Staging interviews

The baton is being passed for the next PGSO season. Eight times.

The PGSO is in the midst of a search for a new full-time professional conductor, and after an international search for qualified candidates, five have been shortlisted. They each get an audition concert to demonstrate their skills.

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Those in the running are, in order of appearance: Jonathan Govias, Lucas Waldin, Michael Newnham, Airat Ichmouratov and Michael Hall.

Govias has been seen on the PGSO stage before, as a candidate in a previous conductor search and is back in the running out of his hometown of Charlotte, N.C.

Waldin is coming from his double-duty as artist-in-residence and community ambassador with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.

Newnham has worked with Symphony New Brunswick most recently, but lives in Peterborough.

Ichmouratov was born in Russia and now lives and works in Montreal.

Hall was born in Toronto, lives in California and conducts with a Pennsylvania orchestra.

Despite the continental scope of the candidates, one factor above all sits atop the job requirements, said PGSO general manager Jeremy Stewart.

"Nobody who doesn't live in Prince George, should they get the job, will be hired," he said. "We will find someone who feels Prince George is a great place to be a resident conductor, and we know from these candidates already that the successful conductor will be an asset, musically, to our orchestra."

The conducting duties for last season went chiefly to artistic director Jose Delgado-Guevara with some help from associate conductor Susan Klein. Both expressed their intentions to remain active members of the PGSO but wanted to concentrate on their instruments going forward, not the podium.

In fact, said Stewart, no one from the region applied for the job. The interest came from outside the northern B.C. area.

"Jose and Susan were both very clear with us as to why they wouldn't be applying," Stewart said. "Susan has a very successful career as (D.P. Todd secondary's) band teacher and Jose is filling another need we have that he fits perfectly, as concertmaster. The advantage to us is, both Susan and Jose have extensive experience as conductors so they can still split the duties of associate conductor to help out with rehearsals and be there as a resource if we ever need a backup plan. Both are very special people, huge assets to us, and both being teachers means when they work with the orchestra in rehearsals, they have abilities to explain themselves and communicate effectively with the musicians so we get the most out of our time together. They spot problems and strengths and draw those out proactively. And, frankly, when they speak, they have the belief and respect of the orchestra, and that's very important for any team."

They also each get a stint as guest conductor next year, as well. Delgado-Guevara will lead the orchestra on Sept. 11 at 2 p.m. for the ever-popular Pops In The Park concert (there is a Gilbert & Sullivan theme this year) at Lheidli T'enneh Memorial Park.

Klein will conduct at the intimate Jazz In Paris event at the Prince George Playhouse on March 11 at 7:30 p.m. as part of the PGSO's chamber music mini-series.

Another conductor, Rosemary Thomson of the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra (and other ensembles), will be coming "just for fun," said Stewart. She'll be on the podium for the PGSO's rendering of Dvorak's Legends at Vanier Hall on April 22 at 7:30 p.m.

For information on the upcoming 2016-17 PGSO season, and how to get season's passes, call 250-562-0800.

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