The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra has named a new music director. Ward Stare, a Rochester native and former resident conductor of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, will begin his new position on September 1, the RPO announced at a press conference on Tuesday. The position has been vacant since January 2013, following the RPO's dismissal of Music Director Arild Remmereit.
"This appointment brings full circle the RPO commitment to community engagement and illustrates how powerful music can be," said Dawn Lipson, RPO board chair. "This homecoming for one of the [Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra] stars who has gone on to achieve international status reinforces the need for quality music education outside the classroom, and that the RPO is truly the Rochester community's orchestra."
Stare, 31, is the orchestra's 12th music director in the organization's 91-year history. Born and raised in Pittsford, Stare began studying trombone at age 9 and was accepted into the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra at 11. He graduated early from Pittsford Mendon High School and went on to study trombone at the Julliard School in Manhattan.
"I feel so fortunate to have grown up in Rochester, where I was exposed to the RPO and all the wonderful things that this vibrant community has to offer," Stare said. "I look forward to giving back by finding new and exciting ways for this world-class orchestra to connect with diverse Rochester audiences."
At 18, Stare became the principal trombonist for the Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra, and during his time there, began pursuing conducting. After studying in Europe and Aspen's American Academy of Conducting, Stare made his conducting debut in 2012 with the Lyric Opera of Chicago. He completed his four-year tenure as resident conductor of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra in 2012.
Stare has received high acclaim for his conducting, including winning the Robert J. Harth Conductor Prize in 2006 and the Aspen Conducting Prize in 2007. The Chicago Tribune called Stare "a rising star in the conducting firmament."
"It is always a great joy to hear that one of my pupils has been selected as music director of a first-class orchestra," said David Zinman, RPO music director from 1974 to 1985. Zinman is the music director and chief conductor of Zurich's Tonhalle Orchestra. He also created Aspen's International Conducting Academy during his tenure as artistic director of its Music Festival.
"Ward Stare has the talent and personality to give the RPO something new and vibrant, and in return he will of course learn much from them, as I did during those formative years," Zinman said. "It's going to be a fresh, exciting relationship."