A new era is about to begin.
A new conductor is an exciting time for any orchestra – no, actually, its an exciting time for the orchestra and their audience. And maybe even more exciting in today’s classical music climate.
I was in New York last week when the NY Philharmonic announced it would be looking for its next music director…and the excitement was palpable. And its not unique to New York – it seems that we are in a changing of the guard in orchestras. Over the course of the next few seasons, a large number of Canadian orchestras will be welcoming new conductors.
The SSO search was an incredibly fulfilling process. We took time to map out what the future of the SSO looks like – what kind of leader does the SSO need? what kind of leader can the SSO be in the community? what role and impact will the next conductor have on the local music scene? where do we want to go artistically?
We struck a committee – two board members, three principal musicians from the orchestra, and myself. We had 77 applicants from all over the globe. The committee whittled that down to a shortlist of 8. A truly exceptional shortlist; exceptional musicians and visionaries who are passionate about music and their art.
The interview process was among the most rewarding experiences of my professional life – asking these artists about their process, about their ideas, was the source of much inspiration and discussion for the committee.
This was not an easy decision – many long hours of thoughtful discussion took place. When the final meeting of the committee took place, I can say that we enthusiastically put forward a unanimous recommendation to the board.
The classical music world is presently at its most exciting, in my opinion. There is a wealth of young conductors and soloists who are entrepreneurial in their art form. Gone are the days when a conductor was a stoic figure on a very high podium – today’s conductors and soloists are out there trying to make their own artistic experiences and create new work for themselves and their friends – in fact, nearly all of our shortlist had at one point started their own orchestra.
The next generation of classical artists need to know more than how to make music. They need to understand the business of the arts, the finesse of budgeting, and the art of selling tickets. Programming is no longer about what a conductor wants to play, but rather what artistic statement the audience wants and needs. The way we create concerts has changed.
This new generation of music makers aren’t classical snobs – but they are passionately driven to make exceptional music and see high standards as a baseline. Today’s conductors don’t see classical music as the only path to musical enlightenment – the new generation of conductors are as comfortable at a jazz concert or playing on a Polaris prize winning album as they are on the podium.
Classical musicians love music in all its forms. Every classical musician I know, or have worked with, would list classical as only one of the many facets of their love. (Little known fact, I love rap).
I’m excited that Saskatoon is on the cusp of something great. A time to explore new things, new sounds, new skills – a chance to renew our passion about this orchestra.
The 16th conductor has big shoes to fill – I can say that next season’s programming is amongst the most exciting, unique, and imaginative that Saskatoon has ever seen. We’re setting a new soundtrack for our city.
We are about to announce a new maestro who has prairie ties and will call Saskatoon home. Excited yet?
See you at the symphony – and hopefully one of our big launches in March.