Asheville Symphony focuses on diverse list of finalists for music director

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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The Asheville Symphony Orchestra has a diverse list of finalists as it prepares to hire a new music director. The new director will replace outgoing Music Director Daniel Meyer. The symphony plans to announce its decision on the new director in May.

Each of the finalists will conduct a concert, and there will be opportunities for the public to meet and greet each finalist. The Asheville Symphony also plans to survey the audience at each concert to gather feedback. Here’s the press release, with more about the finalists.

The Asheville Symphony Orchestra (ASO) has announced the six finalists for its music director position.

The finalists are Jacomo Bairos, Darko Butorac, Nicholas Hersh, Rei Hotoda, Jayce Ogren and Garry Walker (biographical information below). Each finalist will visit Asheville and will conduct a Masterworks concert in the 2017-18 season. Concert dates and programs will be announced this spring.

Current Asheville Symphony Music Director Daniel Meyer will conduct the remaining concerts in the 2016-17 season, as well as the 2017-18 season-opening concert and a New Year’s Eve concert, which will be his final concert as music director.

“The six finalists were selected from a pool of more than 370 applicants for the music director position. This tremendous interest in our position is a real testament to the reputation that the Asheville Symphony has earned,” said Asheville Symphony Executive Director David Whitehill. “The quality and diversity of the candidate pool has given us the opportunity to find a music director who can continue to build on everything the orchestra has accomplished during Daniel’s tenure.”

A committee of ASO board members, orchestra musicians, and community members began the selection process in spring of 2016 with the goal of having a new music director in place by the start of the 2018-19 season. The ASO expects to announce its new music director in May 2018.

“After months of reviewing applications for our music director position and many hours of thoughtful consideration, we feel we have the strongest possible group of finalists,” said Jack Anderson, Asheville Symphony board member and chair of the music director search committee. “We are now looking forward to getting to know the finalists in Asheville next season and introducing them to our patrons.”

There will be opportunities for the public to meet and greet each finalist, and the ASO will survey the audience at each concert to gather feedback.

The ASO announced in 2015 that Meyer would be ending his tenure. Meyer, who is in his 12th season with the ASO, was appointed in December 2004 and has guided the organization through a period of unmatched artistic growth. Meyer also serves as the music director of the Erie Philharmonic and Westmoreland Symphony, and is a sought-after guest conductor in Europe and the United States.


Jacomo Bairos
Described as a “genuine talent” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) and having a “splendid sense of musicality”, (Knoxville Mercury) Portuguese-American Jacomo Bairos is currently the Amarillo Symphony’s music director and conductor, as well as co-founder and artistic director for Miami’s Nu Deco Ensemble. In 2016/17 Bairos debuts with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and returns to the Houston Symphony, the National Symphony Orchestra directing their eclectic Declassified Series, and the Grand Rapids Symphony to curate a week-residency of orchestral and chamber performances during the international ArtPrize Festival. Previous subscription performances include the Atlanta, Singapore, Alabama, Liepzig, and Charleston symphony orchestras, as well as the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orquesta Sinfónica Provincial of Santa Fe Argentina and the Orquesta Sinfónica Universidad de Guanajuato of Mexico. Additionally, he has appeared with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Orquesta National do Porto Portugal, and the Louisiana Philharmonic as well as the Jacksonville, North Carolina, and Charlotte symphony orchestras.

