Three different conductors will direct the Juneau Symphony next season. They hope to replace Kyle Wiley Pickett, who will lead the Topeka Symphony and the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, after 14 years in the capital city.
The search began at the end of the 2013 symphony season, when musicians and board members gathered to answer three questions:
What are you looking for in the next conductor? What role does the symphony play in your life? What role do you think the symphony plays in the Juneau community?”
Search committee chairwoman and violinist Kristin Garot says the questions were asked again in the summer and fall. The answers helped the 15-member committee come up with traits the orchestra wants in a new conductor.
Garot says lessons learned from the last recruitment, in 1999, and the Music Director’s Search Handbook from the League of American Orchestras morphed into a blueprint for the current search.
In October, the job was announced on the Conductors Guild website.
Nearly 70 applications rolled in. Only 28 made the first cut. That list was reduced to 13 conductors, who were interviewed over Skype, resulting in a list of nine. Committee members voted on each person to get to the remaining three.
Though the job pays only about $35,000 a year, Garot says the volunteer Juneau orchestra demands a lot of its conductor.
“Not only are they there to lead the musicians but they’re also kind of the face of the orchestra to the community,” she says. “We want someone who’s dynamic, who can energize an audience and speak to them about what they’re listening to. We also want someone who can connect with our youth audience and our youth organizations and help build that part of our program.”
That means music director, long-range planner, fundraiser, and grand communicator.
The three finalists claim to be adept at all.
Troy Quinn lives in Los Angeles, where he commutes to the East Coast to conduct the Portsmouth Institute Orchestra in Rhode Island, a gig he would keep if hired in Juneau.
“Conductors nowadays never stay in one place. They’re doing multiple gigs and flying from town to town,” he says.
Quinn has not been to Juneau, but already has a vision for making the symphony more accessible to the community.
“Being an ambassador for the symphony and being out in the public, in the school system, in businesses, reaching people through different medias,” Quinn says. “And I think providing a balanced repertoire so we’ve got something for everybody to come listen to.”
Quinn will conduct the Juneau Symphony in November.
Wesley Schulz is the Juneau Symphony’s February conductor. He lives in Seattle and leads the Bainbridge Symphony Orchestra on Bainbridge Island as well as the Seattle Festival Orchestra and two youth symphonies.
He has directed both professional and volunteer orchestras, and says he finds a joy of discovery working with volunteers.
“You get to discover along with them some of the elements of the music that the professionals, you know, might think of as old hat,” Schulz says.
He also has not been to Juneau, and sees it as something to add to his current conducting jobs.
“When this position opened up, it’s like what a perfect way to have a relationship with that area that I’m just fascinated by,” he says.
Jeremy Briggs Roberts
The final conductor candidate for next year’s season is Jeremy Briggs Roberts. He is musical director, conductor and executive director of the Washington Idaho Symphony, which performs in the Moscow, Idaho and Pullman, Washington area.
Roberts calls himself a Pacific Northwesterner and says Juneau would be a natural extension of his current work.
“I think one of the major things I’ve enjoyed here is we’ve taken the orchestra and really grown it into a community cultural asset,” he says.
Roberts says he would like to take on another orchestra to “build culture and the sense of community awareness that art is valuable in our communities and it makes a difference in our lives.”
He says Juneau already seems to have done a very good job of that.
Roberts would commute to Juneau from his home in Moscow, Idaho.
Outgoing Juneau director Kyle Pickett has been commuting to Juneau from Northern California for the past 14 years, where he’s conducted other orchestras. He says he will live in California and fly to his new conducting jobs in Kansas and Missouri.
Pickett will continue as music director for the Juneau Symphony next season, working with each candidate on music choice for the concerts they conduct.
Symphony musicians and the audience will play a role in selecting the new conductor. The winner of the competition will be announced in June.