When I'm conducting myself, I lean on the concertmaster a great deal, so it helps to remind me that the conductor is relying on me the same way when I occupy that chair.

AceHoops3 karma

How often do people misunderstand you and think you work for the New York Mets?

MainlyMozartSD9 karma

More often people think I play for the Met museum.

There was a funny headline though when Billy Wagner was pitching for the Mets .... it said "Wagner's season over, likely Met career too." That one got posted on the men's locker room bulletin board.

cmmedit2 karma

The LAP and SFS meet in the street. A massive fight erupts. Who is the winner in a no holds barred dirty street fight? Everyone has their concert attire and instrument too.

MainlyMozartSD3 karma

Oh man. Fighting in tails? You'll get scuffs on your patent leather shoes!!!

cmmedit2 karma

Possibly! But what an elegant display of battle with a no doubt beautiful score. And if anyone has their old roll-heeled band shoes, they could avoid the scuffs lol.

Looking forward to the upcoming performance. Have fun with it!!

MainlyMozartSD2 karma

Thank you!

dickbutt_md2 karma

Be honest. Is this gonna be a dual orchestra, or more of an orchestra duel?

MainlyMozartSD3 karma

Think of it more like Dream Team.

rickster9070 karma

How is this responsible during covid? this is a bad idea all the way around.

MainlyMozartSD2 karma

The audience all remain in their cars for safety. The players are tested and then kept in a bubble during the working period, but they are all masked and socially distanced on stage to be doubly cautious. Music is vital and precious, but health and safety are #1. Thanks for asking.