By Wayne Schutsky GSN Managing Editor
When David Thye conducted his first concert at Carnegie Hall in 2005, he never realized that the performance would propel him to a residency at the famed venue or that he eventually would return there to perform alongside his son.
Thirteen years later and the Gilbert resident has now performed 25 times at Carnegie Hall as a conductor with MidAmerica Productions, and on May 29 he shared the stage with his son, Desert Vista High School Director of Bands Josh Thye, at the venue’s Stern Auditorium.
The performance – their second at Carnegie Hall together – featured David and Josh separately conducting the New England Symphonic Ensemble and Desert Vista’s Wind Ensemble, respectively.
Despite performing at Carnegie Hall dozens of times, David acknowledged that this concert felt different.
“I’ve had 25 concerts in the hall and I don’t think I have ever experienced what we experienced,” David said.
He added that even his performers and collaborators, some of whom he had not worked with before, recognized how special the event was for the father and son.
“One after another, they came up to me. They were inspired and very heartfelt about it,” he said. “It really seemed to stir everyone and obviously us.”
The concert had a similar impact on Josh, who has now conducted three times at Carnegie Hall.
“As (conductors), we have done a lot of things parallel to each other over the years,” he said. “I have attended a lot of his concerts over the years, and he’s attended all of mine over the years. I guess when it intersects that’s a neat moment.”
Though the event had a significant effect on the two conductors, that impact was felt doubly by Josh’s young performers, many of whom left him notes after the last day of school to let him know how important the trip was to them.
“I have two students that are going on be teachers, and they wrote that having the honor to perform at Carnegie before even starting their path in college was a really neat experience for them,” Josh said.
When talking about the effect that music has on students, the Thyes sound a lot like sports coaches – and emphasize the character-building aspects of live performance that will remain with the kids long after the concert is over.
“There all these times in life like are you going to step onto the stage or not,” Josh said. “Are you going to take your chance when you have it? In that moment will you rise up and have courage?”
The father-and-son conductors share that sentiment that their profession goes well beyond the music itself.
To David, music is a unifying force in an increasingly divided world.
To illustrate, he pointed a piece he conducted at the concert in May featured seven languages, including Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, Zulu, Latin and English.
“It was fun to bring the world onto the stage,” he said. “It is important for music to be that language and voice of hope in the world.”
As accomplished as he is now, David did not grow up in a musical household. Neither of his parents played instruments, and it was not until he began playing trumpet in the fifth grade that he realized he had an aptitude for the craft.
He ended up working his way to first chair. “I just kind of fell in love with music,” he said. “I had no idea where it would take us.”
It ended up taking the Thye family all over the U.S. as the group moved 22 times throughout David’s career.
He got his start at a large high school in the Kansas City area and has since worked at universities, large churches and the Fort Worth Symphony.
Unlike his father’s path to conducting, Josh’s journey to music had an air of predestination. The younger Thye performed in the 2005 chorus that David conducted at Carnegie Hall along with his mother, brother Jake and their wives.
Josh then attended University of Arizona to study music and began working at Desert Vista, his alma mater, immediately after graduation.
He remembered finally feeling comfortable in the job at the beginning of his fourth year when his first class of freshmen became seniors.
“They were pretty special, and I still remember a lot of them,” Josh said.
One student, Andrew Worden, went on to the Eastman School of Music and debuted an original composition titled “Bolt” — an allusion to Desert Vista’s mascot — at the Carnegie Hall performance.
As professional accolades add up, conducting remains an intensely personal experience for the Thyes, a physical manifestation of the bond between the father and son.
“I go to Josh’s concerts and I am the guy in the back row crying my eyeballs out, whether it’s in Carnegie Hall or in Desert Vista’s auditorium or on the marching field,” David said.
“I can’t tell you what it means. Words can’t express what that means to me that my son would not only love music so much but that it would impact his world and also produce that kind of performance attainment.”