Six Candidates, One Baton

The HPO is thrilled to reveal the top six candidates in line to lead Hamilton’s orchestra. One of these faces is destined to be your next HPO Music Director, so we think you ought to get know them a bit better!

Gemma New conducting publicity photoGemma New, Conducting April 26, 2014

Praised for her “absorbing and well-honed performance” by the Baltimore Sun, Gemma New is Associate Conductor for the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and Director of the Lunar Ensemble. Originally from New Zealand, New has conducted orchestras on multiple continents, including the BBC Scottish, Danish National, Baltimore and Christchurch Symphony Orchestras as well as the Orchestre symphonique de Trois-Rivières (Canada). Recently hailed by WQXR as one of the “Top Five Women Conductors on the Rise,” her 2013-14 season highlights include guest engagements with the Hamilton Philharmonic (Canada), and Miami and New Amsterdam Symphony Orchestras, as well as serving as guest cover conductor for the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

In 2013, New made her Carnegie Hall conducting debut, leading works by Adams, Norman and Ives on Carnegie’s American Soundscapes series, and was also the David A. Karetsky conducting fellow in the American Academy of Conducting at the 2013 Aspen Music Festival. In 2012, New received a first-place American Prize for orchestral conducting and was selected by members of the Vienna Philharmonic to reside at the Salzburg Music Festival as an Ansbacher conducting fellow. New has studied with Kurt Masur at his seminars in Germany and New York, performing in the final concerts at both events.

Born and raised in Wellington, New Zealand, New studied violin performance at the University of Canterbury and New Zealand School of Music; she began conducting at age 15. A graduate of the Peabody Institute, New studied conducting with Gustav Meier and Markand Thakar.

Alastair Willis, Conducting September 20, 2014Alastair Willis

Grammy-nominated conductor Alastair Willis is currently the Music Director of the Illinois Symphony Orchestra. Previous positions include Principal Guest Conductor with the Florida Orchestra’s Coffee Concert series, Associate Conductor of the Seattle Symphony, Assistant Conductor with the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestras, and Music Director to the Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra.

In the past few seasons, Willis has guest conducted orchestras around the world including the Chicago Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Mexico City Philharmonic, Orquesta Sinfonica de Rio de Janeiro, Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonic, Hong Kong Sinfonietta, China National Orchestra (Beijing) and Silk Road Ensemble (with Yo-Yo Ma) among others.

His recording of Ravel’s L’Enfant et les Sortileges with Nashville Symphony and Opera for Naxos was Grammy nominated for Best Classical Album in 2009. This season he returns to the Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma, St Louis Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Qatar Philharmonic, Pacific Northwest Ballet, California Symphony, Elgin Symphony and debuts with the Las Vegas Symphony and Billings Symphony.

Born in Acton, Massachusetts, Willis lived with his family in Moscow for five years before settling in Surrey, England. He received his bachelor’s degree with honors from England’s Bristol University, an Education degree from Kingston University, and a Masters of Music degree from Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. Willis currently resides in Seattle.

Gregory VajdaGregory Vajda, Conducting November 8, 2014

Hailed as a “young titan” by the Montreal Gazette, Gregory Vajda has fast become one of the most sought-after conductors on the international scene. Reflecting his growing presence and demand in North America, in 2011 he was appointed the sixth music director of the Huntsville Symphony. He was also named Principal Conductor of the Hungarian Radio Symphony (MR Symphony) after concluding his seventh and last year as resident conductor of the Oregon Symphony in 2012. In addition to his duties with these organizations, guest conducting engagements during 2013-14 include Phoenix Symphony, Symphony Silicon Valley, Louisville Symphony, Calgary Philharmonic and the Columbus Symphony.

In 2012-13, Vajda was engaged by the Edmonton Symphony, Kalamazoo Symphony and Santa Barbara Symphony. In Hungary he conducted the Pannon Philharmonic in a semi-staged version of Ligeti’s opera Le Grand Macabre, and lead two performances of Lohengrin as part of the Budapest Wagner Days with the Hungarian National Opera Orchestra. In July he concluded his Artistic Director and Conductor position with Music in the Mountains, CA – a position held since 2009. In addition to conducting, Vajda is also a gifted clarinetist and composer.

