It took the Auburn Symphony Orchestra 2½ years to find and land their new music director, but it was time well spent, they say.
Conductor Wesley Schulz takes up his baton in early 2018.
Schulz is the associate conductor of the North Carolina Symphony, which he leads in nearly 100 performances every year and in programs that cross all genres, among them classics, pops, education, young people’s concerts and holiday concerts.
As the 2014-2015 Seattle Symphony Orchestra’s Conducting Fellow, Schulz made his Benaroya Hall debut in a sold-out performance with singer/songwriter Gregory Alan Isakov, served as cover conductor for Maestro Ludovic Morlot, led seven world premieres at the Merriman Family Young Composers Workshop and helped with recordings for the symphony’s Grammy-winning label, Seattle Symphony Media.
Schulz is likewise a frequent guest of the Austin Symphony Orchestra, for which he develops and conducts family and education concerts that reach more than 15,000 youth every year. Schulz previously served as music director and conductor of the Bainbridge Symphony Orchestra and the Seattle Festival Orchestra, and he was director of orchestras at the University of Puget Sound.
Stewart Kershaw, ASO’s founder, former music director and conductor, retired in 2015. Kershaw began the Auburn Symphony in 1997 while he was music director and conductor of the orchestra at Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle to fulfill his dream of finding a venue for those talented professional musicians to play from the symphonic repertoire on stage at the Auburn Performing Arts Center.
Lee Valenta, general manager of the ASO, recently said there had been four candidates, but one removed himself from competition months ago because of a conflict with another orchestra to which he had previously committed. As part of the competitive process, each of the three finalists got to guest conduct the ASO for one of its recent programs.
Other candidates were:
• Leif Bjaland, music director of the Waterbury Symphony in Connecticut, and an active guest conductor appearing with numerous orchestra
• Nikolas Caoile, music director and conductor of the Wenatchee Valley Symphony Orchestra and director of orchestras at Central Washington University in Ellensburg.
“People ask us, ‘Why does it take so long?’”
ASO board member Nancy Colson said of the search. “We’ve used a very intentional and deliberate process. …”