The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Mei-Ann Chen, the final candidate to audition for the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra‘s music director job, has been named music director of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra.
Chen was one of the favorites for the Philharmonic post after her March 2009 audition. But shortly after her appearance, she pulled out of the race on the advice of her manager who said she should not take on the Lexington job in light of her rapidly growing career. Chen, then assistant conductor of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, had already been named as a candidate for the Memphis post when she auditioned in Lexington.
In winning the job, she beat the other Lexington candidate who pulled out of contention, Alastair Willis, who auditioned here in February 2009.
Scott Terrell was named the Philharmonic’s new music director in April 2009, and continues his inaugural season at 8 p.m. March 5 with piano soloist Anne-Marie McDermott performing Maurice Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major in the Singletary Center for the Arts.
Scott Terrell said he liked the view from the stage in front of the Old Morrison Building at Transylvania University. When he looked one way, he saw his new orchestra, the Lexington Philharmonic. When he turned around, he saw his new town, or what must have looked like the whole town, from that perch.
The crowd for the Patriotic Concert the Philharmonic presents ever July 3 stretched from the steps of Old Morrison back across the lawn and over Third Street through Gratz Park almost to the back steps of the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning. Our own Tom Eblen, a veteran Patriotic Concert fan, guessed the audience was almost twice as large as the typical crowd for this event.
That makes sense, as it wasn’t a typical Patriotic Concert.
It was the debut of Scott Terrell as the Phil’s music director — his first concert conducting the orchestra since he was named to that post in April.
Whether it was that or the perfect night that drew people out, it was a truly big debut that showed Terrell had some good instincts.
Conventional wisdom would have had him waiting for his first bow in September when the Philharmonic opens its Masterclassics season at the Singletary Center for the Arts.
Thing is, you couldn’t fit this audience in a couple of Singletarys.
By taking the baton Friday night, he got in front of one of the Phil’s biggest audiences of the year for a concert that sent a few messages.
~ Masterclassics aren’t the only thing. Terrell has talked about reviving the Phil’s pops series and introducing other concerts and series in coming seasons. That he chose to debut with this concert and obviously put some thought into it says he’s serious about broadening the orchestra’s profile.
~ Get ready for some new ideas about repertoire. Friday night’s concert had some of the staples of the event, including a tribute to the Armed Forces and the “get out your sparklers” rendition of Stars-and-Stripes Forever. He also got to conduct My Old Kentucky Home for the first time, and complimented the “mass choir” of the audience joining the Lexington Singers for the state song.
But Terrell wanted to make it about the broader concept of American music, so he added a selection of traditional melodies, showtunes and movie themes.
My favorite moment of people watching came during All That Jazz, from Chicago, when near the front of the stage, a little girl was dancing with abandon while, a few yards behind her, a senior couple was walking in rhythm, as if they were about to cut a rug — or lawn, as the case would be.
Exploring American music for the Fourth is an interesting idea, and it could yield some intriguing programs in the future. I did hear that some people wanted a concert more in line with the traditional Fourth evening of patriotic standards. The audience immediately around me, near the front of the stage, seemed to enjoy the program. Just as Lexington will spend the next season hearing Terrell’s ideas, Terrell will certainly spend the next season — and beyond — hearing audience feedback.
One note: It was cool he included Leroy Anderson’s Blue Tango, as Anderson was a favorite of Terrell’s predecessor, George Zack.
Speaking of Zack . . .
~ Terrell is ready to embrace the role of “Face of the Philhamonic.” Replacing such an iconic figure in Lexington arts, Zack’s successor needed to be ready to step forward in a PR role as well as musical role. Terrell seems ready for that, picking a debut concert that had him talking to the audience quite a bit. And by picking this concert, Terrell chose a venue that would put him center-stage before one of the orchestra’s biggest audiences.
And he seemed to have a great time, a big time — big gestures, big eyes and a big smile on the podium.
That would be the podium where he saw his orchestra and his audience, and we got out first good look at the Philharmonic’s future.
Friday’s concert will be repeated Saturday night in Versailles.
Comment: What did you think of the program?
Here’s a fun fact about Scott Terrell, who was announced Friday as the new music director of the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra, and Kayoko Dan, who is being announced today as the new music director for the Central Kentucky Youth Orchestras.
As most Phil Phans know, Dan also auditioned for the Philharmonic job, and she and Terrell were the October auditioners: Dan in 2007 and Terrell in ’08. So, aspiring music directors out there, it seems that if you want to get a job conducting in Lexington, October might be a good month to have your audition.