Stilian Kirov, Conducting November 29, 2014 Stilian Kirov

Stilian Kirov is currently the Associate Conductor of the Seattle Symphony and has also served as Associate Conductor of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and Music Director of the Memphis Youth Symphony Program. In 2013, he was invited to be a cover conductor for the Boston Symphony as well as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Kirov has conducted orchestras around the world, including the Orchestre Colonne (France), Zagreb Philharmonic (Croatia), State Hermitage Orchestra (Russia), New World Symphony, Thüringen Philharmonic Orchestra (Germany), Sofia Festival Orchestra, Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra “Leopolis” (Ukraine), Amarillo Symphony and the Juilliard Orchestra, among others.

Kirov was invited to be a 2013 Conducting Fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In 2012, he was a fellow at the Aspen Music Festival, and in 2010 was awarded the David Effron Conducting Fellowship at the Chautauqua Music Festival, where he also returned in 2012 as a guest conductor. Among Stilian Kirov’s numerous awards and prizes are an Emmy Award for the Soundtrack Project with the Memphis Symphony, the Bruno Walter Memorial Scholarship and Charles Schiff Conducting Award for outstanding achievement at The Juilliard School.

Mr. Kirov is a graduate in orchestral conducting of The Juilliard School, where he was a student of James DePreist. He also holds a master’s degree from the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris, where he studied with Dominique Rouits. He also worked with such distinguished conductors as Kurt Masur, Robert Spano, Michael Tilson Thomas, Gianluigi Gelmetti, George Manahan and Asher Fisch.

Theodore KucharTheodore Kuchar, Conducting January 17, 2015

Theodore Kuchar, one of the most prolifically recorded conductors of the past decade, has recorded over 90 compact discs for the Naxos, Brilliant Classics, Ondine and Marco Polo labels. For the past years, he has served as Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of two of Europe’s premiere orchestras, the Janácek Philharmonic Orchestra (formerly the Czech Radio Orchestra) and the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine. He presently also serves as Music Director and Conductor of the Fresno Philharmonic Orchestra and the Reno Chamber Orchestra in the United States.

With the Janácek Philharmonic Orchestra, he has conducted tours of Australia, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands and Switzerland during the 2006–07 season. In January 2009, they undertook a four-week tour of the USA. With the NSO of Ukraine, 11 international tours included Asia, Australia, Central Europe and the United Kingdom. During the 2003–04 season he conducted the opening subscription weeks and a three-week European Tour with the Berliner Symphoniker (Berlin Symphony); during the past two seasons, he will have conducted nearly 40 concerts with this distinguished orchestra.

Under Mr. Kuchar’s direction, the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine has today become the most frequently recorded orchestra of the former Soviet Union. During the period of 1994 to 2004, the orchestra recorded over 70 compact discs for the Naxos and Marco Polo labels. Their recording of the complete works for violin and orchestra by Walter Piston for the Naxos label was hailed by Gramophone (January 2000) as a “Record of the Year” for 1999. The complete symphonies of Prokofiev are regarded by many critics as the most accomplished cycle available on record. As a violist, his recording of works by Walter Piston was awarded the Chamber Music America/WQXR “Record of the Year” for 2001.

Alain Trudel, Conducting February 21, 2015 Alain Trudel

Music Director of l’Orchestre Symphonique de Laval, as well as Principal Guest Conductor of the Victoria Symphony Orchestra, Alain Trudel is one of the most sought after conductors on the Canadian scene. From 2006 to 2008 Trudel was the conductor of the CBC Radio Orchestra, bringing the orchestra to new heights of artistic quality as well as public critical acclaim.

A frequent guest of the major orchestras in Canada, Trudel also appeared at the helm of orchestras in the UK, the USA, Sweden, Russia, Japan, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and in Latin America. Highly appreciated for his collaborative spirit, he has worked with many world-famous artists including Ben Heppner, Anton Kuerti, Measha Brueggergosman, Herbie Hancock, Alain Lefèvre and Pinchas Zukerman.

Recently appointed as Principal Youth and Family Conductor at the National Arts Center Orchestra in Ottawa, Trudel has always been highly committed to the new generation of musicians. He was for eight seasons (2004-2012) Conductor of the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra, and has been regularly invited to conduct the National Youth Orchestra of Canada since 2006. Their recording of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony and Le sacre du prinptemps was nominated as “Best Orchestral Album of the Year” at the 2010 Juno Awards.

Since September 2012, he has been appointed conductor of the orchestra and opera at the Western University. Alain Trudel was the first Canadian to be a Yamaha international artist and is the recipient of numerous awards, among them the Virginia Parker, Le grand prix du disque Président de la République de l’Académie Charles Cros (France), the Heinz Unger Prize for conducting. He has also been named an Ambassador of Canadian Music by the Canadian Music Center.


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