Rei Hotoda is no stranger to leaning in. The Utah Symphony’s new associate conductor—the first woman to hold that post—has done so throughout her exemplary career. Highlights include serving as the assistant conductor at the Dallas and Winnipeg Symphony Orchestras and appearing as guest conductor with the symphony orchestras of Baltimore, Edmonton, Fort Worth, and Toronto as well as the Colorado and St. Louis Symphonies, the Las Vegas Philharmonic, and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago.
Prior to stepping to the podium, Hotoda performed as a concert pianist with Canadian Brass, Ben Folds, Indigo Girls, and Pink Martini. She’s even dipped her toe into acting, appearing in the short film Send Me to the ’Lectric Chair with Isabella Rosellini. But rather than focusing on breaking through the glass ceiling, for Hotoda, who’s also a mother, conducting is all about the music. “This is my calling. It’s what I’m supposed to be doing,” she says.
The “all-encompassing sensation of bringing together a group of musicians as one instrument” is what she says drew her to expand her repertoire from performing to conducting in the first place. But, now that she’s there, one of the things she enjoys most about the high-profile job is exposing children to music, one of her primary responsibilities when she takes on her role full time in September. “The Utah Symphony’s educational outreach is very robust, reaching more than 100,000 children annually,” explains Renée Huang, public relations director for the Utah Symphony and Utah Opera.
In addition to conducting family, education, and outreach concerts and mentoring youth orchestras, Hotoda will lead the orchestra in various community and chamber concerts as well as regional tours, including the Deer Valley Music Festival concerts here in Park City. “I’m very comfortable at the podium and love how conducting is this process of creating and listening at the same time,” Hotoda says. “You can really hear the difference between different conductors, and I am very hopeful that audiences here will enjoy what I bring to the Utah Symphony.”