Even when he conducts conservatory-trained musicians, Jason Love is as much of a teacher as he is standing in front of a group of giggly, impatient students in middle school.
He certainly doesn't need to remind professionals how to hold their instruments, but he can't assume children know how to hold theirs. An orchestra composed of amateur adults is capable of playing the same piece that a professional symphony performs, but perhaps the recreational musicians need more time to learn the music.
"As a teacher, he's a great communicator," said Baltimore composer and pianist Mark Lanz Weiser, who has worked with Love for nine years. "He's really uncanny at being able to communicate his ideas. He treats everyone like adults."
Love's job as conductor of two orchestras in Annapolis and Baltimore and as music director of a contemporary chamber music group requires that he alter his approach with each group. It's a job he enjoys--and a role he will expand this fall in Howard County as the new conductor of the Columbia Orchestra.
"I hate to just keep gushing, but he really is a remarkable person," said Betsy Stewart, executive director of the Chesapeake Youth Symphony Orchestra in Annapolis, where Love is the conductor. "He's as good a person as he is a musician."
In addition to the Chesapeake's repertory orchestra, Love also conducts the Greater Baltimore Youth Orchestra. He is also music director and conductor of the New Horizons Chamber Ensemble, a contemporary music group in Baltimore. He will conduct his first performance with the 70-member Columbia Orchestra in October.
Love said he plans to continue to meet the playing needs of the Columbia musicians, who perform "just for the love of it all," and to encourage the community to take an interest in local music. That's especially tough, Love said, because the Washington area has so many professional orchestras that attract more patrons than the all-volunteer, amateur groups.
To conduct musicians with varied levels of training requires the ability to teach different skills. But in general, Love, 28, who was trained as a cellist and a conductor at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, takes the same approach.
"Humor typically goes a long way in teaching," said Love, who is originally from Burlington, N.C. "A relaxed but serious atmosphere goes a long way in getting a point across."
One afternoon during a rehearsal with the Chesapeake repertory orchestra, Stewart said, she walked into the music room to see many of the student musicians sitting with their legs crossed--a no-no for serious performers, she said. She approached Love, suggesting that he encourage the children to sit with better posture.
But Love never mentioned it to them. With all the demands placed on children these days, Love said, he saw no reason to bother them with something they would learn anyway.
When the group performed its first concert, Stewart said, not one musician sat cross-legged.
"He manages to get discipline in there and he understands how children are," she said. "He's very polished and he does it in a kind way."
Love always has worked with children. He has taught at the Governor's School of North Carolina, a prestigious summer program for artistically talented students, for the last seven years.
But he also enjoys working with professionals and with adults.
"It's always very enjoyable to work with him," said Todd Thiel, 25, a Baltimore cellist in the New Horizon group who once shared studio space with Love at Peabody. "He keeps things as light as possible, and he's an incredibly intelligent musician. He always knows a score inside and out."
Love pursued the opportunity to join the Columbia Orchestra when conductor Catherine Ferguson announced that she would resign after nine years. She decided to return to college to pursue another degree.
Love was chosen from an initial pool of 63 applicants. The Columbia Orchestra's board of directors narrowed its choices to three finalists, who were asked to try out before the full orchestra. The musicians then were asked to evaluate each candidate.
"Jason had overwhelming support from the orchestra. From a musical point of view, he's very easy to follow, and he communicates his ideas very clearly. He's able to communicate well with everyone, and he's very enthusiastic and energetic," orchestra President Elaine Newhall said.
About 70 people belong to the Columbia Orchestra, which performs six concerts a year at the Smith Theatre at Howard Community College and at the Rouse Theatre in Columbia. The group started in 1977 as a string chamber group of 30 members and grew to become a full orchestra in 1988.
Ferguson joined in 1990 and was "very instrumental in seeing that the quality grew from a small recreational group into a high-quality orchestra that's respected in the community," said Newhall, who is also a flutist with the orchestra.
The orchestra is committed to maintaining its status as a community orchestra. Unlike many other area orchestras, Columbia has no intention of going professional, Love said. The orchestra members worried about that possibility when they learned they would be getting a new conductor, he said.
CAPTION: Above, Baltimore cellist Todd Theil, 25, makes notations during a rehearsal with New Horizons Chamber Ensemble. At left, Columbia Orchestra's new conductor, Jason Love, 28, works with New Horizons.
CAPTION: Jason Love was trained as a cellist and a conductor at the Peabody Conservatory.