Update: Juneau Symphony conductor will balance multiple batons as he takes job in Topeka
Juneau Symphony conductor Kyle Wylie Pickett says news that he’s taken a job with the Topeka Symphony got ahead of discussions with the other orchestras he directs.
But he confirms he will continue to lead the capital city’s symphony through the 2013 – 14 season. The Board of Directors also hopes he will help with the transition to a new conductor during the 2014 – 15 season.
Topeka offered Pickett the job last weekend and the Juneau Empire picked up the story from the Topeka Capital-Journal, also owned by Morris Communications.
“So that story got across the divide sooner than I wanted it to, unfortunately,” he said in an interview with KTOO on Tuesday.
He says he’s still figuring out the implications of taking the Topeka position. He’s also director of the North State Symphony in Chico, California.
“Part of the equation is just figuring out how all three of these things can work together, and if they will work together and if they won’t work together then what will be the result? And the answer is, I still don’t know,” Pickett said.
Juneau has been his second home for the last 13 years, as he flew back and forth from California. The symphony performs four main-stage concerts a year. Pickett arrives two weeks before and holds several rehearsals each week. In between, resident director Todd Hunt leads rehearsals.
It is not unusual for conductors to direct a number of orchestras, Pickett said.
“For those of us who are trying to make a career as a conductor of regional orchestras it just seems like that’s the way it has to happen. You’re usually piecing it together with a couple different orchestras,” he said. “I think a lot of it has to do with the artistic experience and one of the things I’ve said for years — and I really do believe it is true — is the fact that I’m a conductor in California makes me a better conductor for the Juneau Symphony and the fact that I’m a conductor in Juneau makes me a better conductor for the North State Symphony.”
He says he has no plans yet to move his family to Topeka.
“Next year we will be in our same house in California, and I’ll be flying to Topeka and I’ll be flying to Juneau and we’ll work the plans out for that in the coming weeks,” he said.
The Topeka Symphony is a professional per-service orchestra, meaning musicians do not make a livable wage, but get a stipend. Juneau Symphony musicians are volunteers.
Pickett said he will have details of how his three conducting jobs will work together when the Juneau Symphony wraps up its current season in June.
Juneau Symphony conductor Kyle Wylie Pickett will continue to lead the orchestra for the next year, though he has taken a job with the Topeka, Kansas symphony.
Pickett has been Juneau’s itinerant director since 2000, splitting his time between Juneau and North State Symphony in Chico, California.
The Topeka Symphony Orchestra appointed Pickett as music director and conductor over the weekend. He was one of five finalists and was guest conductor in January.
According to Pickett’s website, he also was guest artist for the Montana Ballet in December, the Bozeman Symphony in February, and the Springfield, Missouri symphony in March.
“We always knew that Juneau was not his last stop,” said Bev Smith, president of the Juneau Symphony Board. “So we were happy to have him for as long as we’ve had him—13 years, when we were expecting to have him only for three.”
Smith says Pickett will continue as Juneau’s music director through next season, with concerts October through June.
“He will conduct our concerts as well as the Topeka concerts. And then the following season he will still be our artistic director but he will probably not conduct, he will assist us on the transition,” Smith said.
The symphony will begin the search for a new conductor next year. The finalists will come to Juneau as guest conductors during the 2014-15 season.
Principal flutist Sally Schlichting was on the search committee when Pickett was hired in a similar process, which took more than a year.
The symphony had well over 100 applicants then, narrowed to four finalists.
“They were here for at least a month each prior to the program they were conducting,” she said. “They selected the pieces and conducted the whole set of rehearsals and then the performances.”
Schlichting said she expects a new search to be as arduous as the last, when the symphony did a lot of soul searching about the organization and what they were looking for in a conductor.
She said Pickett’s combination of personality and musicality, and his way of communicating to the musicians has taken Juneau’s orchestra to new levels.
“He’s been here now 13 years and every program has raised our level of ability. The experience with him musically is just exceptional,” Schlichting said.
Board President Bev Smith said she expects there will be a lot of applicants for Juneau Symphony conductor when the position is finally advertised in a few months.
According to the Topeka Symphony website, 125 people from all over the world applied for the job that Pickett just accepted.
Conductor Pickett could not be reached for this story prior to news time.