Standing Ovation: American Musical Conductor Hobart Earle Emerges as People’s Artist of Ukraine

Posted by: Emma Hutchins, Public Affairs Intern

Читати українською

Since 1922, the “Narodny Artist Ukrainy” (“People’s Artist of Ukraine”) has been the highest honor bestowed upon performing artists in Ukraine and the former Ukrainian SSR
Since 1922, the “Narodny Artist Ukrainy” (“People’s Artist of Ukraine”) has been the highest honor bestowed upon performing artists in Ukraine and the former Ukrainian SSR

When Hobart Earle, the Music Director and Principal Conductor of Odesa’s Philharmonic Orchestra, received an email from a friend congratulating him on the title of Narodny Artist Ukrainy (meaning People’s Artist of Ukraine), Earle thought he was being pranked. But just thirty minutes later, the exciting reality began to set in when Earle’s staff confirmed the award through Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s website. The honor, which originated under Soviet rule in 1922, is the most prestigious performing arts award in Ukraine and can only be granted to artists ten years after they receive the title “Distinguished Artist of Ukraine.” Considering neither title had ever been awarded to an American, Earle’s recognition has been all the more impressive.

Earle is no stranger to firsts: he was the first artist to receive the Friend of Ukraine award established by the Washington Group; he introduced the first performances of a number of classics (Mahler’s 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 9th symphonies and Strauss’s “Four Last Songs”) in Odesa; and under his leadership Odesa’s Philharmonic became the first Ukrainian orchestra to cross the Atlantic and cross the equator – and was the first orchestra to increase its status from local to regional to national funding after the establishment of an independent Ukraine.

Musical Conductor Hobart Earle becomes the first American to receive the prestigious “Narodny Artist Ukrainy” (“People’s Artist of Ukraine”) title
Musical Conductor Hobart Earle becomes the first American to receive the prestigious “Narodny Artist Ukrainy” (“People’s Artist of Ukraine”) title

Indeed, in a career marked with international awards and sold-out performances, Maestro Earle is perhaps best known for elevating Odesa’s Philharmonic Orchestra to international prominence. In August 1996, Reader’s Digest journalist Lucinda Hahn charted Earle’s impressive achievement of transforming a regional group of musicians into an internationally-recognized orchestra. The article’s headline suggests the enormity of the task: “Maestro of Their Dreams: He promised to turn a disheartened band of musicians into a world-class orchestra, but even they doubted him.” Hahn noted how at the end of a performance in one Ukrainian town, shortly following the end of the Soviet Union, Earle closed his show of American songs by turning to the audience and declaring in Ukrainian, “We really can’t leave without playing a little Ukrainian music!” – at which point his orchestra played Ukraine’s unofficial national anthem as the crowd erupted with excitement.

That’s what makes Earle’s recent award so fitting: while he brings international attention to Odesa’s classical music scene, he also brings Ukrainian music to the world – and to Ukrainians. In a telephone interview after his award was announced, Earle gave back credit to the country where he’s built his musical empire, noting that “the great thing about Ukraine is that a lot of people are involved in the arts.” Asked what advice he would give young Ukrainians interested in pursuing careers in classical music, Earle responded, “It’s important for musicians to learn other languages because it’s the key to learning other cultures… there’s no question that learning German gives you better understanding of how German music flows.”

(1)Hobart Earle receives applause after conducting at the gala celebrating the 20th Anniversary of U.S.-Ukrainian relations in January 2012
Hobart Earle receives applause after conducting at the gala celebrating the 20th Anniversary of U.S.-Ukrainian relations in January 2012

Earle’s encouragement of global learning and commitment to expanding the international reputation of Ukrainian music helps him serve as a successful cultural ambassador between the United States and Ukraine. In fact, Earle conducted a performance at a 2012 gala concert celebrating the 20th anniversary of U.S.-Ukraine relations. After the performance, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John F. Tefft – a classical music aficionado himself – publically thanked Earle on stage.

While Earle begins a well-deserved summer break from traveling the world with his orchestra, he keeps his eye on the future, looking for new ways to improve the Odesa Philharmonic Orchestra. With an internationally renowned orchestra, a loyal Ukrainian audience, and an infectiously optimistic attitude, Earle’s future as the newest People’s Artist of Ukraine continues to look bright.

Want to learn more about Hobart Earle and the Odesa Philharmonic Orchestra? Check out the following links:

The Hall 

Hobart Earle’s Biography

Hobart Earle’s Facebook

“Maestro of Their Dreams” Article in Reader’s Digest

Report on the state of Odesa’s Philharmonic Hall

2 thoughts on “Standing Ovation: American Musical Conductor Hobart Earle Emerges as People’s Artist of Ukraine

  1. Hobart Earle is one of the best persons I have met in a lifetime of world travel. His activities in Ukraine have lifted U.S./Ukraine relations higher than anyone. He is a fascinating and highly artistic Conductor who leads by example. His talents and qualities amaze all who are in his presence. It is with the utmost respect and awe with which I congratulate him on receiving this award. He fully deserves all the accolades conferred upon him. I am sure we will see more honors granted to him as he will surely have a very long and distinguished career continuing beyond this award. My humble thanks to him for all he has done for the image of America and Americans in Ukraine and across the globe.

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