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2019 Look Back: Darko Butorac bids Missoula a fond farewell

Darko Butorac
Posted at 11:56 AM, Dec 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-26 13:59:27-05

MISSOULA — We are highlighting some of our favorite stories we've covered at KPAX and KAJ over the course of this year.

He taught us the stories, and fun, behind the classics. But more than anything else, Missoula Symphony Orchestra Musical Director Darko Butorac showed us the enthusiasm for live music.

Butorac and the symphony worked hard for “Last Best Place”, Darko’s farewell concert that capped an exhilarating 12-year stint in the Garden City.

“Ultimately it’s the place where I have spent most of my adult life. And we made some wonderful music together -- some really memorable concerts,” Butorac said. “I’m very proud of my musicians with everything that we managed to accomplish together over these years.”

It’s accomplishments not only built on the skill of the orchestra, but on Darko’s attention to detail, even taking the audience’s perspective at times.

“Certainly, Missoula has very dedicated audiences who are excited about music and they’re very supportive and very generous,” Butorac recalled. “Nothing we do here would have been possible without them.”

“My main philosophy in performing concerts is just music. I’m looking to share what I’m passionate about with my audiences. I don’t think of it too much in an educational sense. More of just really opening context and letting people see music from a different light maybe,” he continued.

“I think so much of the orchestra world over the last century got a little stodgy. And that’s changing. It’s not just here. It’s changing everywhere and that’s great. Because it is ultimately the largest collection of live musicians you’ll find anywhere. And live music is different. It’s not the same thing.”

It’s been a dozen years filled with tremendous music and punctuated by Darko’s infectious enthusiasm for music. But he’s also left a mark by making concerts fun, and helping young fans in particular discover the spectacle that is live music.

“Our kids are great because they have zero preconceptions about what they’re into. So, they just hear music. They get righteously excited. They clap. They sing. They yell. I mean the energy is incredible,” Butorac said. “And the family concerts certainly stand as one of my favorite projects we’ve done over the past decade.”

Darko will consolidate three musical directorships into two, continuing his five-year stint as musical director for the Tallahassee Symphony, and the new position he accepted with the Asheville Symphony last fall.

“I’m very excited about it. It’s a bigger orchestra. But at the same time, it’s also a beautiful mountain town. So, I’m glad I’m not entirely losing that in my life. There’s not much say for musical directors where they live, where they work. It’s really a lottery,” Butorac explained. “And I’ve been very fortunate to call Missoula my home -- and now in the future Asheville.”

And when it all comes together, we’d indebted to Darko for experiences we’ll never forget.

“You know, pressing a button and sound coming out is not the same thing. There’s a humanity behind each musician and that’s really important to bring across to the audience,” Butorac concluded.

Darko landed as a teen immigrant from Yugoslavia right in the middle of Seattle’s emerging “grunge” music scene, an experience he’s said led to his classic music “rebellion” of his own, and re-awakening our horizons at the same time.