symphony music director finalist

Symphony readies for a season of music director tryouts

Betsy PriceCulture, Headlines

symphony music director finalist

Finalists for the Delaware Symphony Orchestra music director position will each conduct a performance during the 2024-25 season: from left, Taichi Fukumura, Mélisse Brunet, Filippo Ciabatti and Michelle Di Russo.

Audiences attending the Delaware Symphony Orchestra’s 2024-25 season will have a say in who is chosen as its new music director.

The symphony’s 119th season will showcase the four finalists for the job: Mélisse Brunet, Filippo Ciabatti, Michelle DiRusso, and Taichi Fukumura, 

Each will conduct a classical concert, and audience members will be surveyed afterward about how they thought the program went.

Delaware Symphony Orchestra

J.C. Barker

The season also will feature guest soloists new to the symphony and a series of performances featuring the symphony’s principal musicians, formerly referred to as chamber concerts.

J.C. Barker, executive director of the symphony, said he’ll be excited to see each of the candidates and soloists.

“And the reason is that they’re all just completely fresh, in so many ways,” he said.

The pool of applicants for the music director job held for 20 years by David Amada started with 147, was whittled to 17 and then to nine.

“These four rose to the top,” Barker said. “I think what’s most exciting about this season is just the newness of it all. It’s exciting. It’s kind of like watching the Olympics. We’ve got some great talent coming here next season.”

The season will include the symphony’s traditional five Classics Series concerts, three Musicians’ Series concerts including a holiday performance at the Hotel du Pont, and two concerts in Sussex County.

Symphony classics

Opening the Classics series Sept. 20 will be music director candidate Mélisse Brunet in Brunet Conducts Tchaikovsky, with guest violinist Melissa White. The program will feature works by Anna Clyne, Florence Price and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5.

Next, candidate Filippo Ciabattk takes the podium with the Nov. 15 and 17 Ciabatti Conducts Beethoven, in Wilmington and Lewes. It will include Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Fate Now Conquers by Carlos Simon and guest cellist Tommy Mesa performing the First Concerto of Shostakovich.

A Jan. 24 program will feature candidate Taichi Fukumura in Fukumura Conducts Dvořák, including Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8, works by Brian Nabors and Korngold. The guest artist will be violinist Oliver Neubauer.

The final candidate, Michelle di Russo, will helm Di Russo Conducts Brahms. It will include a new work by Gabriela Ortiz, Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto featuring guest pianist Janice Carissa, and Brahms’ Symphony No. 4.

Music Director Laureate David Amado will close the season with Amado Conducts Stravinsky April 18, featuring The Rite of Spring, and works by Takemitsu and Debussy.

A new music director may not live in Wilmington, and likely will have another job, Barker said.

It’s a common arrangement now. Amado also was music director of the Atlantic Classical Orchestra in Florida while working at the Delaware Symphony.

Many music directors now live in a central location that makes it easier for them to travel to and from jobs, Barker said.

Some of the Delaware candidates are on short lists for other jobs.

“Depending on what their schedules would allow, their taking another position does not eliminate them for consideration of being the music director here,” Barker said. “They’ll certainly be here when they’re working.”

A clarinetist himself, Barker has focused part of his energies as executive director on strengthening the bond between the symphony and its musicians.

“One thing about this entire season that’s fun and very exciting for the organization is that on the search committee and also in planning, the musicians have taken a larger role,” he said.

Whichever candidate is hired will have the same charge to work with the symphony musicians in planning and understanding the needs of the community and talents of the orchestra, he said.

“I think if there’s one thing I’m most proud of about this entire process, it’s been the involvement and the enthusiasm of the musicians in the orchestra,” he said.

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The DSO Musicians’ Series’ concerts will be held at the Gold Ballroom of the Hotel du Pont and at Westminster Presbyterian Church, a new partner.

First is Woods & Water with DSO Principal Keyboardist Lura Johnson Oct. 8 at Westminster Presbyterian Church. It will be an evening of music and poetry, including works by Beethoven, Grieg, Liszt  and Debussy.

The symphony’s annual holiday performance at the Hotel du Pont will take place Dec. 10, with Concertmaster David Southorn and Delaware’s violin virtuoso Maxwell Brown in a program of Bach and Dvořák.

The final Musicians’ Series concert spotlights the DSO Brass — Brian Kuszyk, principal trumpet; Karen Schubert, principal horn; Austin Westjohn, principal trombone; and Brian Brown, principal tuba — in an evening of Bach, Kurt Weill and W.C. Handy at Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Two of the shows — Woods & Water and DSO Brass – will be repeated later as free community concerts at a venue to be announced.

Subscription packages range from $125 to $425 for the classical series.  A subscription to the Musicians’ Series at the Hotel Du Pont and Westminster is $240. Single tickets for all concerts will be available for sale starting Aug. 12. Go to or call 302-656-7442 for more details.

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