Search for Wheeling Symphony Orchestra’s Next Music Director Reaches Crescendo

WHEELING — The Wheeling Symphony Orchestra has winnowed the field to four candidates to replace outgoing music director Andre Raphel. They are Timothy Hankewich of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Andres Franco of Pittsburgh; Silas Huff of Boulder, Colo.; and John Devlin of Washington, D.C.

Paul T. Tucker, search committee chair, said, “The quality and diversity of the applicants was remarkable. … It is a testament to the reputation of our orchestra, and to the desirability of our position, that so many highly qualified musicians applied from all over the country and indeed the world.”

The names of the candidates as well as the 89th season lineup were announced in the program at the final pops concert of the season on Friday night at the Capitol Theatre.

The 2018-19 season features eight subscription concerts of Masterworks and pops; the popular holiday tradition Symphony On Ice; as well as the annual Fourth of July Tour, Music Under the Stars, Young People’s Concert Tour and WSO on the GO series. Pops concerts include a Beach Boys tribute, Music of the Knights (Elton John, Paul McCartney and Andrew Lloyd Weber), Superheroes and Once Upon a Time. Masterworks concerts feature the works of Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Strauss and Mozart, among other masters.

Each candidate for music director post will conduct one pops and one Masterworks concert.

The music director search began with an 11-person committee, comprising WSO board members, community members and WSO musicians. The search yielded more than 65 qualified applicants, which the committee narrowed to nine semi-finalists. After interviewing each of the semi-finalists, the four finalists were selected.

Hankewich is music director of Orchestra Iowa. Orchestra Iowa has markedly expanded its audiences and programs under his tenure, adding opera, ballet, chamber music and jazz to its regular season presentations. Hankewch will conduct Pops 1: Surf’s Up! A Tribute to the Beach Boys, featuring Phil Dirt and the Dozers, and Masterworks 1: Tchaikovsky’s “Pathetique.”

Franco is an associate conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony. He is also the music director of the Signature Symphony at Tulsa Community College in Oklahoma. South American by birth, he has a close relationship with multiple orchestras in South America and is a passionate advocate for the music of South American composers. Franco will conduct Masterworks 1: A Night in Vienna and Pops 3: Music of the Knights: Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, Sir Elton John, and Sir Paul McCartney.

Huff served for six years in the U.S. Army as conductor of various military ensembles. He was commander of the U.S. Army School of Music, director of the U.S. Army Orchestra and director of the Pershing’s Own Army Band. He also is founder and music director emeritus for the Astoria Symphony Orchestra. He will open 2019 by conducting Pops 2: Superheroes! and also will conduct the final concert of the 2018-19 season, Masterworks 4: Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony.

Devlin is the assistant conductor of the Princeton (N.J.) Symphony; the founder, artistic director and conductor of Gourmet Symphony, an innovative concert series that pairs locally sourced cuisine with classical music; and a cover conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland School of Music and recently was named Hawaii Youth Symphony music director and artistic director of the Pacific Music Institute. He will conduct Masterworks 3: Brahms: Symphony No. 4 and Pops 4: Once Upon a Time, featuring soprano Sierra Boggess, Broadway’s Ariel in “The Little Mermaid.”

“With the excitement of these four candidates and our commitment to providing excellent orchestral programming to the Wheeling community, we’ve added an eighth concert to our subscription season,” said WSO Executive Director Bruce Wheeler.

“The music director search and our 89th season is about engaging our patrons, friends, sponsors, donors and community partners. We want you to come and meet these candidates, see what they are all about, and help us determine who will lead the Wheeling Symphony into its 90th season.”

Raphel will conduct his final concert with the Wheeling Symphony on May 18 at the Capitol Theatre. The program will include works by Dvorak, Beethoven, Strauss and Respighi and will feature soprano Deborah Selig as the guest artist.

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