Ward Stare, considered a rising star among conductors, will become the symphonys new conductor and music director as well as Mercers distinguished artist and university orchestra conductor, Macon Symphony Orchestra and Mercer University announced Monday.
The announcement caps off what has been a whirlwind few days for Stare.
Thursday, he was in Washington, D.C., before returning to his home in St. Louis on Friday to conduct a performance of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra. Saturday, Stare was in New York conducting in Carnegie Hall.
And after returning Sunday to St. Louis for rehearsals, Stare arrived in Macon later that evening.
I do love to travel, Stare said with a chuckle. Its a nice part of the business. But that was a little extreme.
Stare, 29, formally will be introduced Tuesday morning at a news conference as the symphonys new music director.
Naming Stare as its director should also help settle things for the symphony, which has been without a full-time music director and conductor since Adrian Gnam left in 2009 after 27 years.
The symphony had a series of guest conductors in 2010 and 2011 but was unable to come to an agreement with its top choice, leading to a second round of guest conductors.
For the second round of guest conductors, symphony CEO Sheryl Towers said the symphony used a shorter process to settle on a choice.
Stare was one of four guest conductors to lead the orchestra during the current season. In November, his program Heroes & Legends featured works by Wagner, Tchaikovsky and Beethoven.
We wanted to get a new music director with a new vision that would continue to get the support of our patrons and sponsors, Towers said. It has been difficult, but its been enormously rewarding because our sponsors and patrons have stood by us. Were very excited about everything.
Stare has served as resident conductor for the St. Louis Symphony, a position created for him by music director David Robertson, since 2008. Stare also served as music director of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra.
During his guest stint with the Macon Symphony Orchestra, Stare said he liked what he saw in Macon.
When you meet a new community, a lot of it is about personal chemistry, he said. When I was here in October, I was struck by the atmosphere and a willingness to think outside the box by the people on the board and at Mercer.
Stare said the symphonys new partnership with Mercer was another key draw for him.
The potential for growth is great, he said.
Stare said he hasnt spent much time in the South, but fell in love with Macon and its music heritage.
The city is charming, he said. I love the history you have here in Macon. Its a unique place.
Stare said he met Zelma Redding and Karla Redding-Andrews, the wife and daughter of late soul legend Otis Redding respectively, during his previous visit, and knows that Capricorn Studios, the Allman Brothers Band and Little Richard are a big part of the citys music history.
Coming up with a program for an orchestra is one of Stares favorite challenges, he said.
Putting a program together is like a chef putting together a dinner, he said. Its what flavors you come up with. (In music), its what you put alongside interesting pieces. When you listen to a piece thats unfamiliar and listen to one of the great classics, you often listen to that piece in a different way. ... Anything I find interesting is something Ill conduct. Im always interested in new pieces.
In his new role, Stare also will be working with Mercers Townsend School of Music and the Robert McDuffie Center for Strings. In a news release, Macon Symphony Orchestra board president Gene Dunwody Sr. said it was the partnership between the symphony and Mercer that helped create a financial package attractive enough to land a conductor of Stares caliber.
When starting the search for a new music director three years ago, the MSO board realized that a partnership with Mercers Townsend School of Music and McDuffie Center for Strings enhanced our ability to attract a dynamic, young conductor whose career is in its ascendancy. When I met Ward and saw him conduct our orchestra, I knew he would be a perfect fit for this position. I believe he is destined for preeminence in his profession.
Robert McDuffie, who helps guide the McDuffie Center for Strings at Mercer Universitys Townsend School of Music, called Stares hiring a coup.
Its major, he said by phone. Im really excited about it.
Stare is already looking for a place to live in Macon and is preparing to immerse himself in city life, McDuffie said.
Amy Schwartz Moretti, director of the McDuffie Center, said she cant wait to start working with Stare.
Were very excited to have Ward join us, she said. Hell bring a really great energy to the orchestral program here, and Im excited to see where its going to grow.
Writer Oby Brown contributed to this report. Telegraph archives were used in this report. To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.