Roger Kalia grew up playing video games such as Mario Bros. on a Nintendo console.
Today at age 29, he’s traded his joystick for a conductor’s baton. And when he waves it Sunday evening to open Columbus Symphony Orchestra’s pops-oriented season finale at Mill Race Park, he’ll hear a big wall of sound from a video game-themed medley that’s been a big hit with symphonies the past few years.
In fact, when Kalia conducted the suite from “Video Games Live” in September with a Los Angeles ensemble, an outdoor crowd of 1,000 loved it.
“It’s a great way to introduce new people and younger people to classical music,” said Kalia, who recently returned to Bloomington after a season in his new post as assistant conductor of the Charlotte (North Carolina) Symphony Orchestra. “It’s very intense music and very dramatic.
“But it also includes some very beautiful strings.”
Kalia has served as music director of the Columbus Symphony for four seasons. Though his friend Henry Cheng conducted the local symphony for Kalia this season when he accepted the Charlotte post last summer, Kalia had programmed all the concerts, including this one.
Sunday marks his farewell to the local music organization that he says built his young career.
Without the symphony, he said he never would have landed in 2012 as conductor of the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra in Los Angeles, where he still serves.
Nor, in his mind, could he have gained sufficient experience to smoothly step in leading family concerts in Charlotte.
“The Columbus Symphony paved the way for me,” he said. “That will always be special.”
Kalia programmed plenty of newer works for the once-traditional, mostly volunteer ensemble, ranging from an Earth, Wind & Fire rhythm-and-blues piece last season to modern, jazz-infused holiday concert.
Linda Pettitt-Smith has played violin with the local ensemble since 1966. She believes the orchestra will miss Kalia’s solid sense of organization.
She will join soloist Alfred Able and other violins presenting the solemn and sweet theme from “Schindler’s List.”
“It’s moving as all get-out,” Pettitt-Smith said. “It makes me want to stop playing and just listen.”
She has been pleasantly surprised by the video game-themed tunes, too. They include music from “Halo,” “Bounty Hunter” and others.
“My son (19-year-old Ian Smith) plays video games all the time,” she said. “But he usually wears headphones when he does, so I’d never really heard the music before.”