Darko Butorac
Praised by the Westdeutsche Zeitung for his “exceptional combination of passion, elegance and well?timed pacing”, Maestro Darko Butorac has established himself as an exciting conductor in demand with orchestras both in Europe and the Americas. He currently serves as the music director of both the Tallahassee and Missoula symphony orchestras. Mr. Butorac has appeared at prestigious venues such as the Vienna Konzerthaus, the Gran Teatro Nacional of Lima, Belgrade’s Kolarac Hall, Teatro Magnani in Italy, as well as at the Tartu, Aspen and Brevard summer music festivals. He has collaborated with soloists such as soprano Renee Fleming, cellist Colin Carr, violinist Lara St. John and Oscar-winning actor J.K. Simmons. Recent notable performances include concerts with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Neuss and the Georgische Kammerorchester Ingolstadt (Germany), the Rubinstein Philharmonic of Lodz (Poland), the Tallin Sinfonietta (Estonia), and the Slovenian Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Nicholas Hersh
Nicholas Hersh currently serves as associate conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and artistic director of the Baltimore Symphony Youth Orchestras. Since joining the BSO as assistant conductor in 2014, he continues to make his mark on the mid-Atlantic region with exciting, innovative programming—notably as conductor and co-curator of the acclaimed BSO Pulse series, bringing together Indie bands and orchestral musicians in unique collaborations. A native of Evanston, Illinois, he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Music from Stanford University and a Master’s Degree in Conducting from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. He is a two-time recipient of the Solti Foundation Career Assistance Award and has also appeared in concert with such orchestras as the New World Symphony, New Jersey Symphony, Auburn Symphony, National Repertory Orchestra, and the Southern Great Lakes Symphony. An acclaimed arranger/orchestrator, Nicholas’ symphonic arrangement of Queen’s famous Bohemian Rhapsody saw worldwide success as a viral YouTube hit.

Rei Hotoda
Rei Hotoda is currently serving as the associate conductor of the Utah Symphony Orchestra. She has appeared as guest conductor with the symphony orchestras of Chicago, St. Louis and Dallas, among many others. She is also an accomplished pianist. She has conducted from the piano the Symphony Orchestras of Dallas, Edmonton, and Utah. A consummate advocate of new music, Ms. Hotoda has led premieres of works by John Cage, Dai Fujikura, and Salvatore Sciarrino, and has championed and recorded compositions by female composers, including Vivian Fung and Jennifer Higdon. As a recording artist, Ms. Hotoda’s work has been released on the Centrediscs and Signpost Records labels, including her first recording as a solo pianist, Apparitions, that features works by Hisada, Ho, Fung and Takemitsu. Ms. Hotoda is the recipient of several awards, including the 2006 Taki Concordia Conducting Fellowship as well as a Peabody Career Development Grant.

Jayce Ogren
Jayce Ogren was recently announced as artistic director of Orchestra 2001 in Philadelphia. Recent conducting highlights include Rossini’s La Cenerentola at the Music Academy of the West; an engagement with Ensemble Intercontemporain of Paris that included music of Stockhausen, Jodlowski, Nono, and Andrew Norman; subscription weeks with the Colorado, Edmonton and Victoria symphony orchestras, and Orchestra 2001; Bernstein’s West Side Story with film for the Pittsburgh Symphony and the Dallas Symphony; and the world premiere of Jack Perla’s Shalimar the Clown for the Opera Theatre of St. Louis. Other highlights include stepping in for James Levine to conduct the Boston Symphony Orchestra in a challenging program that included the world premiere of Peter Lieberson’s song cycle Songs of Love and Sorrow with Gerald Finley; his debut with the New York Philharmonic on the CONTACT! Series and leading the Philharmonic in two concerts during the inaugural NY PHIL BIENNIAL; staged performances of Turn of the Screw for the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and engagements with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the New World Symphony. He has also led all-Stravinsky programs with the New York City Ballet.

Garry Walker
Winner of the 1999 Leeds Conductor’s Competition, Scottish-born Garry Walker studied conducting at the Royal Northern College of Music. He is artistic director of conducting at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and becomes chief conductor of the Staatsorchester Rheinische Philharmonie Koblenz starting September 2017. He enjoys a close association with Red Note Ensemble, Scotland’s première contemporary music ensemble. Walker’s acclaimed American conducting debut was with the Utah Symphony Orchestra in 2011, followed by his Pacific Symphony debut in 2012-13. In the U.K., Garry Walker has worked with the BBC orchestras, London Philharmonic, Philharmonia Orchestra, National Youth Orchestra of Scotland and English Chamber Orchestra, among others. Recent and future highlights include his debut with Opera North conducting Britten’s Billy Budd, and return engagements with the Auckland Philharmonia, Aberdeen Sinfonietta and Orchestra della Toscana, plus concerts with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, Orquestra Metropolitana de Lisboa, Teatro dell’Opera Roma, and Philharmonie Zuidnederland.

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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