Following an extensive nationwide search, the Juneau Symphony has selected a new music director and conductor to lead its orchestra: Troy Quinn of Los Angeles.
Reached earlier this week by phone, Quinn said he was thrilled to get the call from symphony board president Bev Smith in late May.
“It’s a joy and an honor,” he said. “I’m very excited.”
Quinn was the first of three finalists who traveled to Juneau during the symphony’s 2014-2015 Conductor Candidate season, presenting his concerts Nov. 15 and 16, 2014. His program, “English Shores to the Mediterranean,” included all new material for the JSO — William Walton’s Suite from “Henry V,” Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto in E-flat major, and Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony. Quinn said in the coming season he intends to continue to expand the symphony’s repertoire and introduce Juneau audiences to works they may never have heard performed.
“I’ve planned the whole season already; we don’t waste any time,” he said with a laugh. “I’m anxious to start this incredible adventure.”
Quinn, 31, also serves as music director for the Ocean State Symphony Orchestra in Rhode Island, a position that requires travel to the East Coast for a couple weeks a year. He also travels frequently to perform as a professional tenor.
In early September, Quinn will return to Juneau as JSO conductor to take part in the symphony’s annual wildlife cruise.
Last season’s concerts earned Quinn and the players an enthusiastic standing ovation from the audience. John d’Armand, enlisted by the symphony to write reviews of the Conductor Candidate season, wrote of the Nov. 15 concert: “There was no rest for the strings and the woodwinds, who played blurringly fast (during the final movement of the Mendelssohn symphony). Did Mr. Quinn really think that our orchestra could play such a movement? Well they did — and very well! The audience, quite exhilarated, leapt to its feet and applauded on and on while the aurora borealis danced overhead.”
Quinn said the engagement of Juneau’s arts community, evident that evening, is one of the reasons the position appealed to him.
“Juneau has such a fantastic, supportive audience,” Quinn said. “I’ve performed all over the world but that was one of the most hearty ovations I’ve had.”
The other two candidates considered for the position — Wesley Schulz and Jeremy Briggs Roberts — were also warmly received by the community and the players, making the choice a tough one, said board president Smith.
“The search committee really did its job,” she said. “They chose three excellent candidates, so … it was a difficult decision.”
Symphony player Jetta Whittaker agreed.
“I’m delighted with the outcome, though I found it a very difficult decision to make, as all three candidates brought unique talents and ideas to the podium,” she said.
Smith and Whittaker said Quinn’s energy and enthusiasm remind them of previous music director Kyle Pickett, who arrived to lead the Juneau Symphony 15 years ago. Pickett is now music director and conductor for both the Topeka Symphony Orchestra in Kansas and the Springfield Symphony in Missouri.
Replacing a conductor as popular as Pickett was a bit nerve-wracking, Smith said, but she relaxed after the November concerts.
“We were a little worried,” she said. “We’d been with Kyle for a long time, everybody loved Kyle and knew that he did a good job — and he carried the symphony to new heights. But … sure enough the orchestra performed well, they enjoyed playing under someone else and we thought, ‘Yes! We can do this!’”
Quinn, who began singing in a choir at six years old, grew up in Connecticut and earned his bachelor’s degree at Providence College in Rhode Island, where he won the Leo S. Cannon Award for his achievements in the music field. He received his master’s with honors from the Manhattan School of Music, where he studied voice and conducting, followed by his doctorate in conducting at Thornton. He has also studied as a conducting fellow at the Royal Academy of Music, the Eastman School of Music and Bard Conservatory of Music. In 2009, he founded the Portsmouth Institute Orchestra in Rhode Island, which he now directs under its new name, Ocean State Symphony Orchestra.
He was selected to lead the Juneau Symphony Orchestra after a vote by orchestra players and board members, a group of about 75 people. Audience members did not vote, but feedback was gathered by the board during the year-long process via comment cards distributed during concerts and through an online feedback forum.
“We took and summarized all those comments and shared them with the players and the board, who were the voters,” Smith said. “So even though the audience didn’t get to vote, per se, their comments were taken into consideration. I want to thank the community for their support for all the candidates.”
For his first concert in October, Quinn has selected a program built around the idea of new beginnings that will include Shostakovich’s Festive Overture and Dvorák Ninth Symphony, also known as the New World Symphony. Later in the season, he’s planned a performance of Brahms’s Fourth Symphony, a piece that sets a very high bar for the players.
“It’s probably one of the most difficult pieces to perform in the orchestral repertoire and it’s also one of the most rapturous, glorious pieces, so that’s going to be thrilling,” he said. “I think these players can handle it, and the community’s ready for it. The sky’s the limit.”