**Update 6/7/2016 – We have a winner!**
Today I’m going to talk about the Georgia Symphony Orchestra or the GSO. I’ve played in this group for the last year and for a volunteer ensemble (with several professionals scattered about), we play at a very high level. I dare say this ensemble is more polished and stronger than many professional groups I’ve played with. This is also the first episode of my new podcast Performing in Georgia and you can hear it by clicking below.
The GSO was founded by Arthur F. Moor in his living room in 1951 as the Marietta Music Club. The orchestra continued after his death and his daughter, Elizabeth Moor Tomlinson continued to play in the group. She actually gave $50,000 to the orchestra through her will upon her death. Over the next 65 years, the orchestra was known as the Marietta Community Symphony, the Cobb Symphony Orchestra, and finally the Georgia Symphony Orchestra.
Through the years, the subsequent music directors continued to attract local talent and also began to expand the number of professional musicians in the orchestra. As this number increased, the quality of the product on stage did as well. In 2007, the Georgia Symphony Chorus was formed and continues to be directed by Brian Black. Mr. Black also attracts talented vocalists from the Atlanta metro area, and the quality of the voices in the chorus is outstanding.
Music Director Search
That brings us to 2015, and my first season with the orchestra. What I did not know at the time of my first rehearsal with the group was that it was the culmination of a 2-year music director search. Actually, I showed up and started schmoozing the conductor and did a great job until I realized he was just the first of three finalists.
When an orchestra hires a new music director, there is an interview process that usually includes some time with the conductor and orchestra working together. I’ve been a part of a couple of these as a conductor and have always had at least an hour with the group to see if we’re compatible. Sometimes an entire rehearsal. For the GSO, each finalist conducted one performance with the orchestra, meaning they spent a week working with the orchestra, and for two concerts, the chorus as well. This isn’t uncommon, but it does pose problems for both the conductor and the orchestra.
The conductor has to decide whether to be himself and really work with the group, or should he turn on the charm and really try to “get the job.” Also, if you’re the first guy to go, you won’t find out for a year if you get the job. The orchestra has to work with different conductors over the course of one season which ultimately hurts continuity in preparation and style. For the GSO, the orchestra members were part of the search as well. We filled out surveys and gave our input on each candidate.
Well, the orchestra will be in good hands no matter which candidate they choose. The musicians got to have some feedback as well which will probably doom one guy for sure, but even if they hire him, he’ll continue to improve the orchestra. All three candidates were competent and knowledgeable. Anyone who knows me knows I don’t suffer fools or bad conductors gladly. To have three very good conductors in a row was a nice treat, and it’s a shame we have to choose one. I know which one I want, but I wouldn’t quit if they hire one or the other.
For more information, go to georgiasymphony.org or contact me via email, facebook, or twitter. While they are currently not adding any more professional players, those who would like to volunteer are welcome to audition and join us. Our schedule is set for next year, but we won’t know what we’re playing until the final decision is made for the music director.
Have a great day and stay tuned for more posts and podcast episodes coming soon!