By: Eastern Eye Staff
Going against the grain and pursuing a career path not expected of you can often provide all the drive you need in order to succeed and prove the naysayers wrong.
That was certainly the case for 26-year-old Alpesh Chauhan, who chose to become a conductor despite facing opposition from his Gujarati community in Birmingham.
Chauhan, who made his debut at the BBC Proms in the summer, is set to take up the position of principal conductor of the Filarmonica Arturo Toscanini in Parma, Italy, from September 2017. It follows a seven-concert tour with the orchestra where he was deemed “a genuine talent” according to newspaper La Repubblica Parma.
Chauhan told Eastern Eye: “When I was growing up, many of them (family and friends) didn’t understand it. I would even go as far as to say they didn’t accept it.
“The conversation about what I was going to do at university was always a little difficult. It would always go straight back to money. But now they are very supportive.
“It has changed from something they didn’t know if they could support to (where) they are commenting on videos and posts saying ‘congratulations, we are proud of you.’”
Chauhan was inspired to take up the cello at the age of six after seeing a teacher play the instrument during a school assembly.
He began playing in youth orchestras when he was 10 years old. He worked his way up getting a place at the reputed CBSO Youth Orchestra where he had the opportunity to work with some of the worlds greatest conductors and soloists.
Chauhan then studied the cello at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester at the age of 18.
“When you realise you have a passion, especially in music, you have to go out there and get it and that involves creating lots of opportunities yourself,” he said.
“I went straight into a masters [degree] in conducting and developed more skills on the box. The one thing that counts against you when you are young is experience.”
Chauhan has conducted orchestras around the world and audiences in the concert halls he performs in now include those who were initially sceptical about his career.
He believes people from all communities should be exposed to classical music from a young age.
“Some of them have never been to a concert – we’re talking about 60-year-olds with families who have never seen any classical music.
“They come to concerts and then come up to me saying, ‘we love that. We may not understand the music, but it was such a spectacle and it was so nice to hear live music’.”
Some of his recent performance highlights include concerts with the Netherlands Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra and Maggio Musicale Fiorentino.
Later this month Chauhan, who is quickly rising to international prominence, will make his US debut with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra.
In the meantime, he is learning Italian through the Rosetta Stone app in preparation for his appointment in Italy.
Chauhan says his parents have always supported his musical pursuits, despite the classical music scene being “a world away from what they know”.
He reveals that his mum, who works for the Bank of India, was moved to tears following one concert when she saw her son leading the accomplished orchestra.
“They are really proud. At the beginning of the journey, when I said I was going to music college, they didn’t know where it was going to end up. But they could see the passion was there and they were never going to squash that.”