Monday, December 26, 2016

The baton will be in new hands: Carmel Symphony Orchestra is well advanced in artistic-direction change

 The new year will bring a change at the top of a premier Hamilton County arts organization.
Alan Davis continues to head the CSO until a new conductor is in place.


The Carmel Symphony Orchestra is preparing to enter its next phase in choosing a successor to David Bowden, its artistic director for 17 seasons.  Bowden continues to hold positions with the Columbus Philharmonic, which he founded 30 years ago, and the Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra.

The longtime relationship ended so suddenly over the summer that publicity materials about the current season were mailed out with Bowden's name prominent on all the CSO's major concerts. His final appearance on the schedule was a Nov. 12 performance of the Verdi Requiem.

But a long process of consideration of Bowden's tenure, much of it involving personnel confidentiality, led the orchestra's board to decide on a process to find his successor.

Alan Davis, executive director of the orchestra over the entire Bowden era, continues in that position until the selection process is completed in early 2017, postponing his retirement at the board's request.

What is the board looking for? In an interview, Davis said many of the requirements are in line with what Bowden provided: good public engagement with audiences ("keeping a community feel") and a genuine interest in eclectic programming.  Beyond that there's the expectation  that the guest-artist roster will be wider and that a more consistent acknowledgment of the job's parameters will be observed.

As of last month, there were 12 semifinalists — a field that is being narrowed to three or four this week. The search committee of 11 (four musicians, four board members, and three community "at-large" members) began its work last summer. It received 130 applications. Operating with orchestral music-director experience as a prerequisite, the committee mailed a questionnaire to 30 applicants. The dozen who survived that step are participating in Skype interviews scheduled to be finished before New Year's Day.

Those several who emerge from that process will be invited to guest-conduct the Carmel Symphony. Davis hopes that scheduling permits those conductors to lead concerts in the second half of the current season: Feb. 11, March 11 and 26, and April 8. Some program changes have been made to the announced schedule. Soloists will remain the same. The public will definitely be in on the fact that the new maestros will be vying for the artistic-director appointment.

Salary range could not be divulged, but Davis said it falls within the recommended compensation (by the League of American Orchestras) for artistic directors of orchestras of similar budget size to Carmel: $550,000 to $850,000.

Pleased by the heavy initial response to the CSO's conductor search, Davis said: "We know that people did online research. The job posting had links to the Palladium, and that was a selling point. It's been a great artistic growth factor for us." The orchestra has been one of the Center for the Performing Arts' resident companies from the outset. During concert weeks, it gets three rehearsals in the Palladium before performing its concert there. "We've doubled our audience at the Palladium," he added.

Davis said that the goodwill from the community has been a boost as the CSO makes this transition. "We like the Carmel Symphony for what it is," is how Davis sums up the city's supportive mood. "We hope it doesn't change."