Tom: Let’s begin by asking you to share with us all of the things that have to be taken into consideration when you’re looking for that right person. What are you looking for in this conductor?
Allison: Well, we’re looking for someone who has excellent musical ability, musicality. We’re looking for someone who is a phenomenal communicator – both a communicator through the music that this individual will be leading and a communicator one-on-one with individuals and other organizations that we will want to collaborate and partner with.
The individual has to be absolutely passionate about the role of music in a vibrant community. And, as we know, Lexington is a very special community when it comes to music. We’re very rich in all genres of music, so we’ll be looking at someone who can help us to build bridges between all the different genres too.
Tom: So, this should be a person who’s comfortable with being the face of LexPhil, getting out of the community…
Tom: Meeting people, talking to people?
Allison: Absolutely. So, yes, we’re looking for someone who has excellent on-podium skills and excellent off-podium skills.
Tom: What’s your vision about growing your audience?
Allison: The Philharmonic, especially the work that’s been done over the last ten years, is very well-positioned to be looking at growing the audience. As you probably know nothing happens quickly in the world of orchestras. It’s a large organization with a lot of moving parts and to get parts aligned and moving in the same direction can take some time. But, over the course of the last ten years under Scott’s direction, we made tremendous strides in developing a much more diverse repertoire and helping our existing audience understand the excitement and the joy of exploring unknown repertoire.
And so, we will be on the artistic side looking at our new music director and conductor to continue that forward momentum and also helping us to learn new and better ways to build bridges better communication with the community with other music forms and other art forms, so that we can become more of a nucleus and less of an isolated organization, but more of a nucleus to build community through the arts and through shared audiences with other art forms.
Tom: Getting back to the search process. This is one intense process and you’re down to six finalists.
Tom: It’s going to happen over the entire season.
Tom: Tell us about it. How is it structured?
Allison: Okay. So, we have each conductor finalist coming in to conduct one of our season series concerts, and we call those concerts cycles. And so, they will arrive, they’ll spend just a little bit, they’ll each spend about eight days with us and from the moment that they – we give them a rest the night that they get in, but then every day is packed with meetings, tours of the Bluegrass area, meetings with our various boards of directors.
So, for example, we have the Society Board which is the operating arm, we have the Foundation Board which is our endowment arm, and we have our Guild Board. They will all be meeting with each candidate. Our staff will be meeting with each candidate in a one – staff and conductor candidate situation.
We will be having a reception, for example, during the day to invite community leaders, political leaders, and donors to come meet the candidate. After the concert, there will be an open invitation to everybody in the audience to come meet the candidate and ask questions. Then, the search committee will have a one-on-one meeting with each candidate the day after each concert. And, we’ll conclude the whole week of activities with a fundraising opportunity where individuals will open up their homes to allow us to use that as a fundraising opportunity for people to come and meet the candidate.
So, we’re trying to do everything from broad and wide open to fundraising with each candidate. And, we feel like that’s important because we need to see how each candidate reacts in those different situations and how they react in a rapid fire situation where we have just one activity and event. Every night is filled with rehearsal, so that part of their stay with us, their evenings will be consumed with meeting the guest artist, talking with our musicians. Our musicians will have one-on-one meetings with each candidate. I believe it’s toward the middle of the week, so not the first rehearsal, but later in the rehearsal process.
So, we will be also gathering feedback from every one of these groups that meet with each candidate to provide to the search committee to help them to make their decision.
Tom: I sure do hope these folks have built in a couple of days off after this.
Allison: I hope so too. [Laughs] We do try and give them eight hours in which to sleep, but not a whole lot more.
Tom: So, your season opener will be conducted by one of the finalists, Thomas Heuser, and we’ll be talking with Thomas in just a few minutes. And, this concert is coming up on Saturday, the 21st. And, the program features a piece with a very local connection. Tell us about Julia Perry.
Kaiser: Yes. Julia Perry was one of the early American female composers. And, we are so honored to be able to open our season with one of her works. I think that, again, as we talk about how we want to not just grow audience, but also grow our community’s connection and awareness of the realm of orchestral music that this is an excellent way to open the season.
Her work is a beautiful work. She is one of the unsung masters of composition, and we’re very honored to have this opportunity. And as you have probably noticed, we are also featuring a female composer to open each program throughout the season. So, we feel like it’s a really good opportunity for us to take a fairly bold step forward in making sure that we do everything that we can to help our community and our audience members understand the depth and breadth of what is out there and available through orchestral music.
Tom: Is it coincidence or is there a connection with the hundredth anniversary of the 19th Amendment?
Allison: Well, I think there is connection and there’s been of course a lot of attention drawn to the role of women in leadership and in politics especially over the last few years. And, we feel that it’s time that we draw that attention to the world of female leaders in composition as well.
Tom: So, I mentioned Thomas Heuser. Who are the other finalists?
Allison: Okay. After Thomas visits with us, we will have Akiko Fujimoto. And then, following Akiko’s visit with us, we will have Kelly Corcoran and then, Enrico Lopez-Yañez, then Julia Tai and then Keitaro Harada in May.
Tom: And, when do you hope to have a decision made and ready for announcement?
Allison: This summer. We won’t really be able to get into any type of decision-making until we’ve had an experience with each one of the candidates and our search committee will then have to sift through and digest all of the feedback that we’ll be gathering on each candidate.
Tom: So, for you and for your general manager, Sarah Thrall, and everybody at LexPhil this is going to be one intense, busy year.
Allison: It is. But, we’re so excited about it because it gives us a phenomenal opportunity to open up a part of our organizational thinking to a much broader community. Most people would say that the inner workings of an orchestra is not something that they’re familiar with, we want to bring all that up to the surface and make it much more transparent and invite people into that process with us.
Tom: Wonderful. Allison Kaiser, Executive Director of the Lexington Philharmonic LexPhil. And, we thank you so much, Allison.
Allison: Thank you, Tom.