Preparation is essential for any conductor leading an orchestra, including when an orchestra is going to record an original soundtrack.
For Susie Benchasil Seiter, thorough preparation is about more than a music score. Before she led the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra in recording the soundtrack for the 2010 Hollywood thriller “Piranha,” she made a point of learning some Czech. Before she conducted the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra on the score for the “Star Trek Into Darkness” video game, Seiter studied Slovak.
“It was easier to talk to the musicians,” Seiter says. “You’re going in there, and it’s best to be well-equipped. I’m not stern; I’m a personable, compassionate person. Learning the language was a way to endear myself to an orchestra and a culture I didn’t know.”
Seiter is certainly equipped to conduct the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and choral group Vocalpoint! Seattle on Thursday for the sold-out concert version of “The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses.”
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A four-movement arrangement of music (much of it written by the renowned Koji Kondo) culled from Nintendo’s popular “Zelda” game franchise, “Goddesses” was performed last year at Benaroya Hall under guest conductor Eímear Noone.
Seiter — who also orchestrated “Goddesses” as well as the “Piranha” film and “Star Trek” game — says much about this “Zelda” concert, which celebrates the original game’s 25th anniversary, will be different.
“The symphony itself is the same,” she says, “but we’re introducing new pieces from other games, including ‘The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword,’ the latest Nintendo release.”
“The Legend of Zelda,” an action-fantasy game set in a mythical land called Hyrule, has sold — including its sequels — some 62 million copies worldwide. Images from the games will be projected on a screen above the stage.
“Goddesses,” arranged by the maestra’s husband, music director Chad Seiter, has proved an international hit. It’s also accomplishing something orchestras everywhere attempt: It’s bringing young people into a concert hall to hear live symphonic music.
“The audience is all over the map,” she says. “For some, it’s a first-ever orchestral experience.”
A Baltimore native, Seiter, 36, began playing piano at age 5. She found greater happiness as a singer, but decided in college a medical career (her father is a surgeon) would be a more practical choice. When a chemistry instructor advised her to major in her passion, Seiter switched to composition and conducting.
Her senior thesis was a requiem — Latin text, orchestra and choir — she wrote for her brother. Seiter conducted.
During a stint in New York as a teacher, Seiter met Disney film composer Alan Menken (“Aladdin”), who invited her to observe a scoring session in Los Angeles.
“He gave me honest advice,” Seiter says. “He didn’t glorify the business. There are tough times, and there’s a lot of rejection.”
Seiter got a master’s degree in studio composition, then spent a year in the University of Southern California film-scoring program. She discovered she was happiest as an orchestrator bringing another composer’s music to life.
Seiter’s credits as an orchestrator and/or conductor include cable TV’s “Dexter,” films “The Smurfs 2” and “My Bloody Valentine,” and video game “Aliens: Colonial Marines.”
“Orchestrating is sitting in front of a computer for 16-hour days,” says Seiter. “But I stay out of studio politics and work solely with musicians.”
Tom Keogh: firstname.lastname@example.org