In college, David Donnelly was pre-med and a football player, but a day after graduation, he ran off to Los Angeles to follow his dream of becoming a filmmaker.
At that point, classical music was the last thing on his mind, but now, he’s released a feature-length documentary called “Maestro” about world-renowned conductor Paavo Järvi.
It came about when Donnelly moved back home to Cincinnati when he was 25 and Järvi happened to be his neighbor.
“I was going through a breakup and had just moved back from L.A., and I was trying to figure out my life,” Donnelly said. “And [Järvi] somehow knew I needed to hear this music at this point in my life, and it had such a strong impact that I couldn’t believe more people didn’t know it was out there.”
From not thinking about classical music to becoming a classical music evangelist, Donnelly wants this film to be accessible to those who aren’t classical music fans and introduce classical to a broader audience. “Maestro” has the pacing of a sports documentary and includes interviews with superstars like Joshua Bell, Hilary Hahn and Lang Lang.
He thought the best way to connect classical with a broader audience was to show the human element.
“A lot of classical musicians, they don’t appear to be vulnerable. It’s always about being perfect, hitting every note, the posture, this perfection. And that can be intimidating to a lot of people. … I think that human element and that vulnerability helps people connect.”
Donnelly wants this film to be distributed in schools as an educational film.
“I think it’s a student’s right to be exposed to all these different beautiful things that we have available.”
He also wants to promote digital media in schools, which he sees as increasingly important way to educate young people.
“I think digital curriculum is overlooked … There is not a lot of incentive right now for filmmakers to make great films that ultimately go to schools,” he said.