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RPO Names Ward Stare as New Music Director

July 28, 2014

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For Immediate Release:  July 29, 2014
Media Contacts:   Sally Cohen, 585-749-1795, sally@sallycohenpr.com
RPO Info:  rpo.org, facebook.com/RochesterPhilharmonic, twitter.com/RochesterPhil, rochesterphilharmonic.blogspot.com


Rochester native returns with international acclaim,
commitment to excellence, and focus on community engagement

Rochester, NY—Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) Board Chair Dawn Lipson and President & CEO Charles Owens announced today that Ward Stare, a Rochester native who has earned international accolades as a conductor, will return to his hometown to become the orchestra’s twelfth Music Director in its 91 years. His appointment—effective September 1, 2014—was formally announced at City Hall this morning in front of orchestra, staff and board members; local media; arts leaders and RPO donors, sponsors and patrons; and Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren. The announcement also streamed live at rpo.org.

Said Mayor Warren: “As the City of the Arts, we are proud of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra’s presence in the community. I would like to sincerely congratulate Ward Stare and the RPO for the exciting new chapter that begins today for the both of them.”

Born and raised in Pittsford, NY, the 31-year-old Stare follows in the path of many great orchestral conductors whose careers began as instrumentalists. He began studying trombone at the age of nine and was accepted into the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra (RPYO) at age 11, graduating early from Pittsford Mendon High School in order to study trombone at the Juilliard School in Manhattan.

“This appointment brings full circle the RPO commitment to community engagement and illustrates how powerful music can be,” said RPO Board Chair Dawn Lipson. “This homecoming for one of the RPYO stars who has gone on to achieve international status reinforces the need for quality music education outside the classroom, and that the RPO is truly the Rochester community's orchestra.”

“I feel so fortunate to have grown up in Rochester, where I was exposed to the RPO and all the wonderful things that this vibrant community has to offer,” said Stare, who introduced his parents, Susan and Daniel Stare, residents of Fairport. His sister, Stephanie Stare, is a Monroe County Public Defender. “I look forward to giving back by finding new and exciting ways for this world-class orchestra to connect with diverse Rochester audiences.”

At just 18 years of age, he was appointed principal trombonist by Lyric Opera of Chicago by Music Director Sir Andrew Davis. In between playing the orchestra’s 26-week seasons, he pursued his conducting dreams studying in Europe and at Aspen’s American Academy of Conducting, and made his conducting debut with the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 2012. He continues there as a frequent guest conductor and collaborator, most recently for 2013’s Die Fledermaus, for which Opera News praised his "piquantly effervescent concoction of Strauss's exquisite score."  

“I have known Ward for 13 years, and to have watched him grow as an artist over the intervening years has truly been one of the great pleasures of my life,” writes Davis, who is also Chief Conductor for the Melbourne Symphony, and Conductor Laureate for the Toronto and BBC Symphonies. “The RPO has had many great conductors at its helm and has a glorious history of which it is justly proud. I have no doubt that the coming years will be a period in which that long tradition will be not only maintained but enhanced and the reputation of the RPO further burnished. My congratulations and warmest wishes to the musicians, the audiences and the city of Rochester at large!”

Stare has been described as “one of the hottest young conductors in America” by the St. Louis Post Dispatch and “a rising star in the conducting firmament” by the Chicago Tribune. He recently completed his tenure as Resident Conductor of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra (2008-2012), and made his conducting debuts with the Opera Theatre of St. Louis and Washington National Opera.

Stare was the recipient of both the Robert J. Harth Conductor Prize (2006) and the Aspen Conducting Prize (2007) before spending the 2007-08 season as a League of American Orchestras Fellow with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He has studied conducting with David Zinman, János Fürst and Jorma Panula as well as working with Michel Merlet in composition and musical analysis.

“It is always a great joy to hear that one of my pupils has been selected as Music Director of a first-class orchestra. On this occasion it is an added pleasure for me, because it is with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra that I also began my American career,” contributes current Music Director and Chief Conductor of Zurich’s Tonhalle Orchestra David Zinman, who was RPO music director from 1974-1985, and created Aspen’s International Conducting Academy during his tenure as artistic director of its Music Festival. “Ward Stare has the talent and personality to give the RPO something new and vibrant, and in return he will of course learn much from them, as I did during those formative years. It is going to be a fresh exciting relationship, a voyage of discovery, and I wish Ward and the Rochester Philharmonic many years of artistic achievement as they inevitably bond together.”

In August 2007, Stare made his critically acclaimed debut with the Cleveland Orchestra, The Plain Dealer praising his “clear and vibrant performance and keen ear for phrasing, balance and pacing.” He has appeared with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, the Bangkok Symphony, the Colorado Music Festival and the DITTO Festival in South Korea, and has also led the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin in multiple engagements. In 2009, he made his highly successful Carnegie Hall debut with the St. Louis Symphony, stepping in at the last minute for Music Director David Robertson.

