Style Q&A: Lucas Waldin

The Symphony’s resident conductor is a fashion maestro.

Photography by Curtis Trent; Styling by Jared Tabler; Hair by Lauren Hughes of Mousy Browns; Makeup by Stephanie Strazza

The Look: Tuxedo tails tailored by Balfour Clothing in Toronto, Armani bow tie from Harry Rosen, Gianni Filacci shirt from The Bay and shoes by Browns.Linus bicycle provided by redbike.

From selling sheet music at a shop across from Carnegie Hall to waving a baton atop a podium in the Winspear Centre, Lucas Waldin is on a musical journey most classical apprentices his age would envy.

A graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music, the Toronto native boasts a CV that includes performances across the pond at major European concerts.

At only 26, Waldin became the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra’s resident conductor in 2009. Two contract renewals later, Waldin, now 28, is able to reflect on his current ESO experience with humility that belies his track record.

“It’s a great honour, because they’re a hard bunch to please,” jokes Waldin, who’s learning a lot about his craft from the orchestra’s music director, William Eddins.

In addition to regular performances with the orchestra, Waldin’s major focus is on the ESO’s outreach program to draw younger patrons to expand the orchestra’s audience base. He also occasionally fills in for Eddins at performances.

“I’ve developed a great respect for the players in the orchestra,” he says. “The orchestra can do what they do without you. But, as a conductor, you can’t. You need the orchestra to do what you do.”
The Look: Jeans by Mavi Jeans, Thomas Dean shirt from The Bay, jacket by Zara, scarf by Emile Lafaurie, hat by Banana Republic.

Originally, you went to the Cleveland Institute of Music to get a bachelor’s degree in flute performance. Why did you switch from flute performance to orchestral conducting for your master’s degree?

I had this idea with a friend of mine. We were hanging out in Cleveland during the summer, drinking a beer, and my friend said, “I want to play Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2,” the most famous concerto for trumpet. Which was a crazy idea!

The piece is enormously difficult, especially for a young trumpet player. But I said to him, “OK. I’ll conduct!” which was equally ridiculous, because I’d never conducted in my life. So, we picked a
number of other pieces by Bach, put together a group, and I spent six or seven months simply organizing.

I remember the night before the first rehearsal, I thought, “I’m about to conduct some really great musicians in an hour-long program, and I have no idea what I’m doing.” So that took some enormous confidence or stupidity, I’m really not sure. But that was how I jumped into conducting – from the deep end.

Why’d you move to New York City after getting your master’s degree in conducting in Cleveland?

I moved to live the dream basically. I didn’t have a job in music and I thought it was better to be unemployed in New York than to be unemployed in the Midwest.

And was it better?

[Laughs] I got a minimum-wage job in a music store selling classical sheet music across the street from Carnegie Hall. That was very difficult to get used to, but it turned out to be an amazing opportunity. Being across the street from Carnegie Hall, many of the musicians who played – all of the visiting orchestras and famous musicians – would come across the street to buy music in my shop. I recognized them all and I would introduce myself. I’d help them find the music that they needed, and often many of these great musicians would invite me to watch them rehearse in Carnegie Hall.

On a number of occasions, I was the only person in the audience while the greatest orchestras in the world rehearsed. That was a great part of my education.

Before finally getting the call to come conduct in Edmonton, you lived in Paris and then Berlin. How did living in Europe affect your sense of style?

Paris influenced my style a lot. Not necessarily in how I dress, but in the level at which they dress at all times. It’s a matter of pride and something they give attention to at all times.

Some people see the symphony as this formal place where you always need to dress sharp.

Here, I always wear a suit for performances, even when I’m not conducting, because I’m a figurehead for the organization. But when I’m attending concerts in other cities, I’m usually one of the least formally dressed people in the audience. I always go in jeans and a button-up shirt. I think classical music nowadays is less like it was 100 years ago. Now, it’s more about enjoying the art and enjoying the music. And so it’s important to wear what’s most comfortable for you.

The Look: Custom suit by Balfour Clothing, Bruno Piattelli bow tie from Kocksgatan 17 in Stockholm, shirt and sweater by Banana Republic, hat by H&M, Dionigi bag from Bag Ground Berlin and Think! shoes from Bonshoe in Stockholm.

Has Bill Eddins, as your musical mentor, also influenced your sense of fashion?

Bill has influenced my style in that he rehearses the orchestra in very comfortable clothes. Before IĀ came to Edmonton, I never conducted an orchestra in jeans. But now, because of Bill, I rehearse theĀ orchestra in jeans.

You’re conducting the entire Symphony for Kids series this year. Do you dress differently for the kids’ series than you do for the classical series?

Absolutely. For the Symphony for Kids series I have a couple of suits that are handmade by a tailor in Toronto at a place called Balfour Clothing. Those are really the core of my performance wardrobes. I have four suits from Balfour and two tuxedoes.

So, for the younger audiences, I usually wear a black suit and very colourful tie. For the weekend shows, I’ll also wear a black suit but a darker, more sombre tie, and a white shirt. And for the main series or the very classical shows, I’ll wear coattails, which are also custom tailored.

What’s your favourite brand?

Banana Republic is my core label. They have a good style for a reasonable price. The other reason I like them is because I seem to fit perfectly into everything they make.

Do you shop a lot?

I shop for shoes a lot, usually when I am in New York or Stockholm. I shop for jeans too, but I can never find what I’m looking for.

What’s your favourite place to shop in Edmonton?

I like to go and buy shoes at gravitypope on Whyte Ave. or Wener Shoes on Jasper Ave.

What are some of the signature pieces of your wardrobe?

My core piece is my Skagen watch from Denmark, which was a present from my brother. And, also, my hat. In all of the brochures for the ESO and in all the magazines, I have my hat on. It’s this greenish grey … cap? I’m not sure what to call it. But I like to sport this hat and the extra bit of fashion that it gives me. It also draws attention to my curls.

Any other trademarks?

Yes, I would say that one of my trademarks as a conductor is my hair. When I’m on stage, I take great care to make sure that it’s well-styled.

Do you have a process for that?

Well, it’s a three-step process – do you really want to do this? OK, well, I start with a leave-in mousse which is a conditioner, and then I do a curl-enhancing cream, and I finish with an Aveda defining whip. That sounds so lame.

Any final tips for looking good?

My tips would be to use men’s products like face moisturizer and those kinds of things. Also, a well-tailored suit is indispensable.


Composer Gustav Mahler

Piece of classical music Mahler’s Symphony No. 2

Piece of pop music “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd

Fragrance Armani Mania

Book East of Eden

Play Cyrano de Bergerac

Food Schnitzel

Drink German beer

Hang out Sugarbowl

Shoe brand DZR

Bicycle designer Linus Bikes

Local physical activity Riding my bike

Out-of-town activity Hiking in Jasper

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