The Tacoma Symphony Orchestra has just announced that its long-time musical director Harvey Felder will be stepping down from his position at the end of the 2013-2014 season, three years from now. Felder’s contract, begun in 1993, expires next year, but the director is staying on to facilitate a national search for a replacement, according to the orchestra’s board of directors. Felder is leaving his position to take on new musical projects, but will be named the TSO’s first Conductor Laureate.
“I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity the TSO and its patrons have given me over the past 17 years, and I could never repay the kindness that so many have bestowed upon me during my tenure,” Felder said. “I look forward to working with the board and the rest of the symphony staff to find someone who can help the organization to continue its growth.”
As director, Felder not only took the 85-member orchestra from amateur volunteer to professional level but increased the annual performance schedule to six subscription concerts, began the Simply Symphonic educational series for elementary schoolchildren and held workshops for high-school students in outlying districts such as Puyallup. The orchestra is known for standard repertoire in its programming, but has also begun playing more adventurous pops concerts (such as the recent performance with electric harpist Deborah Henson-Conant) and appearing at the Puyallup Fair with artists such as Kenny Rogers, Wynona Judd and Chicago.
Felder also recently worked with local composer Greg Youtz on the orchestra’s first full-length commissioned concerto, featuring its two percussionists.
“I know I speak not only on behalf of the board but for our staff, musicians and subscribers when I say that the Tacoma Symphony Orchestra would not be what it is today without Maestro Felder’s vision and leadership,” said board president Clark D’Elia. “We know it will be a tough task to find someone to carry forward the tradition and the standards that Harvey has set, so we are especially appreciative of his offer to stay an additional two years to help us with that challenge.”
After leaving the TSO, Felder intends to work on new musical projects such as a national chamber orchestra slated to debut in 2012.
“The reality is that the role of a music director is all-consuming, leaving little time for other serious endeavors, and for the past 17 years, that has been something I’ve willingly done,” Felder added. “As I approach my 20-year anniversary though, I now wish to take the time and energy to breathe life into a few other musical endeavors.”
The orchestra will conclude its current season with an all-Russian concert featuring pianist Aviram Reichert on April 30.