Danielle Lisboa


Conductor and mother in perfect balance.

By Cristiana Moretzsohn

Rio native, Danielle Lisboa, has been passionate about classical music for as long as she can remember and it is this passion that helped her realize her dream to be a conductor. She heads one of the largest and oldest community symphonic orchestras in Canada, the Toronto Orchestra. Danielle is part of a select group of regent women in the world. She began her professional career as a pianist, giving classes at the Conservatório Brasileiro de Música do Rio de Janeiro and at Kingswood Music School in Kingswood, Texas, USA. Even though she is very young, she has a spectacular résumé, passing through many orchestras and a doctorate in regency from the renowned Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester in New York.

This Brazilian conductor is also a hands-on mom, in love with her husband, motivator and companion Fábio (who is also from Rio), and her children – Gabriella, five years old, and Victor, four. She is also a Brazilian style housewife (on the table there always has to be the traditional rice and beans!)

Brazilian Wave interviewed Danielle at the offices of the Toronto Orchestra in North York and confirmed the charisma and respect that our successful Brazilian transmits to her musicians and her audience.

 Tell us a little bit about the beginning of your career.
Danielle – Study, study, study… We would stay inside all day practising at the Music School, close to the Municipal Theatre in Rio de Janeiro, with only one chocolate bar! I breathed music. I was always at the Municipal; there was Sérgio Barbado, a person who helped me a lot in Brazil. He was the musical director at the Municipal Theatre and he opened the doors for me to conduct in Brasília, and in many other places.

Everything begins with believing. I used to stay in the gallery in the Municipal Theatre watching the rehearsals and thinking, “one day I will do this too”. I say this to my children, they are still small but I want them to believe that everything is possible, for them to have a dream. This is what my mother passed on to me. You have to begin with a dream and we have to make children believe that they can dream big.

Everything begins with believing. I say this to my children….they can dream big.

 Your first time as a conductor was at a Brazilian production of the opera by Ernst Mahle, Maroquinhas Fru-Fru. How did it feel to conduct an opera for the first time?
Danielle –My first was a great breakthrough for me. If you conduct an opera, you conduct everything! Technically speaking, this contact with opera was a great step. Imagine the anticipation of waiting for the singer to sing. And then listening and accompanying, while adapting to what is happening on stage. I was young then, and it was very beautiful.

 How do you reconcile, here and abroad, your fantastic career with motherhood?
Danielle –I feel blessed and I say this from the heart. I am happy, living out my dream. I always wanted to conduct, to do what I am doing now. However, I am sure that my priority is, and always will be my family. I am a mother first, I like to take them to school, take them for picnics and, when it is something professional, I am very lucky to be able to work from home, on my computer. My husband supports me a lot and there is a lot of respect. We are the typical Brazilian family. I have to make rice, beans, lunch, dinner, clean up the house…

[quote float=”left”]My family gives me my base. I know that they are there.

 Is it easier to take care of a house or conduct an orchestra?
Danielle –(Laughs) I think the musicians obey me, my children don’t!

What is the importance of music in a child’s life?
Danielle –I like this question. You see, I recently lectured and I presented a power point presentation with images of CAT scans and brain scans, showing how people react and what the emotional effect of music is. Not many things will activate so many regions of the brain, coordination, memory, when you are playing music. Therefore, it does a lot of good. I wanted to show the parents that were present, how beneficial it is to children who study and listen to music.

 What do you feel when you are conducting?
Danielle –Body and soul, I am there. I ask my musicians to make “eye contact”, I try to inspire myself so that they can make music. We have to read minds; I always joke and say, “you got to read my mind”, because I am not there playing, I am conducting. I have to pass on what I want, like what will bring out emotion. Transcend. I communicate with my eyes to every musician, so that they can produce a sound that excites the audience. There has to be empathy, honesty to know the score. I cannot explain it, it is pure emotion.

There are certain times when I am conducting and the music gains strength and I want to see the chords breaking! It is then, at this time, that we feel this transformation.

[quote float=”right”]A woman once told me that at times when she was in the audience, the music made her forget her sadness and it was magical. This is what I needed to hear. This is what I work for, those magical moments. I believe that music has this power.

 Is there any prejudice because you are a woman and a foreigner?
Danielle –With authority comes respect. And the fact that Toronto is a multicultural city, I don’t feel different here.

 We would like a tip from you, as a mother and a conductor at the Toronto Orchestra. How can we introduce more classical music into children’s lives?
Danielle –Take your children to concerts. Not just to concerts such as the Children’s Concert, but also to the Toronto Orchestra, which is an institution that is open to families. We want to see children in the audience. We understand that they cannot be long productions; one of the changes that we made last season was to give preference to shorter pieces. At the next Children’s Concert, in December, we will have marionettes and clowns for the children

A message.
Danielle –Careers, posts and titles come and go, I am aware of this, I am very happy now. To the extent that you are satisfied, there is no anguish. What will come, will come.

You have to know your priorities in life, because mine, as I already stated, is my family and always will be.

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