WSO announces 5 candidates for new music director

The Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra has announced its five candidates for the position of music director and conductor.

They are:

  • James Blachly, music director of the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra, Experiential Orchestra, and Geneva Light Opera;
  • Andrés Lopera, assistant conductor of the Columbus Symphony;
  • Paul Polivnick, music director and conductor laureate of the New Hampshire Music Festival;
  • Wesley Schulz, associate conductor of the North Carolina Symphony, and music director of the Auburn Symphony Orchestra;
  • Steven White, associate and cover conductor of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City and artistic director of Opera Roanoke.

“I was most impressed by the artistry the candidates displayed in their conducting samples and their proven success leading some of the top orchestras in the world,” said Carolyn Keurajian, executive director of the Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra.

“In addition to their musical skills, they each have a wide range of unique abilities in regard to programming, community outreach and engagement and communication skills with the audience.”

The position was left open when Janna Hymes, who served as the WSO’s music director and conductor of the orchestra for 15 years, left to lead the Carmel Symphony Orchestra in Indiana.

Hymes, who announced last May she was leaving at the end of the season, conducted her last show with WSO on Wednesday.

Jon Krapfl, WSO board member and leader of the search committee, said the search began last summer.

The search committee was comprised of WSO board members, musicians and members of the community. Keurajain said it has been a unique experience getting to work collaboratively with the musicians on this mission.

“It was an exciting process and the search committee members were a unified team, all with the goal of choosing the best possible candidate to move the orchestra forward,” Keurajian said.

“One thing I realized is we are all of a similar mind. We were 100% unanimous on every single one of the candidates we selected, which is really nice.”

The orchestra received 194 applications, all of which includedvideos of the candidates conducting.

“So we viewed many, many videos over the course of a few months. I think we spent 7,000 (hours) combined between all of our committee members viewing conductor videos,” Keurajian said.

Krapfl said, “Sometimes people submitted eight-nine hours of working performance (video), so there was a lot to do.”

Some of the qualities the committee looked into for its new music director included artistic excellence, higher music education, experience and how they could relate with the audience.

“Janna Hymes has always done a wonderful job interacting with the audience, she loves giving educational moments at the concerts, she’s very personable — that is very important to us, could this person relate to our audience,” Keurajian said.

She also said having the conductor near the state was important to the search team. While conductor, Hymes lived in Maine and came into town for every concert.

Keurajian said they wanted the next person to be able to visit the area more regularly.

“We really didn’t want someone commuting from Europe, or let’s say Texas,” Keurajian said. “We just thought if they could be a little part of our community.”

During the 2019-2020 season of the orchestra, each candidate will conduct one of the five masterworks concerts. While in town, Keurajian said the candidates will meet with board members and other members of the community, in addition to conducting the orchestra.

After each concert, Keurajiansaid the orchestra will send out surveys to the audience, the musicians and the search committee and use that to help get an idea of what everyone thinks of the candidates.

“We wanted to make sure the community was involved int he decision because we (the WSO) wants to be a greater part of this community,” Krapfl said.

“We want people to know who we are and we want something that will attract people from around here.”

Keurajian said the last masterworks of the season will end in March in order to give the search committee to have enough time to fully consider and review each candidate and make the announcement in a timely manner.

The next music director of the WSO will be chosen this time next year, according to Keurajian.

Want to learn more?

For future concert dates and more information on the new candidates, visit williamsburgsymphony.org.

Copyright © 2019, The Virginia Gazette
91°