Julien Benichou

by Dana Kester-McCabe

Julien Benichou is the Music Director for The Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra. Born and raised in France he came to the United States to continue his musical studies where he studied under Gustav Meier at the Peabody Institute. He met his wife and began living here permanently. In 2003 he became the director of the Chesapeake Youth Orchestra in Annapolis which led to his position with the Mid-Atlantic Symphony.

The MSO was started in 1997 as a community orchestra with volunteer musicians. Now it is a fully professional orchestra with freelance performers who live in the region. Julien has become very attached to the Eastern Shore region, its landscape, the air, "the beauty of the site", and especially the people here. He also appreciates the small towns and intimate concert venues where the audience is so close.

Julien describes the process of planning a performance season as teamwork. The executive team, the musicians, and audience feedback, are all taken into consideration. Planning a holiday concert requires the right combination of familiar tunes and the unexpected so the audience is not bored. Julien tries to balance the energy between carols and great composers, between the warmth of entertaining pops pieces and the energy of great composers.

Julien says this their 17th season promises to be memorable with promises of more programs, in more venues, and a wider repertoire.

There is nothing like hearing live music. Julien encourages people of all ages to experience it. He compares it to the experience of watching live sports where the players and the fans feed off of each other. There are times when the audience and the musicians are really connecting when the emotions of a piece take over everyone in the room. Julien says that there are times when he and the performers "forget you are in a performance."

Julien quoted Beethoven saying that young musicians need learn how to have "the spirit of the gypsy and the discipline of the soldier". He says they need to be both psychologically and physically resilient. He also suggests that they not only watch great performers, but watch their audiences. It is encouraging to watch the transformation that happens from before a concert to after a one. People leave the concert hall better off than when they entered. This is the role of the arts to bring both peace and energy to society.

Julien describes how together the orchestra and the audience can be one communal instrument. Together the composer, the musicians, and the concert goers build an "arch, a cathedral…"

Julien is also a composer. He had a piece on last year's program and will have one on this year's called Three Seasons of Chicago, a small concertino for violin and string orchestra.

Find out more about the Mid-Atlantic Symphony, including where and when you can see them at: