Critic’s Notebook: Joseph Young to lead the ASO in Piedmont Park

New assistant conductor takes the helm for two free concerts in the park June 19 and 26


  • Jeff Roffman
  • CLASSIC SUMMER: The Atlanta Symphony’s new assistant conductor and youth orchestra leader Joseph Young will begin his tenure by conducting two free concerts in Piedmont Park, June 19 and 26.

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra is headed to Piedmont Park for two free concerts on June 19 and 26 (Tickets for the 19th are all booked, but for more information on how to reserve tickets for the 26th, visit the ASO’s website). The concerts are among the first engagements for the ASO’s brand new assistant conductor Joseph Young. We caught up with Young to ask about preparing for the performances, settling into Atlanta and packing the perfect picnic basket for listening to Dvořák.

So tell us a little bit about what’s in store for the concerts in Piedmont Park. What’re you most looking forward to?
The first program is strictly classical. We have the overture to Rossini’s Barber of Seville and Brahms’ Hungarian Dances. It’s light standard rep you don’t hear a lot in the concert hall. I’m looking forward to Dvořák’s Eighth. It’s one of my favorite symphonies. It’s one of Dvořák’s symphonies that’s full of great melodies that have almost been forgotten because it’s not one that’s played that often. The other program on the 26th is an American-themed concert, very light-hearted and fun. A little bit of John Williams and Rodeo from Aaron Copland. After intermission, there’s Bugler’s Holiday, some Sousa marches and a Gershwin piece.

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  • Jeff Roffman
  • LAWN PARTY: Listeners enjoy the ASO in Piedmont Park. New Assistant Conductor Joseph Young will conduct the ASO in the park on June 19 and 26.

Have you officially settled into Atlanta yet? Anything you’re especially looking forward to as you become an Atlantan?
I’m currently trying to figure out where I’m going to live and apartment-hunting. It’s a long process to find the perfect place. I want to be in midtown someplace close to the hall so I can walk to work ... I’m just really looking forward to working with this orchestra, learning as much as I can from the musicians here because this is a world-class symphony. I’m looking forward to working with Robert Spano, who is someone I’ve looked up to for a long time.

Any restaurants or the like that you’ve discovered that have become fast favorites?
Not really because I got here Sunday, and I’ve been going non-stop. I’ve been to Piedmont Park, and I love it down there. I’m staying at Atlantic Station, and I like the convenience of it, but I really haven’t explored much beyond those places.

And you were Charleston-based before?
Yes. I was Charleston-based for a year, traveling doing freelance conducting of other orchestras. But Charleston is also where I grew up, in a small town north of Charleston called Goose Creek.

How did you originally start getting into classical music in Goose Creek?
I started as a trumpet player, and I played in the band program. I grew up in that band world, but when I was a senior in high school I had the opportunity to go to a summer program called the Governor’s School for the Arts. It’s a program that prepares young musicians to see if they’re ready for conservatory life. You take lessons, you take ensemble credits, you do music history. And there was a conducting class. It was the first time I was actually able to see an orchestra. I was 16 at the time. They gave me the opportunity of conducting the second movement of Beethoven’s Second Symphony. From that point on I was hooked.


  • JD Scott
  • PASSING THE BATON: Joseph Young is the ASO’s new assistant conductor and youth orchestra leader.

So you put down the trumpet and picked up the baton?
No. I kept the trumpet. I went to school for music education as a sort of ‘back-up’ plan. But I actually fell in love with teaching. I started teaching high school near the Clemson area for three years, still playing the trumpet. But now the trumpet’s long gone.

If you weren’t conducting the concerts at Piedmont Park but were attending as a listener, what would you want to bring in your picnic basket to pair with the music?
A lot of the music is Italian so I would have to bring red wine. Oh, but there’s no alcohol. So maybe a pasta salad? Bruschetta would be good. I’m trying to think of something for Dvořák’s Eighth... I would bring a dessert, something chocolate. I’m a big chocolate fan.

It gets awfully hot in Atlanta, and conductors usually wear black. Do you know what you’ll wear for these outdoor concerts?
Actually I don’t. I’m still working on that. I know it will be black and white. Maybe white pants, maybe not.

Joseph Young conducts the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in Piedmont Park on June 19 and 26. For more information, visit the ASO.