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Five remain in La Jolla Symphony search for musical director

The La Jolla Symphony is looking for a new music director to lead the ensemble in new and exciting directions.

With the resignation of Harvey Solberger, musical director and conductor for the past eight years, the symphony’s governing body has chosen to include the audience in the selection process. They have developed several different means of allowing the public to provide input into this decision.

“For years we enjoyed having UCSD faculty members as our music directors,” said Kenneth Fitzgerald, president of the board of directors of the La Jolla Symphony Orchestra and Chorus Association and a trumpet player in the orchestra. “This is our first opportunity to have a music director independent from the university.”

Of the original 25 or so applicants, the choice has been narrowed down to five final candidates.

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Based on resumes and qualifications, eight individuals were invited to conduct part of a rehearsal. Orchestra members provided feedback, which helped the music director search committee further reduce the field.

Each of the final five will have an opportunity to create and direct a performance of the La Jolla Symphony to showcase their skills and style.

“They all put together really dynamite concerts to conduct, to show off and wow the ensemble and audience next year,” Fitzgerald said.

Public response will begin with evaluating how audiences respond to the concerts by gauging their applause.

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“We will choose the music director based in large part on how the audience reacts to these people,” Fitzgerald said.

The third mechanism will achieve two goals: raising money for the conductor’s fund and additional recommendations on who will be selected as the new music director. Based on a certain level of financial contribution, members will be invited to meet and have dinner with the finalists.

“First and foremost, we want a strong conductor and a dynamic musical leader,” Fitzgerald said. “Someone the orchestra will want to follow and play well for, someone who will excite the ensemble members.”

The position of music director is paid, while the orchestra and chorus are made up of volunteer performers. In addition to planning concerts, selecting the repertoire, conducting performances and administering personnel in the orchestra, the music director is also responsible for interacting with patrons and building audience support.

Each of the final candidates is an accomplished musician and performer. Each brings a unique compilation of experience, strengths and innovations.

Steven Schick has been a teacher and performer for 30 years, and a leader of contemporary percussion music. He studied at the University of Iowa and the Staatliche Hochschule fur Musik in Germany. He has commissioned and premiered more than 100 new works for percussion, performed around the world, released three publications and guest lectured at the Rotterdam Conservatory and the Royal College of Music in London. He is currently professor of music at UCSD and lecturer in percussion at the Manhattan School of Music.

Schick lead the La Jolla Symphony in a performance earlier this year.

David Aks has a master’s of music in orchestral conducting and a bachelor of music in cello performance from Oberlin College. He is a faculty member at California State University, Northridge and artistic director of the school’s opera theater and instructor of cello. He has guest conducted and toured around the world.

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Aks’ program with the La Jolla symphony is entitled “Blue Cathedral and Two Heroes” and will be performed March 17 and 18, 2007. It will feature music by Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Higdon and Hindemith.

David Handel served as apprentice conductor at the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. He has directed orchestras worldwide and has achieved outstanding acclaim in Latin America, especially with young audience members. He has been featured on numerous television appearances and commercial recordings.

Handel will conduct Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 9 in D Minor” on Feb. 10 and 11, 2007.

Sharon Lavery is on the faculty of the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music as a professor of conducting and resident conductor of the Thornton symphony, chamber orchestra and wind ensemble. Her credentials include a bachelor of music education from Michigan State University, a master of music in clarinet performance from the New England Conservatory of Music and a master of music in orchestral conducting from the University of Southern California. She had conducted across the country and in Japan.

“With a Russian Flair” includes selections by Shostakovich, Takemitsu and Tchaikovsky and will be lead by Lavery on Oct. 28 and 29.

Karla Lemon has conducted performances and recordings throughout the United States and around the world. She has worked with innovative programming and contemporary composers. She was recently selected as resident conductor of the Henry Mancini Institute.

“Coronation Mass,” Lemon’s concert with the La Jolla Symphony, includes music from different continents - Berlioz, Chen Yi, Mozart - and will be performed Dec. 2 and 3, 2006.

Although the symphony is currently without a permanent director, an exciting 2006-2007 season has been developed. A series of guest conductors will help cover the vacancy until a final decision has been made, sometime near the end of March 2007, estimated Fitzgerald.

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The La Jolla Symphony began in 1954. Ten years later, the choral component was added after a chorus of members from local churches performed with the orchestra. David Chase has been the chorus director since 1973.

For more information about the final music director candidates and the upcoming performance schedule of La Jolla Symphony and Chorus, call (858) 534-4637 or visit www.lajollasymphony.com.