Perhaps best known for his conducting of the popular Summer Pops concerts at Narragansett Beach, Roger Williams Park, the Bristol Fourth of July celebration and, until recently, the Fox Point Fourth celebration, Francisco Noya has become one of the most recognizable figures in Rhode Island.
We sat in the lobby of Veterans Memorial Auditorium during a half-hour rehearsal break for the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra’s Gala fundraiser. Noya held his smartphone in his hand as he checked a date for me.
The resident conductor of the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra and Music School is a master at multi-tasking.
He has to be.
Not only is he the resident conductor – which requires knowing every score that will be played by the orchestra and being ready to take the podium if the current or visiting conductor becomes unavailable at the last minute – he has many other responsibilities as well. He also attends all of the RIPO board meetings.
He said he loves to give pre-concert talks at the Vets and education concerts to students.
“[Trinity Rep actor] Joe Wilson Jr. and I work with students from around the state in a special Link Up educational concert at Vets, where the students get a chance to learn about the different instruments, and actually play along with the orchestra,” he said. “Exposing young people to the arts helps create a better society.”
At 64 years old, Noya has no plans to slow down. He keeps a schedule that would wear out a much younger person, and he has it all at his fingertips.
Noya also serves as music director and conductor of the Boston Civic Symphony, music director of the New Philharmonic in Newton, Massachusetts, and as a faculty member at Berklee College of Music.
He began his professional career in his native Venezuela as music conductor of the Youth Orchestra of Valencia. After earning advance degrees in conducting and composition from Boston University, he continued his distinguished career in Latin America before returning to the United States, where he served as music director of the Empire State Youth Orchestra in Albany, New York, and was a guest conductor at symphony orchestras from the Boston Pops to Russia.
He is now entering his 23rd year with the Rhode Island Philharmonic.
“Larry Rachleff hired me,” he said. “And now I have the opportunity to work with our new conductor [Bramwell Tovey]”.
Noya sits at rehearsals with pad, pencil and music score, making notes between the lines and using his years of experience and insight to assist the conductor.
“Every concert requires about 100 hours of preparation,” he said. “Actually, I’ve got it down to about 75 now. By Saturday morning, I am ready for whatever may happen. No plans the night before. No oysters.”
Representing the orchestra artistically and educationally throughout Rhode Island, he has also accompanied Philharmonic fan tours to Italy, adding his musical expertise to the experience.
Noya is looking forward to a new adventure in his life. In June, he and his wife, Elizabeth Hallet, are moving to Nantucket, where she will become assistant superintendent of schools for a year before taking on the superintendent’s position.
“How can you possibly keep all those balls in the air?” I ask.
“I have been doing it for years,” he said. “I maintain residence in Massachusetts with an apartment in Providence. I will still be able to meet all responsibilities, barring any major storms. I already have the ferry schedule.”
He added, “I enjoy everything I do, both with the orchestras and with the music school and students. I’ll slow down when I die.”
Noya is an avid tennis player and works out to keep in shape.
“I played tennis this morning,” he said. “I try to play as often as possible, usually every day in the summer. I prefer singles. My apartment is on the fourth floor and I seldom use the elevator.”
Noya reflected on his path to a musical career.
“When I was in school, I studied both engineering and music,” he said. “I’m so happy and grateful that I chose music. I’m a very happy guy. And a very lucky guy.”