Four people seeking to become the next Wyoming Symphony Orchestra conductor and music director will travel to Casper within the next year.
Each will conduct a concert and meet with the public, whose feedback the symphony will seek, WSO executive director Rachel Bailey said.
One hundred people applied for the job. That number is typical of an orchestra the size of the local symphony, she said.
“But what we were very excited about was the caliber of the candidates that applied for the position,” Bailey said. “There were so many good candidates that it was a tough decision to make — especially when we got down to our top 10 — because we really felt that any of them would have been fantastic.”
However, there were four that consistently rose to the top when considering the finalists, she added.
The four finalists were chosen through criteria including musicality, musical programming ideas, educational activities and interest in community involvement, as well as their backgrounds and experience, Bailey said.
Each candidate will spend a week in Casper before his concert to meet with the search committee, symphony board and the public. They’ll rehearse with the musicians and give a concert of repertoire they’ve chosen.
One of the four will eventually replace music director and conductor Matthew Savery, who performed in his final concert last week after 10 years with the Wyoming Symphony Orchestra.
The candidates each will each conduct one of four concerts in November, December, January and March.
“We really encourage folks to come and experience all four candidates next season,” Bailey said. “it’s going to be a really exciting year and each of these concerts is going to be very different.”
Audiences and symphony musicians will have a chance to fill out surveys about each candidate, she said.
“It’s typically been whoever we’ve brought in has been here for an extended period of time, and we just feel that’s it’s very important that as an arts organization we try with the community, as much as we can, to deliver what they want in their symphony orchestra,” Bailey said. “So to us it’s very important for everyone to have a voice in who we choose as our music director.”
A search committee helping the symphony with hiring the new candidate will make a recommendation to the Wyoming Symphony Orchestra board about who to hire, and the board will make the final decision, Bailey said.
The nine-member committee is made up of musicians, community and audience members, symphony staff and a board member, and representatives of Casper College, University of Wyoming and Wyoming Arts Council, Bailey said.
Dean of the Casper College School of Fine Arts and Humanities, Eric Unruh, heads the search committee. Additional traits they’ve sought include creativity in how the candidates program, ability to conduct clearly and communicate their vision to the orchestra, energy and passion for the music and ability to engage the audience, he said.
“They’re all extraordinary and they would all bring different strengths to the symphony, but at the same time they all seem to be a pretty good fit for the orchestra,” Unruh said.
“Engagement in the community was very high on our list,” Unruh added. “We want someone who will know Casper and who will be easily recognizable as the symphony conductor — somebody who really has a vested interest in moving the symphony forward. Ultimately, with the top four candidates, we’re going to have a really difficult decision because they’re all that good.”
Jerry Hou will fill in as the symphony’s artistic adviser through the next season until the next conductor is hired. He’ll oversee the orchestra, music education and community outreach activities as well as conducting the Pops in the Park concert Aug. 19 and season opening concert Sept. 22.
Hou is associate conductor for The Shepherd School of Music and for the Grand Teton Music Festival in Jackson. He’s conducted many other orchestras including the Houston and St. Louis symphonies.
Here’s a look at the candidates:
(From bios provided by the Wyoming Symphony Orchestra)
Christopher Dragon is the associate conductor for the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. The youngest of the candidates, he started his conducting studies in 2011 and was a member of the prestigious Symphony Services International Conductor Development Program, according to his bio.
Dragon works mainly in northern Colorado as well as in his native Australia, where he was the assistant conductor of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra.
Thomas Heuser has served as the music director for the Idaho Falls Symphony since 2011. He earned his master’s in instrumental conducting from Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music and his doctorate in orchestral conducting from the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music.
He’s recognized for his stirring leadership and energetic programs “and has devoted himself to artistic excellence, music education, and community collaboration as a music director and public servant in the arts,” according to his bio.
Howard Hsu is the music director of the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra in Georgia and assistant professor of music and director of Orchestra Studies at Valdosta State University. The Valdosta Symphony was selected as the 2014 winner of the American Prize in Orchestral Performance under his leadership, according to his bio. He’s guest conducted with the Hartford, Macon and New Britain symphonies. Hsu graduated with a doctorate degree from the University of Connecticut and his master’s degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
Ron Spigelman is music director of the Lake Placid Sinfonietta in New York and principal pops conductor of the Tulsa Symphony.
His extensive history of musical leadership since his first appointment in 1992 includes conducting more than 1,000 performances and a repertoire of over 400 works. As a champion of new music, he’s conducted over 30 world premieres, according to his bio. “Spigelman looks forward to branching out wherever he can to promote new growth and inspire musicians to reach their greatest potential.”