As a world-renowned conductor, Anu Tali strikes a harmonious balance between her demanding career and private life. Despite her hectic travel schedule, we recently had the opportunity to sit down with Ms. Tali, the music director of the Sarasota Orchestra, to discuss her impressive career, philosophies about life and her goal to not always make too many plans for the future.
Can you share with us a little about your background?
I’m from Estonia, between Finland and Russia. It is the crossroads of East and West, a very interesting place that hasn’t had the luxury of being free for more than a couple of decades.
We have a very keen music tradition in Estonia, so it is actually quite natural for an Estonian to become a musician. In my case, my mother saw right away that my twin sister and I were a little bit like—my mom would say “airheads.” I would use a different term: creative. And people who have twins know that we tend to create our own little bubble.
I’ll tell you honestly, I don’t see what’s wrong with that, I still would create my own bubble if I could. My mom also saw that we were musically talented, so she put us in a music school at a good time. I think this saved me because if you do something throughout your life, something that’s in your system and you maintain your goals and go through the bad times, then you’ll make it.
I wanted to become a musician as a child. I played piano since I was six, but I thought, how am I going to be able to sit in a classroom and practice all the time? I wanted to meet people and learn languages. I loved other cultures and wanted to travel. I wondered, how can I do that if I have to practice my piano?
When did you decide that you wanted to move into the conducting and directing role, rather than being a musician?
I didn’t; life decided it for me. Often if you wait long enough, that is what happens. Somebody famous once said, when asked what he would suggest to young people picking a musical career, after all the As a world-renowned conductor, Anu Tali strikes a harmonious balance between her demanding career and private life. Despite her hectic travel schedule, we recently had the opportunity to sit down with Ms. Tali, the music director for the Sarasota Orchestra, to discuss her impressive career, philosophies about life and her goal to not always make too many plans for the future. A traditional “Be yourself ” advice, he would say, “Do it only if you can’t live without it.” And I agree. If you can’t do otherwise, then do. But it’s not only about making music, it’s about anything. Then you have the right passion for it.
One of my professors taught me that you shouldn’t grow yourself a crown; instead, keep yourself on Earth. Then you will never be blinded by the fame instead of the music. You must appreciate other people. When you have been given a leading position, you have to step together with the people you work with. If you don’t notice them, if you don’t hear how they play, or hear what they suggest, then you’re going to be very lonely, and I don’t think you will be able to achieve much.
What is it like to be one of the few females in your industry to have risen to this level?
I had nothing to compare to. I’ve only lived my life and took it as it was given to me. When you’re more experienced, then you’re not as crazy about achieving your dreams. But when you stop dreaming, that’s when you become an adult, and I am not intending to become one.
When I was in Switzerland for the famous Lucerne Festival with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, I gave an interview and they said, “Now it’s all female conductors.” I said, “So what?” You know, we are not happy when it is all female conductors, and we’re not happy when there are no female conductors.You said you love travelling, you have always wanted to, but travelling can be isolating as well.
I have to correct you, I hate travelling; I love arriving. This is what I’m good at: immediately packing up my suitcase, I’m all over, getting my fingers in everything, and I’m very good at becoming a local, because I think that’s the key. You always have to know the local ways. By no means do you want to be a tourist.
And you have to pick up their dialect if you can, definitely the language, and make friends. One thing that hit me when I came to Sarasota in 2011, on top of the great weather, was that I really loved the people, and they loved me back. And, you know, you can love orchestra, and that’s one thing, but it was also the audience.
So now you live here part-time, during season, and you also have a home in Estonia.
Yes, it’s fair to say that Sarasota is the place that I spend time most, next to my home. And then the rest of the time I am travelling as a guest conductor, which is what conductors do, every week in a different place. My little Karl is almost two years old now, and he’s always with me. I have great help and I have now organized my life so that he’s never lonely.
Do you foresee a time in the future when you will settle down a bit more?
You know what has worked successfully for me is that I don’t make very long plans. I pretty much plan one year ahead and it has proved to be healthy. So one year at a time and then usually it somehow sorts itself out. My twin sister has two sons, 10 and 7, and both are great basketball players. My older nephew has already said the U.S. is his favorite country, and he is planning to play in the NBA. He also said he wanted to become a conductor, and I said to my sister, “Shhh, it might go away.”Do you have any advice for young people?
Do what makes you feel beautiful and comfortable. Maintain a sense of humor and don’t be afraid of failing. The world has a place and time for everything and everybody, and one failure is nothing in a pile of many victories. Stumble a little, get up and move on. Make it a joyful ride.
I say to young people now that thanks to what I did, you know, practice, I get to learn languages today, travel the world and meet fine people, so it is actually a dream come true.