Thrill-seeking maestro candidate hopes to spread his wings with the Philharmonic

CONDUCTOR Sergey Bogza laughed at the question, but clearly understood its origins: Would he perhaps glide into the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic concert Saturday from the rafters of the 1,000-seat Judson Erne Auditorium?

What else might one expect from a thrill-seeking adventurer who once fearlessly climbed into the skies cabled atop the wings of a single-engine plane? Clearly, he is a wild wing-walker standing boldly against the winds of the mundane. And he indicates that it’s nearly impossible for his thirst for the novel and dramatic not to influence his orchestral approach.

“In addition to music, I love doing crazy things,” he said, speaking by phone from Portland, Oregon, where he spends time with siblings and other relatives when he is not in Panama City, Florida, where he is just beginning to lead that city’s symphony orchestra. “I love experiencing life to the fullest.

“And the things that I do away from the (conductor’s) podium influence the way that I approach music and the life and energy I try to bring to the pieces that I conduct.”

So it fits that the triathlete and endurance runner will open his program with the Michael Torke composition “Javelin,” inspired by the 1994 Atlanta Olympics.

“There are segments of that piece that are light and airy,” he said, “but it also could be described as muscular and athletic.”

So it will be as the Russia native kicks off “Maestro: Passing the Baton,” the local professional ensemble’s season of six concert auditions to replace now-retired David Bowden, the Philharmonic’s only music and artistic director in its 35-year history.

On the surface, Bogza seems to possess Bowden’s indefatigable nature, because both have been longtime runners. And at age 36, he is just a few years older than Bowden was when he was hired at age 33.

Given his over-the-top way of seizing moments of action and joy, especially when with his Belgian Malinois dogs, Samson and Stella, no wonder the Virginian-Pilot newspaper called him “a charismatic conductor whose passion radiates from the podium.”

Bogza initially was impressed with the local philharmonic’s “broad type of commitment and community service that the orchestra provides, especially in its diverse programming,” he said. “That is very exciting to see. And you normally don’t see an orchestra that is presenting this many cabaret events each year.

“That was one of the first things that I noticed. They seem to have a great relationship with their audience, and seem to be very receptive to the audience’s input. That drew me in.”

When Bogza led the Millikin-Decatur Symphony Orchestra, he achieved consecutive seasons of increased subscription ticket sales, donor engagement, and audience growth — particularly significant when many orchestras have seen dips in those categories for years.

“I was so pleased with the progress we made there,” he said. “I sometimes like to think of individual concerts as musical buffets. You might not like one particular work, but there can be another one that really takes you there. Each program ideally needs a good hook.”

As a young man himself, he mentioned that he believes orchestras can continue to work to attract younger ticket buyers, and adds that he’s tuned in, for starters, on what music holds the attention of seven younger siblings — all of whom were required to take at least two years of music — with an ear for pop-rock, classical, and other musical varieties.

“If we want all types of people to come and be a part of our concert audiences (in the country), we have to be willing to program really all types of music,” he said. “There can be a fun mix without ever devaluing the inherent worth of amazing orchestra music.”

As Bogza spends time in town this week for concert rehearsals, he hopes to make time for one other activity: seeing some of the city’s heralded Modernist architecture, especially because his architect brother in Portland already offered a glowing review of Columbus’ worldwide stature.

Soon enough, concert time will arrive. And the former daredevil wing walker will let his hopes take flight.

About the concert

Who: Conductor candidate Sergey Bogza leading the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic in a performance titled “Symphonic Dances.”

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday with the preconcert Musically Speaking with Bogza at 6:45 p.m.

Where: Judson Erne Auditorium, 1400 25th St. in Columbus.