symphony music director finalist

4 finalists named for Delaware Symphony’s music director job

Betsy PriceCulture, Headlines

symphony music director finalist

Finalist for the Delaware Symphony Orchestra music director position are, from left, Taichi Fukumura, Mélisse Brunet, Filippo Ciabatti and Michelle Di Russo.

The Delaware Symphony Orchestra has invited four finalists to conduct the orchestra next year before it chooses a new music director from them in spring 2025.

Up for consideration are Mélisse Brunet, Filippo Ciabatti, Michelle Di Russo and Taichi Fukumura.

The search, which began in July 2023, drew 150 applications from around the world. A 13-member search committee, including community leaders and symphony musicians and board members, spent 20 hours interviewing candidates throughout the fall.

After each performance, audience members will be surveyed.

“I was astonished and impressed by the caliber and quantity of applications we received for the music director position,” says Frank Clowes, president of the Delaware Symphony Association. “I’m looking forward to seeing our finalists join us on stage next season to demonstrate their musical skill and their ability to inspire and connect with our audiences, musicians, and community.”

The finalists

Mélisse Brunet

American conductor Mélisse Brunet, a native of Paris, France, lives in Philadelphia. She is gaining attention on both sides of that Atlantic as a “skilled and polished conductor with panache” (

She is in her second season as music director of the Lexington Philharmonic in Kentucky, and in her fourth season as the Music Director of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic.

An dynamic advocate of contemporary music, she also is a conductor of opera and music theatre. She’s conducted “Dead Man Walking” by Jake Heggie and Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi,” Mozart’s “Die Zauberflöte,” Bernstein’s “Trouble in Tahiti,” Menotti’s “The Old Maid and the Thief,” Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd,” Strauss II’s “Die Fledermaus” and Verdi’s “La Traviata.”

As a Pops conductor, Brunet has been programming pops concerts for Holiday Pops, Independence Day,  halloween, valentine and other thematic programs, indoors and out for up  6,000 people. She also conducted orchestras during live movie projections.

Filippo Ciabatti

Praised for his “sensitive and nuanced” musicianship, Filippo Ciabatti is a dynamic and versatile conductor.

Amid a robust calendar of guest conducting engagements, in October 2023 he was named assistant conductor of Boston Baroque, the first in the prestigious ensemble’s history.

He is the founding artistic director of Upper Valley Baroque (New Hampshire), a professional orchestral and choral ensemble, which after only two seasons has already received critical acclaim and regularly performs to sold-out houses.

Ciabatti also is active on the opera stage. He was recently named music director of the Opera Company of Middlebury (Vermont), where he made his debut with a production of “Fidelio” in June 2023. Ciabatti serves on the faculty of Camerata Bardi Vocal Academy and Opera Viva (Italy).

The conductor is director of Orchestral and Choral Activities at the Hopkins Center for the Arts (Dartmouth College), where he has been invested in working on innovative and cross-disciplinary projects that provide exceptional opportunities for both students and audiences.

In 2018, he led a historic orchestra tour to Italy, performing Mahler’s 5th Symphony at prominent venues and festivals, in collaboration with the Orchestra Toscana dei Conservatori.

IN THE NEWS: 2024 Wilmington Beer Week expands outside the city

Michelle Di Russo

Argentinian conductor Michelle Di Russo may look familiar to Delaware audiences. In November she became the first woman to conduct the DSO in nearly 100 years when she headed the ¡Música Bravo! concerts in Wilmington and Lewes.

She is celebrated for her passionate musicality and commitment to contemporary music and now is associate conductor with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra (Texas) and is a 2023 Dudamel Fellow with the LA Philharmonic. She also also been a fellow with prestigious programs such as the Chicago Sinfonietta’s Project Inclusion and The Dallas Opera Hart Institute.

In the 2023-2024 season, Di Russo was a guest conductor for the LA Philharmonic and Knoxville Symphony (Tennessee) and will act as cover conductor for the St. Louis Symphony. Di Russo’s career highlights include guest conducting with the Vermont and Portland symphonies, as well as serving as interim director of Orchestras at Cornell University.

She is also the co-founder of Girls Who Conduct, an organization promoting gender equality in conducting.

Trained as a dancer and with a background in musical theatre, Di Russo holds advanced degrees in orchestral conducting from U.S. and Argentina schools.

Taichi Fukumura

Taichi Fukumura is a rising Japanese-American conductor acclaimed for his dynamic stage presence and musical finesse.

Now assistant conductor of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra (Texas), Fukumura is the Second Prize Winner of The Mahler Competition 2023 with the Bamberg Symphony and a three-time recipient of the Solti Foundation U.S. Career Assistance Award in 2021, 2022, and 2023.

Fukumura recently was named a finalist for the Illinois Symphony Orchestra finalist and will conduct it on two programs this season. Other recent highlights include guest conducting the Orquesta de Cámara de Bellas Artes in Mexico City and guest assisting the Houston Symphony and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. He was also invited by the Berlin Philharmonic as one of 10 assistant conductor candidates for Kirill Petrenko.

Past engagements include guest conducting members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in their Community Chamber Concert series, leading Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat. Fukumura has conducted full productions of Britten’s “Turn of the Screw” and Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” at the Northwestern University Opera Theatre.

Born in Tokyo, Taichi Fukumura grew up in Boston and began music studies at age three on the violin. He received a bachelor of music in violin performance from Boston University, his master and doctor of musical arts degrees in orchestral conducting from Northwestern University.




Share this Post