BTW, I will be very impressed with anyone who can tell me where the title of this post comes from.
Click the play button to hear Scott Terrell chat about being named the new music director of the Philharmonic (Apology in advance: The recording sounds like we’re in the middle of a freeway because we couldn’t resist the beautiful weather, but didn’t realize how loud the traffic was):
This is the first of three Podcasts from our chat with Terrell. Next week, he discusses programming the 2009-10 season and beyond.
When Scott Terrell auditioned for music director of the Lexington Philharmonic in October, Keeneland was in session.
“I lost,” he said with a smile. “I contributed to the local economy.”
Terrell’s going to be contributing a lot more, because regardless of how the 38-year-old conductor does at the track this weekend, he’s the big winner in the Philharmonic’s conductor search.
After a two-year, 10-candidate audition process, the orchestra announced at its season-closing concert Friday night that Terrell will succeed George Zack, who is retiring after 37 years as the philharmonic’s music director.
“He’s who the orchestra wanted,” said Margie Karp, a violinist who was also a member of the search committee that waded through applications from 278 conductors.
“He is smart and talented. He’s going to be very demanding, but for the right reasons, because the music demands it. It’s really exciting for the orchestra.”
The new director is also excited.
“The potential of the orchestra is pretty infinite, in terms of where it could actually go, both musically, artistically and within the community,” Terrell said Friday morning. “Also, I was thoroughly impressed with the work the search committee did. That spoke volumes to me to have board members and community people engaged on the level to which they were engaged.”
Likewise, the more the board looked at Terrell, the more its members liked him.
“As I did some of the vetting and called his references, I became more and more excited about the possibility of him coming here,” said lawyer Greg Jenkins, co-chairman of the search committee. “In a few years, I think we will look back and say we were really lucky to get him.”
Terrell is finishing his fourth season as the resident conductor of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra in South Carolina.
“I’m thrilled for him, not for us,” said Jan Newcomb, executive director of the Charleston Symphony. Read the rest of this entry »
Apr14Filed under: Central Kentucky Arts News, Classical Music, LexPhil conductor search, Music, Singletary Center for the Arts; Tagged as: Alastair Willis, Alexander Platt, Alfred Savia, Daniel Meyer, Darryl One, George Zack, Jefferson Johnson, Jeffrey Pollock, John Nardolillo, Kayoko Dan, Larry C. Deener, Lexington Philharmonic, Lexington Singers, LexPhil conductor search, Mei-Ann Chen, Morihiko Nakahara, Scott Terrell
The Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra will announce its choice for its new music director at Friday night’s concert, bringing to a close a two-year search for the successor to George Zack.
“This is the way we always wanted to make the announcement, and it looks like we’re on track to do it,” said Larry C. Deener, President of the Lexington Philharmonic Society, Inc.
Zack announced his retirement in December 2006, setting in motion a two-season search that saw 10 candidates conduct the Philharmonic between October 2007 and last month. Two candidates withdrew from the race after visiting — February auditioner Alastair Willis and March candidate Mei-Ann Chen.
That leaves eight candidates in contention for the spot:
- Kayoko Dan, assistant conductor of the Phoenix Symphony
- Alexander Platt, music director of the Waukesha Symphony in Wisconsin, resident conductor of the Chicago Opera Theatre and several other posts
- Darryl One, music director of the Victoria Symphony Orchestra in Texas
- Daniel Meyer, music director of the Asheville Symphony Orchestra in North Carolina, resident conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and several other posts
- Alfred Savia, music director of the Evansville Symphony Orchestra in Indiana
- Scott Terrell, resident conductor of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra in South Carolina
- Jeffrey Pollock, last post was assistant conductor of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra in Texas
- Morihiko Nakahara, music director of the South Carolina Philharmonic
Deener said the announcement will come just before intermission of Friday’s concert, which will feature the Lexington Singers and Lexington Philharmonic performing works by Gabriel Faure and Ludwig Van Beethoven. Lexington Singers music director Jefferson Johnson and University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra director John Nardolillo will co-conduct the concert.
At the concert, Deener said plans are to have brochures available with the programs for next season’s Masterclassics series, which will be the new conductor’s first season with the Philharmonic.
Mei-Ann Chen, a popular contender to succeed George Zack as music director of the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra, has withdrawn from the race.
