Homage to a mentor: Guest conductor to use concert performance as a salute

When Charles Latshaw returns to the local stage he left 14 years ago, he figures to bow deeply to the legacy of the man who allowed him to have some of the greatest early conducting experiences of his professional life.

As he raises his baton March 25 to lead the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic, his emotion will rise simultaneously — especially when he conducts Johannes Brahms’ first symphony as part of a program he has titled “Golden Days.” The piece was Brahms’ salute to Ludwig von Beethoven.

The 43-year-old Latshaw will use it to salute David Bowden, his mentor and the Philharmonic’s award-winning artistic director for its first 35 years. Latshaw served as Bowden’s assistant conductor from 2005 to 2009.

“This is my homage to the great shadow of David Bowden,” Latshaw said, speaking by phone from his home in Grand Junction, Colorado, where he serves as music director of the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra. “I want to give honor to him, and also because I am feeling some of the same kinds of correlations between my current age and Brahms’ age (of 43 at the finish of the symphony).”

Latshaw, who also is music director of Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra, is the fifth music director candidate this season to lead the local ensemble in a tryout to be Bowden’s replacement. The concert unfolds at 7:30 p.m. at Judson Erne Auditorium, 1400 25th St.

He laughed about how he is different today than the doctoral music student he was years ago at Indiana University’s top-ranked Jacobs School of Music when he served here.

“I feel like a full-grown adult now,” he said.

In his formative conducting time here, he led ensembles in competitions in such far-flung locales as Spain and Austria. Ask him why he wants to add the local Philharmonic to his conducting duties, and he begins answering before the query is even finished.

“It’s a great orchestra,” he said. “And I know that it’s one that easily could be taken for granted. For a community the size of Columbus to have such an extraordinarily artistic orchestra is truly a great blessing.

“So to be able to work at such a high level there is one of the things that attracts me.”

He added that he’s especially excited to see the orchestra roster still include a number of the musicians he worked with here years ago. Among plans that he would love to institute if he is chosen as the ensemble’s new leader is an idea he has been doing for several years in both Grand Junction and Flagstaff: having area elementary school students attend a special afternoon performance and play recorders right along with the performance.

“There’s nothing like the sound of 1,200 kids playing recorder with the FSO,” he said of the latest such play-along.

Plus, he’d love to introduce some more contemporary repertoire of living composers to the Philharmonic’s programs.

“Overall,” he said, “my top priority will be in making sure that the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic is still doing exciting things,” he said. “And I’d like to do some things to raise the orchestra’s profile even more so that the rest of the country knows that the orchestra exists.”

About the concert

Who: Charles Latshaw leading the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic in a program titled “Golden Years” as part of his tryout performance to be the orchestra’s new music director in a season known as “Maestro!”

When: 7:30 p.m. March 25.

Where: Judson Erne Auditorium, 1400 25th St.

Tickets: thecip.org