With her conductor father taking over the New York Philharmonic in 2018, what does that mean for van Zweden’s future with Soluna? Photo by Billy Surface.

Can Anna-Sophia van Zweden Keep Pushing the DSO’s Soluna Festival Forward?

We talk to van Zweden about her vision for Soluna and the recent news of her father's ascent to the New York Philharmonic.

In its second year, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Soluna International Music and Arts Festival is a smorgasbord of cultural experiences, with dance, chamber music, symphonic performances, visual and performance art, and even a newly commissioned score by Grammy-winning musician Pharrell Williams all falling under the festival’s umbrella theme, Myth & Legend. We spoke to Anna-Sophia van Zweden, director of festival advancement and daughter of DSO maestro Jaap van Zweden, about her vision for Soluna and how the recent news of her father’s ascent to the New York Philharmonic may affect her Dallas-based activity.

How did you get involved with Soluna, and how did the festival come about? I chaired the DSO Gala after-party in September for a few years after my father got appointed in Dallas. They said they wanted something to reach out to the younger audience. At first, I didn’t know what I was getting into. I said I would like to be involved but that I wanted to actually do something.

To do programing for the gala? No, not for the gala. Classical music is in my blood, but I studied art. I did my master’s in New York in arts and business at Sotheby’s, and I did an internship at the Dallas Museum of Art. At the same time, [Dallas Symphony president and CEO] Jonathan Martin came on board, and he wanted to talk to me about ideas about how to reach out to a younger audience. There was this idea in Dallas to do a festival. Those ideas came together: wouldn’t it be great to create a platform where we can do something with music and art?

Is there a vision or identity that you are going for, that you’d like to define Soluna? I really want Soluna to be known for commissioning new art. So the first thing we commissioned last year was Monte Laster’s video piece. This year, we commissioned a score by Pharrell Williams. I want not only international and national artists to come and show their work, but to come to Dallas and create work in Dallas—and then it will go off elsewhere.

What did you learn after the first year? We do not have to have a collaboration with everyone. In some cases, it doesn’t always work out. I aim for quality. Last year we did a collaboration with Francisco Moreno, a local artist. I would love to do more collaborations with local artists, but things don’t always work out that way.

You have become quite invested in Dallas since your father came here in 2008. With the announcement that he is going to lead the New York Philharmonic in 2018, where does that leave you? I love what I do, and I have no intention of leaving any time soon. I love Dallas, and I think there are a lot of things that we can still improve. We just got started with Soluna. I think we have something very special on our hands. I would like to continue working on Soluna, but that doesn’t mean that I have to be in Dallas 24/7. I’m not in Dallas all the time. I’m on the road a big part of my life already. I believe my father’s appointment creates opportunities for me.

"We just got started with Soluna. I think we have something very special on our hands." Photo by Billy Surface.
“We just got started with Soluna. I think we have something very special on our hands.” Photo by Billy Surface.

You mentioned that there are things that can improve in Dallas. What are some of those things? Getting people excited about learning and digging a little bit deeper—not just looking and experiencing art, but to read and understand what they are looking at. I would love for people to get more into it. I think [in Dallas] it is very community-based. What I do like is that people that go to openings, they go because also they see their friends and they like to share their experience.

Along those lines, I think some people criticize Dallas because patrons always look to import artists from elsewhere without taking seriously their own homegrown talent. I think it is an ongoing conversation in Dallas, and I absolutely understand. I would like to include local artists, and I go to galleries and talk to people, of course. I don’t have a rule that I have to have a local artist every year. If it is right, of course, I love that. We were working with a theme, Myth & Legend, and there wasn’t a local artist who really fit the theme this year.

Some people have viewed your role heading Soluna skeptically considering your relationship to the DSO through your father. Have you heard any of that feedback? I understand. It is really because of my background. I have a network in the visual art world and knew a lot of our collectors. I understand both worlds. I understand what musicians need, and I understand how artists work and how to work with donors. I do not work with my father at all or even talk about what I do. He is a musician, and he doesn’t understand a lot of contemporary art. It is not that we talk about it around the dinner table.

But do you guys get into arguments about contemporary art around the dinner table? He still has a hard time understanding Andy Warhol, even though we—my mother is an art historian—try to tell him so many times. He has a hard time understanding conceptual art. He loves Old Masters paintings. He likes to look at something pretty.

A version of this Q&A appears in the May issue of D Magazine.