Every Monday, our My Top 5 series showcases a Houstonian who is helping to craft and shape our city’s culture, character, and impact; and reveals what they do when not hard at work. This week, we’re privileged to feature Franz Anton Krager, Texas Music Festival Music Director and Chief Conductor.
My Top 5 Things to Do in Houston
by Franz Anton Krager
- NASA Johnson Space Center – Since the day I sat in front our black and white TV watching the first men land on the moon in 1969, I’ve been captivated by space and space travel. Living in Houston has afforded me the opportunity to indulge in that fascination with numerous visits to the NASA Johnson Space Center, one of our first stops my wife and I take our out-of-town guests. Going to the historic Mission Control where so many moments in our history were monitored and ‘controlled,’ seeing the incredible exhibits, artifacts, and hands-on scientific displays at JSC, reminds and inspires me of the daring and courageous spirit within humankind. I’ll never forget standing for the first time at the foot of the Saturn 5 rocket, awed by its magnitude compared to the relatively small size of the first manned space capsules, or walking on board the original NASA 905 shuttle carrier aircraft – a Boeing 747 – complete with shuttle replica attached. These sights will never lose their magnitude nor fail to challenge me to keep striving forward.
- Houston’s Multi-Cultural Restaurant Scene – Anyone who loves dining out knows Houston is an endless smorgasbord of culinary delights. My wife and I love traveling the world, seeing its extraordinary natural, cultural, and architectural sights, but one of our top highlights is always the dining experience. And I love that without having to get on an airplane, Houston brings the world of international dining to us. I appreciate being able to dine in five-star style at the Hotel Granduca’s intimate and romantic Ristorante Cavour, where the menu is fresh and authentic, or on the other hand, I can enjoy the familiarity of a neighborhood deli, like Mandola’s, where the owner, Frankie, greets me by name and knows my regular order and my stories.
- Houstonian Hotel at Christmas – A few years after moving to Houston, some friends introduced us to something that has now become an annual tradition for my wife and me. Hidden away in the pine trees, right off Loop 610, is an unexpected once-a-year Christmas wonderland where, every year on the day after Thanksgiving, Houstonian Hotel guests awaken to a holiday fantasy. Its sumptuously decorated lobby boasts a 25-foot-tall bedecked Christmas tree and an actual gingerbread house village built on the mantel of the 30-foot stone fireplace, complete with a choo-choo train running through it. We always look forward to attending at least one of the holiday concerts of local performers there, then indulging in a gourmet dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, Olivette, partaking in dessert and coffee, comfortably snuggled in overstuffed chairs in front of the imposing fireplace. As we reluctantly leave the hotel and our fantastical evening, we are bid farewell by the extraordinary sight of a majestic live oak tree alit with more than 100,000 twinkling white lights.
- Houston Heights Orchestra – As a professional classical musician, I feel privileged and thankful to live in a city that has such a strong arts community and offers countless opportunities for young and upcoming professionals, such as the Houston Heights Orchestra. I could not have been more proud when one of my UH students founded this organization and built it from the ground up with the help and support of committed local entrepreneurs. It is so rewarding and heartening to have seen this ensemble grow from that first performance in 2011, where I was seated in a small audience of about 50, to the current season where the attendance has more than tripled. Houston Heights Orchestra has a refreshing and youthful exuberance, and makes for a more relaxed and casual evening without sacrificing quality. When I’m not the conductor on the podium, I enjoy being in the audience and watching one of my students or former students waving the baton.
- Houston Arboretum and Nature Center – I consider myself a city boy, and certainly thrive on the energy and excitement of a large metropolis, so Houston is definitely a good fit for me and my career. I generally find myself burning the candle at both ends, but of course at some point, it’s necessary to disconnect and recharge. One of my favorite places to do that is in the peace and tranquility of the Houston Arboretum. This 155-acre wooded sanctuary within the city limits is an oasis amid the chaos, and I love that I can live in the center of the nation’s 4th largest city and still be just minutes away from this living, breathing center of natural habitat. Whether I have hours or a few minutes, spending time on the trails at a fast pace or meditating on a bench in a secluded nook under the trees, this treasure offers me the chance to connect to the restorative powers of nature, to still my mind and clear my thoughts, making way for new ideas and the next venture to come my way.
About Franz Anton Krager
American born and trained, Maestro Krager has made his artistic presence felt both at home and abroad with performance engagements in some of the world’s most celebrated concert halls, including Copenhagen’s Tivoli Koncertsalen, Leipzig’s Gewandhaus, Moscow’s State Kremlin Palace, Sydney Opera House, Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall, Birmingham England’s Adrian Boult Hall, Guangzhou China’s Xinghai Music Center, The Hague’s Congresgebouw, Kazan’s State Philharmonic Hall in Russia, Guadalajara’s Degollado Theater, Sarasota’s Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, and, of course, the Moores Opera House at the University of Houston Main Campus. Krager is Music Director and Chief Conductor of the Immanuel and Helen Olshan Texas Music Festival international classical music residency based at the University of Houston (UH) Moores School of Music, where he will conduct the Opening Night Concert Saturday, June 10. He also is Founding Co-Artistic Director for Virtuosi of Houston and the Hourani Endowed Professor of Music, Director of Orchestras, and Chair of the Conducting Department at UH Moores School, where he has brought the orchestra and orchestral conducting program into international prominence.