A Passion to Connect: Symphony Conductor Search

Being the music director and conductor for the Salina Symphony entails a lot more than “picking up a baton on the Stiefel stage on a Sunday afternoon,” according to Kyle Campbell, vice-president of the organization’s board of directors.

The ideal music director must not only be passionate about connecting with and leading a 60-plus piece orchestra, Campbell said, but he or she also must want to be an active member of the Salina community.

“They must be passionate about the roles the arts play in the community and want to expand that to more and more people, so they will have access to great music,” he said.

Campbell heads the search committee to seek the right candidate to replace longtime Symphony music director and conductor Ken Hakoda. The global search, which began nearly two years ago, resulted in more than 100 applicants. That eventually was narrowed down to the 30 candidates and finally to the top five finalists.

These five finalists now will have the opportunity to conduct a concert during the Salina Symphony’s 2021-2022 “Pass the Baton” season, which begins Oct. 3 at the Stiefel Theatre for the Performing Arts, 151 S. Santa Fe.

The concerts will only be part of what the search committee will be evaluating in each candidate, Campbell said.

“We want patrons to have an excellent experience (at the concerts), but we also want to see how the candidates interact with the musicians and with members of the community outside of the concert venue,” he said. “Whoever comes here as music director will become a very visible part of the community and also will be guiding our organization into the future.”

The five finalists are:

  • Yaniv Attar, music director of the Bellingham (WA) Symphony Orchestra and the Pennsylvania Chamber Orchestra and artistic partner of Northwest Sinfonietta (WA).
  • Mélisse Brunet, music director of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic and director of orchestral activities at the University of Iowa School of Music.
  • Devin Patrick Hughes, music director of the Boulder (CO) Symphony and the Arapahoe (CO) Philharmonic.
  • Yaniv Segal, assistant conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and conductor laureate/advisor of the Chelsea (NY) Symphony.
  • Vlad Vizireanu, principal guest conductor of the Ploiesti (Romania) Philharmonic and founder/executive director of the New Impulse Music Festival (CA).

Each finalist will spend two weeks in Salina working with Salina Symphony musicians and staff, as well as be involved in community outreach and events, said Adrienne Allen, executive director of the Salina Symphony.

“In addition to being highly skilled at conducting, I believe it will be important for our new music director to have a vision for leading the orchestra into the future, as well as the ability to inspire others toward that vision,” she said. “Our candidates’ time in Salina will provide a wonderful opportunity for us to learn more about what that vision might look like.”

Candidates have programmed concerts that will feature an opening piece that may be a new or contemporary work, followed by a concerto featuring an accomplished guest artist, Allen said.

“Each candidate will perform with a guest artist because it’s important for us to observe how they work with other musicians,” she said.

Each concert will conclude with a full symphonic work, she said.

Since the new music director will become part of the community, Allen said, Salina Symphony patrons and community members will have a major input in the selection process.

“The search committee values the feedback of the community,” she said. “We will be inviting concertgoers to provide feedback following each concert. We also encourage patrons to attend the pre-concert talks from our candidates, (and) symphony donors and sponsors will be invited to meet our candidates in person at post-concert receptions.”

There also will be pre-concert talks and post-concert receptions with each candidate, Allen said.

Gabe Grant, Salina Symphony board president, said each candidate will bring their own unique vision to their concerts, which should make for an exciting season.

“We’re going to see different personas bringing a variety of programming and new things for people to see,” he said. “They’ll all be bringing their ‘A’ game for each concert.”

Choosing the right music director from such accomplished candidates will be a great challenge, Grant said.

“In the end, we’ll get a top-notch conductor playing with a great orchestra in downtown Salina,” he said. “They’ll be a permanent part of the Salina community and help make Salina that much more of an attractive arts destination.”

The schedule for this season’s concerts, featuring the music director/conductor finalists, is:

  • Oct 3 – “Musical Landscapes,” featuring Devin Patrick Hughes and guest violinist Siwoo Kim. Featured will be Victor Herbert’s “American Fantasia,” Max Bruch’s “Scottish Fantasy” and Dvorak’s Symphony No 9 in E minor.
  • 7 – “Give Birth to the Dream,” featuring Mélisse Brunet and guest soprano Janie Brokenicky. Featured will be Saint-Saën’s “Danse Macabre,” Gournod’s “Ah! Je veux vivre” from “Romeo and Juliet,” Joan Tower’s “Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman No. 1,” Dolores White’s “Give Birth to the Dream” and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A major.
  • 30 – “Take Flight,” featuring Yaniv Segal and cellist Hannah Collins. Featured will be Dvorak’s “Slavonic Dance,” Polina Nazaykinskaya’s “Fenix,” Haydn’s “Cello Concerto No. 1” and Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5 in E-flat major.
  • March 27 – “Melodic Journey,” featuring Yaniv Attar and guest guitarist Daniel Bolshoy. Featured will be Arturo Márquez’ “Danzon No. 2,” Joaquin Rodigo’s “Concerto de Aranjuez” and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 in E minor.
  • May 1 – “Symphonic Dancers” featuring Vlad Vizireanu and guest pianist Lorraine Min. Featured will be Mason Bates’ “Mothership,” Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat minor and Rachmaninoff’s “Symphonic Dances.”

In addition, the annual Salina Symphony Christmas Festival concert will be Dec. 11 and 12 under the baton of interim conductor David Littrell, featuring performances by the Iron Street Dance Company, Tamara Howe School of Dance, Salina Chorale, Kansas Wesleyan University Chorale and the Salina Youth Choir.

Season tickets for the Salina Symphony’s 2021-2022 season are $150 and $195 and are available for purchase at the Symphony office on the second floor of the Stiefel Theatre or by calling (785) 823-8309.

Other Salina Symphony events this season include the annual Symphony Gala fundraiser on Feb. 19 and “Symphony at Sunset” on June 4, a traditional patriotic concert honoring D-Day on the grounds of the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene.

For more information, visit www.salinasymphony.org.

The Salina Symphony is dedicated to enriching lives through artistic music performance and education. For more information, contact Adrienne Allen at (785) 823-8309 or visit salinasymphony.org.