Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Walla Walla Symphony in Competitive Process for New Music Director and Conductor

The Walla Walla Symphony, a fully independent, non-profit organization based in Walla Walla, is on the search for a new Music Director and Conductor — which is a single position at the Symphony. 

The Walla Walla Symphony’s main goal of providing free or low-cost music education and experience is based on their belief that no student who loves music should be deprived of the opportunity to experience and learn about music solely because of socioeconomic status, rural limitations or other barriers. 

The passing of the late director Yaacov Bergman, who was with the symphony for 36 years, has left an opening for the position. Bergman’s final concert was last spring.

Yaacov Bergman was the Music Director and Conductor of the Walla Walla Symphony from 1987 to 2023. During this time he was frequently noticed for his interpretations of a “highly varied repertoire,” and has been acclaimed world-wide as an intensely communicative musician.

Bergman was born in Israel, and his early music career began after his graduation from the Rubin Academy of the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. With majors in conducting and composition, he completed post-graduate studies at the Mannes College of Music in New York as a student of Richard Westenburg

Leah Wilson-Velasco has been Walla Walla Symphony’s CEO since 2011.

“The selection process for the new Music Director and Conductor started last November and the new director will be announced in June of 2024,” said Wilson-Velasco.

The Walla Walla Symphony has shared equipment and spaces with Whitman for a while and the two have a long-standing relationship.

Paul Luongo is an Associate Professor of Music at Whitman College. 

“The Music Department is very excited about the Walla Walla Symphony’s (WWS) search for a new music director. Yaacov Bergman helped to cultivate this relationship with Whitman along with indefatigable efforts from WWS CEO Leah Wilson-Velasco (Whitman, class of 2003), and as grateful as we are for Maestro Burgman’s long-standing influence (I personally learned a great deal from him), we’re also very excited for the new vision that this search will bring,” said Luongo.

The process for the selection of a new Music Director and Symphony Conductor is competitive.

“Leah and the search committee have committed to bringing in a deep and diverse field of applicants who can help the Symphony envision a wide range of new possibilities for how the WWS can better serve the Walla Walla community,” Luongo said.

One of the candidates participating in the selection process is John Young Shik Concklin.

Concklin is the Music Director of the Spartanburg Philharmonic and Hendersonville Symphony Orchestra. He is also a Conductor with the Atlanta Music Project and Piedmont Chamber Orchestra, and for the 2023/24 season, he is a Music Director Finalist for the Walla Walla Symphony. Concklin expressed his excitement in being considered for the role of Music Director for the Walla Walla Symphony’s 2023-24 season.

“It’s a deep honor to be invited to Walla Walla to be considered for the position of Music Director. Through conversations with the staff, musicians and community members, I’ve been inspired by their commitment to inclusion, innovation and creativity. The notion of playing a leadership role with the Walla Walla Symphony in support of those values is very appealing,” said Concklin.

The finalist, and the Walla Walla Symphony more broadly, cultivate relationships with the Whitman comment, as students are able to gain access to additional performance opportunities, internships, volunteering and leadership roles. 

“This selection will have a significant impact on the musical community of Walla Walla and Whitman College for years to come,” said Luongo.

The announcement for the new Musical Director and Symphony Conductor is not only much anticipated, but it represents something more than just a change in leadership; it symbolizes a new chapter for the Walla Walla Symphony after Bergman’s passing.

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