After five sets of concerts auditioning candidates to be Santa Rosa Symphony‘s next Music Director, it’s now official: it will be Francesco Lecce-Chong, who last year was picked to lead the Eugene Symphony in Oregon. He’ll start next season conducting three programs, and will program and conduct more sets the following year. He’s already served as Associate Conductor for both the Milwaukee and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestras, and brings a special interest in community outreach and music education programs.

There’s more information at the Santa Rosa Symphony website.

He had a chance in October to very quickly try to bond with the players, and let them know about him. “I really enjoyed myself. It’s like the most intense seven-day speed dating, where you just… You try to meet every single person you can, and get to know the community, and make sure they have a really clear idea of who you are as well… Every community is so unique, and really the first thing I did in Eugene, and certainly the first thing I’ll do in Santa Rosa, is just get to know the community and the organization.” His concerts came right before the fires, in fact, the final concert was cancelled because of them. He says it was heartbreaking to see the community that had been so welcoming to him have to leave their homes, and struggle with the aftermath. Even though his time with the musicians was brief, he was very impressed. “It’s an orchestra that has a lot of personality, they know how to have a lot of fun, and they love what they do, and you know, that’s pretty much all you can ask for as a conductor.” He says he’ll likely begin with works that are better known, so both the players and audiences can see his style and personality. “That’s really kind of how we’ll grow together, as far as the sound of the orchestra, the ensemble of the orchestra. But then really exploring the diversity of repertoire that we have available.” He says he’s gone through the history of his orchestra in Oregon to find pieces and composers who haven’t been performed, and has begun to program them – along with young American composers, who he’d like to see better reflected in the concert hall. Lecce-Chong adds that, from a young age, he’s been a champion of classical music, despite having non-musical parents. “When I was like ten, when I was playing piano and violin and clarinet, and composing, and playing in youth orchestra, and I had to advocate to my parents for what I wanted to do. And all my friends, and everyone around me, I was in a constant conversation about this is why I love it so much. I think that’s kind of naturally carried over very well into what I do now, really being an advocate for our artform.”