Philharmonic executive director Peter Kucirko said that Chen sent an e-mail to him and the search committee Tuesday saying she was taking her name out of consideration. She is the second candidate to withdraw from the race. Alastair Willis, who conducted the orchestra in February, bowed out the week after his audition.
“Mei-Ann has withdrawn from the search on the advice of her manager, that she not take on the responsibility of this position in light of her rapidly growing career,” Kucirko said.
Kucirko added that Chen said, “the LPO has much potential and Lexington is a memorable and beautiful place to live.”
Chen is currently the assistant conductor of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and is a contender for music director posts in other cities such as Memphis, where she will conduct next season.
She conducted the Philharmonic on March 27 and zoomed to the tops of many observers’ lists. In his review of the concert, Herald-Leader contributing music critic Loren Tice said she should be the Philharmonic’s pick, and in a poll on this blog, more than half the voters said she should be the orchestra’s next conductor.
The Philharmonic’s search committee has eight candidates left to choose from who conducted from October 2007 through January this year. The committee met to begin considering candidates on Tuesday night. It was aware of Chen’s withdrawl when it met.
Whoever the committee selects, it will be the Philharmonic’s first new music director since George Zack took the baton in 1972. He conducted his last concert with the orchestra Sept. 12 and will officially retire when his successor takes over the job.
The orchestra has one concert left on its current season: An April 17 performance with the Lexington Singers which will be co-conducted by Singers director Jefferson Johnson and University of Kentucky Symphony music director John Nardolillo. The announcement of the new music director is expected at or before that performance.
There are nine contenders to become the next music director of the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra. But in a completely unscientific, inconsequential-except-for-fun Copious Notes poll, just over half the readers voted for Mei-Ann Chen, the last candidate to audition with the orchestra.
Chen, currently assistant conductor of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, received 51.6 percent of the vote.
All of the contenders received at least a few of the 64 votes. Chen’s closest competitor in the poll was October 2008 auditioner Scott Terrell, who received 20.3 percent of the votes.
Here’s how the vote broke down:
- Mei-Ann Chen, auditioned March 2009 — 51.6%
- Scott Terrell, October 2008 — 20.3%
- Darryl One, January 2008 — 9.4%
- Daniel Meyer, February 2008 — 6.3%
- Alexander Platt, November 2007 — 4.7%
- Kayoko Dan, October 2007 — 3.1%
- Morihiko Nakahara, January 2009 — 1.6%
- Jeffrey Pollock, November 2008 — 1.6%
- Alfred Savia, March 2008 — 1.6%
Two notes: The poll ran from March 28 through April 5, with only one vote allowed per computer. There is no way of knowing whether voters actually saw any or all of the auditioners. Like I said, this was for fun.
Also, if you had not heard before, February 2009 auditioner Alastair Willis withdrew from consideration.
As for the vote that matters, Philharmonic search committee chair John Carpenter says the committee — which had several members out of town for spring break, last week — will meet Tuesday night to begin the selection process.
Mar29Filed under: Central Kentucky Arts News, Classical Music, LexPhil conductor search, Music; Tagged as: Alastair Willis, Alexander Platt, Alfred Savia, Daniel Meyer, Darryl One, George Zack, Jeffrey Pollock, Kayoko Dan, Lexington Philharmonic, LexPhil conductor search, Mei-Ann Chen, Morihiko Nakahara, Scott Terrell
Here’s our slide show of the candidates in the Lexington Philharmonic’s music director search. Mouse over the bottom to get controls. Click on the little comment cloud to the left to activate captions. If you click on a photo, it will take you to a larger version of it at Picasa, and you can click the link at the bottom left for a larger version of the whole show.
When we started the Lexington Philharmonic‘s search for a new conductor, Barack Obama was still best known as a Senator from Illinois, AIG was pretty much known only to financial folk and golf fans, and CentrePointe sounded like a term out of Rand McNally.
OK, the length of the search for the Phil’s new music director has not been as dramatic as those comparisons that tell you the last time something happened dinosaurs were roaming the Earth. But, it has been a long journey for the orchestra, its search committee and the Philharmonic’s audience.
Now, with Mei-Ann Chen’s concert complete, all of the candidates have crossed the Singletary Center for the Arts concert hall stage, and it is up to the committee to choose from the nine hopefuls — 10 came to town, but February candidate Alastair Wills took his name out of the running after his appearance.
It’s been a dramatic couple of years for an orchestra that had the same person, George Zack, on the podium for well over three decades.
