Charles Barker has a resume any ballet dancer would envy, with performances with San Francisco Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet and the Australian Ballet. And he's accomplished it without executing nary a grand jete or pirouette.
Instead, he's the man behind the music as principal conductor for American Ballet Theatre and music director for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. He's in Pittsburgh leading PBT's orchestra in performances of "Coppelia" at the Benedum Center, Downtown, that today will close the curtain on the company's 42nd season.
The Manhattan resident is a father of two and is married to former Australian Ballet principal dancer Miranda Coney, whom he proposed to on stage during a performance of "The Merry Widow."
The best part of your job: The part that I enjoy the most is the performance. Whereas a lot of performers talk about nerves or anxiety or stage fright, I'm the type of guy who has to have an espresso and eat some chocolate before I go out. I'm so eager to do it I need that extra energy to put myself over the top.
The biggest misconception of ballet: That it's all tutus and toe shoes. Of course, there's an element of ballet that has that in it. But it's not [everything]. It is so dramatic and so theatrical and so moving, and the range of emotions that are covered in ballet runs the gamut.
What's on your iPod? I stopped listening to music a long time ago. Maybe it's because I have too much in my head. I'm not a casual music listener. On occasion, if there's an emotion going on inside me I'll go to my iPod and I'll pick that movement from that symphony that I want to hear to make that emotion even more relevant.
Most challenging performance: John Adams' "Harmonium." It's for large orchestra and chorus, and it's set to free form of Emily Dickinson. I believe it is the hardest piece that I've ever done. The reason being that John wrote it without any patterns.
When you were in junior high school, you dreamed of becoming: A math professor. It wasn't until I kind of got struck with the music wrecking ball when I was about 18 that I thought any differently. I never thought I'd be a musician.
Favorite Pittsburgh food spots: Original Fish Market and Pamela's.
Most loved score for a ballet: Probably what I'm doing that night.
Funniest on stage experience: I was giving a cue to the timpani, who was far to my right, and the next cue that I had to give was to the basses, who were far to my left. So I was kind of turned to my right, and then I turned back to the left and took my left hand and swiped it across my face and I knocked my glasses off my face. I didn't know where they were, and I couldn't see. All of a sudden I felt this tap, tap, tap over my left shoulder and there were my glasses, and an audience member said, "Did you drop these?"
Ideal weekend: Now, as I have two little boys who are 7 and 9, an ideal weekend is going into Central Park and taking our mitts and balls and bats, or just going hiking some place with them or jumping on our bikes and riding. Anything to do with my family is the most fun.
Advice to young musicians: You have to do your own performance. It has to say something about you when you perform.theater
Sara Bauknecht: firstname.lastname@example.org.