Ronald Neal never stopped to think about what he would do with his life. “Things just sort of took care of themselves,” he says.
Neal, founder and Director/Concertmaster of The Dallas Chamber Orchestra, grew up in the Casa Linda area of East Dallas, and divided his time between violin and athletics. “I had a 9.5 average as a halfback,” says Neal. “I excelled in sports, mainly because I had to. I was one of the younger kids on the block, so I always had to keep my own for people who were four or five years older than me.”
But as a young child, Neal was aware of his musical abilities. “I won competitions. I was concertmaster of the all-state orchestra. I never thought I was good or bad, or anything else. I just enjoyed playing.”
Neal holds degrees from the Eastman and Julliard Schools of Music, but credits much of his early interest and success to the education he received from his first teacher, Ruth Lasley, and also to the music program that was part of the Dallas Public Schools.
“I went through the Dallas Schools at a wonderful time in their history for the arts. I remember when I was in junior high and high school, we had an all-city orchestra called the Dal-High Chamber Orchestra. We would play concerts in the Apparel Mart for 5,000 people, and they would be broadcast live on KERA radio and TV. That was just sort of the way things were.”
Today, Neal lives in the Forest Hills neighborhood by White Rock Lake with his wife, Allesandra, and their two sons, Alexander and Jorgito. The Dallas Chamber Orchestra is now in its 21st season, and an array of concerts is planned, including traditional works by Bach and Mozart, as well as contemporary works by Astor Piazzola and John Deak (214-321-1411 for information).
“I’m doing as much of Piazzola’s music as I can find,” says Neal, referring to his decision to program the Argentinean composer’s music on three separate concerts. “John Deak is a wonderful American composer. He writes for double bass, and he makes the bass howl like a wolf. It’s just music that’s really off the wall, and a lot of fun.”
The Chamber Orchestra plays in several venues, including Winfrey Point Pavilion, overlooking White Rock Lake. “These concerts are some of the most fun that we do because they’re in a relaxed setting, and they serve wine, champagne, and there’s a sunset,” says Neal.
This past Spring Neal founded the Austin Chamber Orchestra, and continues to travel to Vermont for summer festivals which he founded in Manchester, Killington and Stowe. He also continues to teach violin students as a professor at Southern Methodist University.
Neal says: “A combination of things has kept me here. The Dallas Chamber Orchestra and being able to get away in the summer. That’s a nice contrast. I am able to work with people from other parts of the world. I love my neighborhood. There are beautiful trees. I get to the Meyerson, and I can get to the places where I work a lot-downtown, SMU, anywhere in 15 minutes.”
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