You might not know what a tabla is, but you have definitely heard it before.

Last year, the longtime conductor for the Rockford Symphony Orchestra, Steve Larsen, retired from conducting. That left the RSO with a very attractive opening for a conductor. And that's been the theme for this season.

9 guest conductors through the season, with someone being crowned Maestro at the end. It's almost like a Survivor: Composer's Edition right here in Rockford.

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Their fifth guest conductor of the 2022 season is Alastair Willis. A truly fascinating and entertaining man. He has a wonderful English accent, he was born in Massachusetts, he grew up in Russia, and eventually wound up in Seattle. I challenge you to find another person with that resume.

Willis was kind enough to stop by the WROK studios Wednesday morning to talk about RSO's show this weekend: Shakespeare & The Silk Road. We immediately hit it off with Willis off-air before the interview, and then he just blew us away when we turned on the microphone.

Take a listen for yourself.

The passion and energy displayed by Willis when he was talking about this upcoming show just poured out of him. You could tell how excited he was to work with this orchestra and what this particular program meant to him.

One of the highlights of Saturday's program will be a solo tabla performance from one of the best in the world to play it, Sandeep Das.

Like I said, you might not know what a tabla is (I didn't and I played percussion for 10 years) but you know what it sounds like.

We don't want to pick favorites in RSO's search for a new conductor, and to be fair, we've only met one of them. BUT. If this is the type of program Alastair Wills plans on bringing to Rockford if he gets the job, we are all for him getting the position.

A delightful guy that does a great job making music relatable to the casual fan.

Tickets are still available at the RSO website. 

The Shakespeare and the Silk Road concert featuring Sandeep Das is this Saturday, May, 14th at 7:30PM in Rockford's historic Coronado Theater.

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