Keeping the wheels in motion: Victoria Bach Festival director brings culture, music to Golden Crescent

Trysta Eakin

June 16, 2011 at 1:16 a.m.

For more than 35 years, the Victoria Bach Festival has been bringing arts and culture to the Golden Crescent. Executive Director Nina Di Leo, 38, tells GC about bringing the event to fruition each year.

Q: What is the Victoria Bach Festival?

A: The Victoria Bach Festival is a weeklong music festival in June. It features a number of different kinds of music and performers. We have small, intimate chamber concerts; we have a large choral and orchestral concerts; we offer programs at the Victoria Public Library for families and kids throughout the week. It's really an informal and fun way to get involved with the musicians as well. It's kind of like a big family. We're going into our 36th year and I am proud of Victoria for maintaining a festival like this for so many years. And I'm proud, too, when I go to different parts of the country and people recognize the festival.

Q: When and how did you get involved in the festival?

A: We moved to Victoria eight years ago, and I had been a fan of the festival and attended. In 2006, they were looking for their first paid administrator. I applied for the job and was hired, initially as managing director and had a title change a few years ago to executive director.

Q: What does your job entail?

A: It's keeping all the wheels in motion. We have a fabulous artistic staff - Craig Hella Johnson is our artistic director, Michelle Schumann is our chamber coordinator and Faith DeBow is our New Young Artists coordinator. So they really keep track of all of the programming. And then we have board members and volunteers who keep different parts of the festival running. So it's really just making sure that all those parts come together well.

Q: What are you most excited for this year?

A: We have a really fantastic final orchestral choral concert. It's a piece called "Missa Latina," by a Puerto Rican composer, Roberto Sierra. It's just got really fabulous rhythms and lively energetic feel to it. He takes a traditional Latin Mass and gives it an American flavor. Actually, the whole festival will have a Latin American flavor. The Texas Guitar Quartet is coming in; some of the smaller ensemble pieces will feature dance music - mambos and rumbas. It's going to be kind of a festival with a flare.

Q: What are some other things we can look forward

to in the 2011 festival?

A: We have our New Young Artists who are popular every year. And the trio that is coming in is fantastic. Dashon Burton is a baritone who has a real memorable presence. Nicole Greenidge is out of Ann Arbor, Mich., and has a beautiful voice. And Hilary Janysek is a young flutist who is actually a Victoria native. We're always excited when we can feature our Victoria musicians. To see the talent of these musicians at a young age is always exciting for me.

Q: What happens when the festival is not going on?

A: We sometimes have off-season concerts - we have children's concerts, like "Green Eggs and Ham" a few years ago as an opera, and we have our annual tradition to bring the Conspirare Christmas Concert here. And then it's really just a yearlong planning process. There are a lot of pieces that need to fall into place, between hiring all the musicians, finding venues and fundraising. Once the festival is done in June, we pick up in July looking for the next year.

Q: What do events like this bring

to Victoria?

A: I know that it brings tourists because we do keep track of where everyone is coming from. It varies from concert to concert, year to year, but generally it's around 30 to 40 percent of our audiences coming from out of town. So it's a chance for Victoria to show off and a chance to bring people to town who might not necessarily come otherwise, and I think, too, it really engenders a sense of pride with the community coming together. Our board members and volunteers are such hard workers. It's a joy to be able to put on something special like that.

Q: What jobs did you have before this?

A: Here in Victoria, I worked for (University of Victoria-Houston) as an instructor. Before that, I ran a Web design business, designing websites for nonprofits and small companies. Before that, I worked for a museum in Chicago, an environmental museum, designing online education programs and science education programs. Before that, I worked overseas for sometime as an interpreter, a translator, in Prague and in Paris. I speak Czech and French.

Victoria is a great home; it's funny to have landed here. I've lived in a bunch of different places. I've lived overseas; I grew up in Chicago. We were lucky to end up in Victoria. I'm also really pleased to see renewed investment with the new Victoria Fine Arts Center, the downtown renewal. It's an exciting time to be in Victoria.

Q: What are your hobbies?

A: There's not a lot of time, to be honest, between the festival, but I love water, anything that has to do with water. I love to swim; I was a collegiate rower; sailing and scuba diving; and I love to cook. I make a mean stuffed pepper.

Q: What is an interesting fact about

yourself you want to share?

A: I had a job overseas where I translated for a festival, and I helped musicians like Joe Cocker and The Ramones. I also have a gold medal in rowing.



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