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MSO, Mercer introduce new conductor Stare to public

Officials with the Macon Symphony Orchestra and Mercer University’s Townsend School of Music formally introduced new conductor Ward Stare to the public Tuesday.

Stare, 29, most recently the resident conductor for the St. Louis Symphony and the music director of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra, gives the Macon Symphony a new music director after a four-year search.

Stare signed a three-year contract that will be split between the symphony and Mercer. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed Tuesday. Stare will serve as music director and conductor for the symphony as well as distinguished artist and conductor for Mercer’s orchestra.

Eugene Dunwody Sr., chairman of the symphony’s board and head of the search committee, said the process to replace former symphony music director Adrian Gnam was a long one, but ultimately should prove worthwhile.

Originally, the process brought in more than 100 résumés, which was eventually pared down to 17 candidates, then seven, before three finalists were selected in 2010. However, the symphony was unable to reach an agreement with any of the candidates, Dunwody said, so the search continued.

“We talked to people to find young conductors who are up-and-coming,” Dunwody said. “They were invited to be guest conductors.”

Stare was one of four guest conductors brought in for the current 2011-12 season, having conducted a program featuring the works of Wagner, Tchaikovsky and Beethoven in November. Dunwody said the feedback the board received about Stare was favorable.

“When he conducted the orchestra, there was a favorable response from the musicians and the audience,” he said. “He has experience as an assistant conductor, so he’s worked closely with musicians.”

John Dickson, head of the Mercer music program, said it’s important to have a music director who can appeal to a younger audience, which will continue to help keep classical music alive in Macon.

“He’s already established, but he’s young enough where the energy and the passion is there,” Dickson said. “He can appeal to a young audience, which Macon desperately needs. It needs people in their 30s and 40s to embrace classical music, and Ward can certainly help do that.”

Stare said he is excited about working with both orchestras.

“I’m very excited,” he said. “There’s a wonderful energy and atmosphere in Macon. I look forward to being a part of it.”

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.