Q&A w/Evans Haile, Gainesville Orchestra

By Edysmar Diaz-Cruz

Gainesville Orchestra director Evans Haile stands before a group of professional musicians, clad in formal black attire, and guides them with the growing intensity of his baton. As he wields it through the air, the music follows suit, painting a story for a pensive audience.

Since the age of 18, Evans Haile has had a long, successful career that led him to experience life through the exciting lens of the performing arts. Having founded the New Amsterdam Theatre Company in New York City and after finishing his master’s degree at Juilliard, Haile returned home to Gainesville feeling torn between the two cities. However, he considers himself to be lucky.

Well-versed in all things creative -- whether that is music, theater, film, radio, or television -- Haile is determined to share his passion with the community of Gainesville and surrounding areas through his current endeavor as the director of the Gainesville Orchestra.  As he reflects on his career with Narrow Magazine, Haile shares with us his opinion on what makes Gainesville a unique hub for the arts and offers advice for young folk with great aspirations.

What should people know about the Gainesville Orchestra?

The Gainesville Orchestra is a professional organization made of professional musicians from the area. We have been recognized as one of the leading cultural institutions in Gainesville. Our concerts sell out and we are able to provide a variety of programming such as a tribute to Elton John or a Beethoven series or a contemporary tribute to powerful women composers. Every year, we bring in 2,000 kids to see our concerts. We promote having programs so kids come see our concerts throughout the rest of the year. We are very much in the fabric of the community.

What makes Gainesville unique from all the other cities you’ve worked at?

What makes Gainesville special is that it has a very vital cultural community. It’s a smart community with the University of Florida and Santa Fe College. It has people who are curious about the world around them. There’s great support for nature and the environment. We’re able to have professional arts organizations like the Gainesville Orchestra, like Dance Alive, like the Hippodrome in addition to what comes through on tours -- things that the Phillips Performing Arts Center brings in.  

How did you know that the performing arts was the direction you wanted to take with your life?

There are two things that I have always loved ever since I was a kid: Telling stories and bringing people together to create things. That led me to the performing arts, because what better place is there to tell stories and bring people together than to create evenings of theatre, music, and of storytelling?

What was your first exposure to it?

When I was in elementary school — which is a good point of how having theatre and music available in schools can make a difference is someone’s life — The Junior Welfare League used to tour around doing productions. I remember being in the 2nd or 1st grade, and that’s what probably got me really interested.  

What is the first step you took as a child to explore the performing arts?

In kindergarten, I remember the class was having a talent show. And I had just seen the original Mary Poppins. I wanted to do a scene from that. I also used to host fake radio broadcasts from my record player, pretending that I was hosting a radio show and I’d play all my favorite records -- Which is kind of ironic because if you jump years ahead, I actually had a radio season with NPR for four years.

What advice do you have for youth thinking of pursuing the performing arts?

Keep your passion alive. It’s going to be a roller coaster. Learn about the arts from a financial point of view. When I graduated from Julliard, they don’t tell you that the world is going to open up its arms to you.  You have to fend for yourself, you have to learn how to make things happen on your own.

Haile is excited to wrap up the season with the big annual “Pops” concert themed "Bette, Babs & Beyond," which will be taking place on May 10 at the UF Phillips Center for Performing Arts, a show that will be celebrating great women divas, current and past, such as Bette Midler, Barbra Streisand, Aretha Franklin, and more.

dave kosciolek