Saturday, September 30, 2023

Virginia Native Auditioning for Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra Music Director

Conductor and music director Michael Butterman will audition as the final candidate for Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra’s new music director (Courtesy of Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra)

WILLIAMSBURG — The Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra (WSO) will conclude its search for a new music director with a final audition before WSO announces its new music director in 2022.

Music director and composer Michael Butterman is WSO’s final candidate and will audition with a Masterworks concert on Saturday, Nov. 6 at 4 p.m. at the Williamsburg Community Chapel, 3899 John Tyler Hwy.

Butterman is currently the music director of the Boulder Philharmonic, Shreveport Symphony Orchestra, and the Pennsylvania Philharmonic. He was also the former Associate and Resident conductor of the Jacksonville Symphony-Orchestra in Florida for approximately fifteen years .

He gained national recognition during his time as Principal Conductor for Education and Community Engagement with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. In the last decade, Butterman has found success in making Boulder Philharmonic not just an orchestra in Boulder, but Boulder’s top orchestra.

As a guest conductor, Butterman has also led many prominent ensembles in the country, including the Cleveland
, Philadelphia Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and Houston Symphony. He is also a regular guest with the National Symphony Orchestra at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C.

“Audience broadening or opening up classical music to nontraditional audiences was the crux of my position in Rochester,” Butterman said.

Butterman said that fostering an orchestra’s identity and connection to its community is another feature he would bring to WSO if he is chosen as the new music director.

He also noted that the ability to view concerts online now helps to bring in more audiences to orchestra concerts.

“If there’s anything we’ve learned from the pandemic is digital accessibility is also really critical,” he said. “The ability to stream a concert from your home, or get it later on-demand, certainly gets rid of one barrier to concert attendance.”

Butterman, who grew up in Virginia, said that part of what drew him to audition for WSO’s music director position was being able to come to the Historic Triangle.

“My experience in Boulder has given me a feel for unique small cities,” he said.

His ability to connect with both traditional and nontraditional audiences is something that he hopes will convey on stage next weekend.

“Anybody with any amount of background can have a perfectly wonderful bond with this great art form,” he said. “The music that we’re playing, even if it was written 200 years ago, was written by a human being who was experiencing the same life experiences that we are experiencing today. They almost use a different language, but what’s being expressed is timeless and universal.” 

Grammy Award-winning cellist Zuill Bailey will join Butterman as his guest artist during the Masterworks Concert.

“I love collaborating with this cellist,” he said. “I knew he was someone I wanted to bring to Williamsburg.”

Described as a French-English connection, Butterman’s concert will see the orchestra performing Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, Saint-Saens’ Cello Concerto No. 1, Massenet’s Meditation from “Thais” and Elgar’s Enigma Variations.

“Both the Vaughan Williams and Elgar pieces are longer works held together by a thematic glue,” he said. “Theres a kind of unity in these pieces.”

Tickets for Butterman’s Masterworks Concert can be purchased on WSO’s website.

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