April 14, 2005
St. Paul, Minn. — Professionally, Prospect Park Players Artistic Director is known as William Eddins. In person he's Bill -- a guy who happens to be a world-traveling pianist and conductor. He's in constant motion, with a gregarious personality, mischievous sense of humor and a desire to drive the "dreaded conservative music establishment" crazy. He's done that with what he calls the P3, but now it's time to move on.
"Running an organization like the Prospect Park Players is very much like herding cats," Eddins says. "You've got to stay on top of it. There are all sorts of disasters that happen at the last minute. And then you have to think forward a year and plan for everything. It takes a tremendous amount of time and energy, and in many ways money."
While it's easy to believe that as the group's artistic director, Eddins is in want of time and money, energy doesn't seem like something he lacks. As a musician he's constantly searching for new music he can share with listeners. He liked to take risks with the Prospect Park Players, presenting pieces that challenged audiences.
"There's always this thing in classical music where people say, 'I went to a concert and I didn't like it.' So they decide that they don't like classical music," Eddins says. "I always look at them and say, 'Do you go to movies?' And everyone says yes. And I say, 'Well, have you ever gone to a movie you haven't liked?' And everyone says yes. And I say, 'Do you still go to movies?'"
After seven seasons, the Prospect Park Players reached a point where Eddins says the group had to either expand or disband. A few months ago it became obvious that getting bigger wasn't an option, when Eddins was appointed the music director of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra in Alberta, Canada.
In addition to being a pianist and chamber musician, Eddins is in demand as a guest conductor with orchestras throughout North America and Europe. But with two small boys, Eddins, who recently turned 40, wants to reduce the time spent away from his family and concentrate on his new job.
He says he doesn't want to become like older conductors, who told him about their accomplishments solely in terms of their profession.
"I would always look at them say, 'What about your families?' And to a man, they always got this wistful look in their eyes and said, 'Well, you know, I had a wonderful wife,'" Eddins says. "In 20 years from now, when some young brat conductor asks me that same question, I do not want to get that wistful look in my eye. Yes, I have a wonderful wife. That's not the point. I want to be able to say, 'I raised my kids. I saw my kids grow up.'"
The Prospect Park Players had an eclectic repertoire that ranged from the chamber works of Brahms to the avant-garde music of George Crumb. The group also championed works by local composers.
Both Libby Larsen and Stephen Paulus had their music performed this past season, and several years back the group featured a work for piano, five hands by Randall Davidson.
Davidson says chamber groups like the Prospect Park Players are essential in the creation of new works, because they can be more daring than larger organizations. But while Davidson says the group will be missed, its role will be filled by new ensembles.
"We'll have other chamber groups come and go. I'm afraid they don't last forever, so you have to pay attention to them now," says Davidson. "I think the Prospect Park Players will be seen as one of those great things that happened in the Twin Cities for a few years. I think there will be a void, but I also think that with that void comes opportunity."
For his part, William Eddins isn't sad that the seven-year run of the Prospect Park Players is almost over.
"As a Taoist, I believe everything should have a beginning, everything should have an ending," Eddins says. "I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to this Sunday being the end, and then looking back over the seven years of the ensemble."
"I know I'm going to be tremendously proud of what it is that we've accomplished, and the music that we put in front of our populace," he says. "But I know that means that chapter is closed, and that I can turn the page and move on to something else."
Eddins is planning to move to Edmonton, Alberta, next summer before his third season as music director of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. He says he'll continue playing chamber music.
The Prospect Park Players' final concert is Sunday afternoon at Hamline University's Sundin Music Hall.