Anna Binneweg made her debut this weekend as guest conductor for the American University Symphony Orchestra. But there was nothing in the background of this current music director and conductor of the Anne Arundel Community College Orchestra to suggest this would be her future occupation.
“Nobody in my family even plays an instrument,” she said. “They sometimes laugh because they don’t know where this came from.”
According to Binneweg, her high school band teacher made her an assistant conductor and instilled a passion in her early. When she got to college, she had another professor who pushed her to pursue conducting for a career.
By the time she was guest conducting for youth symphonies in the United States and Canada, she had both an undergraduate and doctor of music degree from Southern Methodist University and Northwestern, respectively. How she came to AU, however, was a bit of a fluke.
“Kate Preston is a violist in the orchestra,” she said. “And she told me that AU was looking for an interim conductor for this semester and she recommended that I look into that position.”
Holding multiple positions is nothing new for Binneweg. She served as an assistant conductor for three orchestras during her time at Northwestern. And she currently is the music director and conductor of Chicago’s modern opera company, OperaModa, in addition to her duties at Anne Arundel and AU.
This semester AU is a priority. One of the reasons she believes the orchestra program is so strong is the facilities.
“Katzen is a real collaborative venue for all the arts programs,” she said.
“It allows students, faculty and members of the community to have a central place to come together. I think that [Abramson Family Recital Hall] is a good place for students to play and get accustomed to each other during practices.”
Binneweg said the room complemented some of the pieces the orchestra was performing.
“The Tchaikovsky number five is such a great symphony to perform here,” she said.
“It is something that younger orchestras really get into. I chose it because it would be fun for them, but also because I thought they would benefit from playing a standard 19th century symphony. Some of the stuff they had played recently was more modern, more from the 20th century. I thought it was important to play something different and more traditional.”
While this might have been Binneweg’s AU symphony debut, this is not the first time she has played in D.C. In 2005, she made her Kennedy Center debut with the National Symphony Orchestra and currently serves as one of its cover conductors. Despite her many projects and success, she remains practical about her future.
“I plan to keep one foot in the university scene and one in the pro scene for as many years in the future as I do this,” she said.
“I think it is important to be versatile but also enjoy what you do.”