Highlights of recent seasons include being named ‘Musician of the Month’ by Musical America in November of 2011 and an invitation to participate in the prestigious Allianz Cultural Foundation’s 2012 International Conductors’ Academy. Over the course of four months, Stare worked intensively with both the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Philharmonia culminating in his debut with the LPO in Royal Festival Hall. The 2010-11 season included Stare’s debut with the Norwegian National Opera in a new production of Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia. Critics praised Stare, the cast and orchestra for a “finely tuned [and] magical” production that “radiated musical quality.”

RPO Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik: “I'm very excited to welcome the brilliant, young, American conductor Ward Stare to the RPO family. His artistry, musicianship, innovative ideas and ability to connect with audiences will greatly enhance the future of the RPO.”

“As someone who was nurtured by the RPO's investment in music education, Ward understands the critical role that these efforts play in securing the long-term success of our orchestra,” adds RPO Principal Conductor for Education and Community Engagement Michael Butterman. “His appointment speaks volumes about the priorities of our organization, and I look forward with great anticipation to his leadership as we work to deepen existing relationships and explore new avenues of community engagement.”

Stare made his RPO conducting debut last season with February 2013’s Black History Month program, conducting music by Gershwin, Hindemith, and the world premiere of Douglas Lowry’s The Freedom Zephyr.  He returned last summer to conduct repertoire by Wagner, Mozart and Beethoven, again receiving both critical and popular acclaim.

“The RPO is the first great orchestra I ever heard live and I was a thrilled to make my debut with them in 2013,” says Stare, who will conduct both the Season Opener (Sept. 18 & 20 with Midori) and La Traviata in concert on Feb. 26 & 28, 2015 this season. “Immediately, I felt their wonderful energy and beautiful spirit of music-making, and I am very excited to deepen our relationship in the years to come and to build on the wonderful chemistry which we had from the very beginning.”

The RPO Music Director Search Committee worked tirelessly for 18 months to find a candidate who met all of the orchestra’s needs, and—supported by broad-based feedback from the community, RPO musicians, staff and administration as well as board and honorary board members—voted unanimously to recommend Stare earlier this month.

“We discovered that it is very challenging to find a Music Director who has the whole package: outstanding conducting skills and musical ability, a thorough understanding of how US orchestras function, and both the deep desire and the ability to connect with the RPO family, including patrons and the community at large,” explains Committee Chair Ingrid Stanlis (also a current board member and former RPO board chair), adding that, although Stare’s close connection to Rochester is a plus, it was not part of the criteria or a factor in the decision-making process. “We put candidates through an incredible vetting process which measured these qualities and more. Ward passed all the tests with flying colors, and we kept coming back to him as the candidate who really stood out among all the people we vetted.”

“Ward’s commitment to excellence—both musically and as an administrator—is exactly what we were looking for,” agrees RPO Principal Trombonist Mark Kellogg, who led the Search Committee’s group of orchestra members. “He has accomplished a great deal in a short time because of his immense talent and incredible work ethic, and we look forward to embracing the future with him in the next chapter of his career and the RPO's long history. My colleagues and I welcome Ward Stare.”

Stare will begin his four-year agreement with the RPO on September 1, 2014, and his first year will involve not only conducting the two previously announced concerts, but also planning the 2015/16 season as well as overseeing auditions, fundraising and community engagement. He also plans to relocate to Rochester.

“Early in the search process, Ward set an extremely high standard, and, for me, became the benchmark against which all other potential candidates were judged,” says RPO President & CEO Charles Owens. “Ward’s astonishing successes early in his career demonstrate his readiness to assume his place in the long line of distinguished conductors who have led the RPO over the past 90 years. As he has begun to dive head-first into planning for his inaugural season in 2015-16—and for his two major appearances on the RPO podium in 2014-15—it is clear to me that he will be an inspiring leader, a model collaborator, and a game-changing ambassador for the RPO and for symphonic music, embracing the use of technology to deliver our musical product in ways that will be compelling to a new generation of listeners.”

The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra has been committed to enriching and inspiring our community through the art of music since its founding in 1922. The RPO presents approximately 150 concerts and broadcasts a year, serving more than 150,000 people through ticketed events, education and community engagement activities, and concerts in schools and community centers throughout the region. Notable former music directors include Eugene Goossens, José Iturbi, Erich Leinsdorf, David Zinman, and Conductor Laureate Christopher Seaman; Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik has earned a national reputation for excellence in pops programming during his 20-year tenure with the RPO. With Michael Butterman as Principal Conductor for Education and Community Engagement (The Louise and Henry Epstein Family Chair)—the first endowed position of its kind in the country—the RPO reaches more than 13,000 children through its specific programs for school-aged children.

Media please note:  High-resolution images and a current bio of Ward Stare are available at https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B8FkJzlaIpThQUVnOFBHSW9PZTQ&usp=sharing and in-person interviews with him are available this week. Please visit wardstare.com for more.


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