Joseph Debrincat: ‘Unfortunately, it’s common in the artistic field for people to discourage others’

Conductor Joseph Debrincat tells all in our Q&A

A proud Gozitan, Joseph Debrincat started his musical career playing the clarinet with the Leone Band. He then pursued his studies at the University of Malta studying with Malta’s leading composers Charles Camilleri and Joseph Vella and conducting with Michael Laus. He also attended conducting masterclasses abroad. He is the maestro di cappella of the Gozo Cathedral and Sannat Parish and the music/artistic director and founder of the Classique Foundation. He is married to Tanya and they have two children, Giacomo and Chiara

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

The first thing I do is obviously an espresso (one of many) and go around Victoria, relaxing before going to work in the afternoon.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

Always try to be yourself and never pretend to be anything you’re not. Respect everyone even those under your command.

What do you never leave the house without?

Definitely my mobile. I must admit I am mobile-addicted.

Pick three words that describe yourself.

Sensitive, helpful and responsible (sometimes too much).

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

Conducting abroad and seeing one of my past students doing so well in his musical career. 

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

Waking up late in the morning.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

Never take anything for granted. Not all friends are really good ones.

Property and cars aside what’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought?

I can’t say I have ever bought something really expensive. However, if I have to mention something, it should be a painting by a local artist. 

What is one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?

Playing the piano better.

Who’s your inspiration?

In the music field, my inspiration are Italian conductor Riccardo Muti and American composer/conductor Leonard Bernstein.

What has been your biggest challenge?

Life is a continuous challenge. So I consider everything I do a challenge especially since – apart from conducting – very often I have to also look after all the logistical matters such as filling applications for funds, marketing, design of posters, scheduling of rehearsals etc.

If you weren’t a musician what would you be doing?

To be honest, I can’t imagine myself not being a musician.

Do you believe in God?

Yes, very much. 

If you could have dinner with any person, dead or alive, who would it be?

Definitely with the Italian composer Giacomo Puccini or else with Riccardo Muti.

What’s your worst habit?

Getting stressed and biting my nails to the extreme. 

What are you like when you’re drunk?

I have all the bad habits in the world, but I am proud to say that I don’t drink and that I quit smoking some 11 years ago.

Who would you have play you in a film?

Harrison Ford or Duane Johnson. 

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

I really deplore people that think that nobody is up to their standard or who think that the world can’t do without them. I also deplore people who try to discourage others. Unfortunately, this is very common in the artistic field and I have met a number of them.

What music would you have played at your funeral?

Wagner’s funeral march from his opera Siegfried and maybe my Ave Maria that I composed in 2020. 

What is your most treasured material possession?

My CD, DVD, vinyl and score collection.

What is your earliest memory?

Probably with my maternal grandfather feeding horses. 

When did you last cry, and why?

I am a very sensitive person and must admit that I get emotional very easily. One occasion that I remember very well is when I received the news of the passing away of Gozitan composer and friend Joseph Vella. 

Who would you most like to meet?

I have met quite a number of personalities that I admire a lot. One person that I have never met and would love to meet in person is conductor Zubin Mehta. 

What’s your favourite food?

Pasta and beef fillet.

Who’s your favourite person on social media right now?

I have no one in particular.

If you could travel in time, where would you go?

I must admit that I am happy to live in the present. 

What book are you reading right now?

I am reading a very interesting book (obviously music related) “Puccini interprete di se stesso” by Luigi Ricci.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

I will try to make the world a better place.

What’s one thing you want to do before you die?

Conduct all operas by Giacomo Puccini. Well, I know that probably it will not happen because I have only conducted one!

What music are you listening to at the moment?

One of my hobbies is listening to music, so I do listen to music very much. At home, at the moment I am listening to Shostakovich’s Symphonies whereas in the car I am listening to Zandonai’s opera ‘Francesca da Rimini’.

In the shower or when you’re working out, what do you sing/listen to?

I don’t listen to music when I am in the shower. But yes, I do sing. Most probably, I sing excerpts from the music that I am working on at the moment. I promise I will include some work-out in my schedule. I’ll keep you posted!