In the last two seasons, I know I have learned things about conducting and so has the audience.
Conducting is an entrepreneurial pursuit: Starting with Kayoko Dan, back in October 2007, I began hearing story after story about how aspiring conductors had to pull together pick-up orchestras to help them sharpen their skills. Alexander Platt, Mr. November 2007, organized performances of Benjamin Britten operas at Cambridge. Chen made friends with composition students at the New England Conservatory and organized performances of their works. If you play an instrument, you usually have that instrument to practice with. If you play large groups of people, that’s another thing altogether.
Mentors mean a lot: Scott Terrell, who we saw last October, went on about how influential David Zinman has been in his career. Chen did not have enough words for Robert Spano of the Atlanta Symphony, where she is assistant conductor. Almost every candidate we talked to had some sort of mentor who helped him or her develop and helped them get their feet in the first few doors.
When the search for the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra‘s new music director began, Tubby Smith was still the basketball coach at the University of Kentucky.
Friday, the same day Smith’s successor was dismissed, the search for a new Philharmonic music director finally reached an end.
“I barely made it through the door,” Mei-Ann Chen, the 10th and final candidate to succeed George Zack as music director of the Lexington Philharmonic, said to folks who attended her pre-concert chat before she conducted the orchestra in a crowd-pleasing program of Beethoven, Mozart and Brahms.
Chen gave the early arrivers an abbreviated — seriously, the 15-minute monologue was abbreviated — version of her musical autobiography with some fresh details, like that in Portland, she succeeded a line of directors that had been with the Portland Youth Philharmonic 30, 40 and 7 years, which seemed like a pertinent detail as she is now vying to succeed Zack, who is closing out a 37-year run.
Chen recognized Zack from the stage while addressing the concert audience, getting the maestro to stand in the audience and thanking him for letting her conduct Johannes Brahms Symphony No. 4, a very important piece to Zack and Chen.
She was fresh from an emotional afternoon with the symphony, telling the preshow audience that while reviewing its poignant second movement, she found tears were rolling down her face.
Conducting opera in college was very influential, Chen said, “because you realize every piece has a story.”
The story she saw in Brahms was a composer who didn’t write his first symphony until he was in his mid-40s because he was afraid he would pale in comparisons to Beethoven.
Pre-show chat moderator and Philharmonic bassist Joe Tackett introduced his standard question saying, “my next question happens to be about music that will make you cry,” and then he asked how many bass concertos Chen would program in her first season.
Chen batted it back to Tackett and said he should go out and find a wealthy donor to fund a bass project for the orchestra.
Talking about programming an orchestra, Chen said it takes two years to get a sense of a new music director’s vision and another three years to see it start to play out. That would seem to say that if she got the gig, Chen would be interested in staying around a little bit longer than the Philharmonic’s search process.
Coming Sunday, here and in the paper: We’ve learned quite a bit about conductors over the last two years.
Now that we’ve seen everyone, vote in our poll, to the right.
Stay tuned to le blog, LexGo, and the Gutenberg edition of the Herald-Leader (which is as cool as Chucks and vinyl). As soon as we know who the new Philharmonic music director is, we’ll let you know.
Click the play button to hear Mei-Ann Chen chat about how she got into music to entertain her parents and when she realized her dream of conducting an orchestra:
As a student violinist in Taiwan, Mei-Ann Chen always memorized her music so she could watch the conductor.
It was not just a desire to be responsive to the conductor’s every direction. She wanted to watch what the conductor did so she could someday be one herself.
“When I played in an orchestra for the first time, when I was 10, I was fascinated with this person who didn’t make any sound but connected with so many people to inspire them to make the biggest sound in the room,” Chen says. “That, for me, was the ‘aha’ moment.”
Conducting, she discovered, was her form of musical communication.
The next couple of decades presented a mountainous, curvy road to the podium for the musician, who holds the distinction of being the first student at the New England Conservatory of Music to simultaneously earn master’s degrees in conducting and violin. Chen has since held posts as the music director of the Portland (Ore.) Youth Philharmonic and, currently, assistant conductor of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
This week, she is in Lexington in search of her first music directorship of a professional orchestra. She is the 10th and final candidate to succeed George Zack as music director of the Lexington Philharmonic.
“This is a city with a quality of life that’s hard to find sometimes,” Chen says, looking out the window of the restaurant at the Downtown Lexington Hotel and Conference Center on Tuesday morning. “When you could have a nice place to live and do what you love, that’s wonderful.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich