The Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra has grown and increased its outreach over the last decade to include beautiful performances at the University of Michigan’s Hill Auditorium and pop-up concerts at local farmer’s markets across metro Detroit, but as it searches for the symphony’s new musical director, the organization had to do some soul searching, Sarah Calderini, the new executive director of the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra said.

WRCJ 90.9FM Producer and host Peter Whorf sits down with Calderini to talk about the exciting changes that are coming for the symphony next season as well as the performances it still has left in its spring 2021-2022 season, including works from composers Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Carlos Simon, Andreas Delfs, Ludwig van Beethoven and Antonín Dvořák.

Full Transcript: 

Peter Whorf, Producer/Host, WRCJ 90.9FM: Sarah Calderini is the new Executive Director of the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra. You know, I’ve really noticed the growth of the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra in this past decade. Especially the increased outreach in the many places that the orchestra has taken its music and its culture beyond, you know, even the beautiful concert stages at Hill Auditorium in the Michigan theater. What’s in the plans in that area?

Sarah Calderini, Executive Director, Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra: I think we are all kind of chomping at the bits to be back at the farmers market, for one thing. And I think these gifts that we can give back to the community of sort of these free and serendipitous moments of happening upon, you know, an ensemble while you’re buying your produce.

We’ve started to expand a new program into the Ann Arbor public schools called MY Song, and it’s a way to reach kids in a much more intimate way in terms of, you know, the groups are smaller, but teaching kids sort of the principles of music as a complement to their music education in the classroom and helping them realize that they can be musicians and they can be creators. And we’re really looking forward to expanding that, and that’s a whole new program.

But, when we can get the kids back in Hill Auditorium, sitting there and with the Ann Arbor Symphony, with these incredible musicians inspiring and reaching and interacting and engaging with them in that way, we can’t wait for that. We’re so honored and privileged to have these opportunities for touchpoints beyond the stage, as you say, and engaging with people in such meaningful ways. And we’re continuing to explore some new program offerings in that avenue, and we’ll have to leave it at that for now and stay tuned for some exciting stuff.

Peter Whorf: Now it is a very important period in the history of the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra. When you’re in the midst of a new music director search, what’s kind of the talk? If you can kind of pull the curtain back a little bit and let us have a peek inside of your view and maybe others you’re talking with of what makes a great music director for the A2SO?

Sarah Calderini: It has forced us to do a lot of soul searching about who we are, where we’ve been, who we want to be moving forward, and how do we identify that in a music director? It’s got to be someone who is willing to perhaps broaden the repertoire to new artists, to underrepresented composers, continue to make the investment in the old masters, but helping to broaden our audience by introducing some new complementary works. And we really believe, you know, a rising tide lifts all ships, and as an organization and an entity, we’ve got to be committed to being more accessible to creating an impact in meaningful ways. And that includes our current audience as well as new audience members that don’t yet even know about us.

Peter Whorf: How large a part in the music and the program planning process do you think your new music director will be able to have? Because you know you’re auditioning during these concerts during the season and presumably somewhere towards the end of the season, it’ll be time to decide. So, where does the music director then jump on that speeding train?

Sarah Calderini: Next season will be mostly planned, and already mostly is. And I’m really excited about it. So, whoever ends up joining us in the fall will have some impact on the next, we’re leaving enough room for them to put enough of their stamp on it, but we can’t possibly wait, you know, just from a production standpoint, a planning standpoint. Moving forward, that, of course, will be one of their primary responsibility, is to continue to propel the repertoire forward, again, and I say in meaningful and inclusive ways. So I’m really excited. I’m so long on a bright future for this orchestra, a really magical group of people doing really wonderful things.

Peter Whorf: We’re always in a mood of excitement to hear what’s going to be on next. So, what’s next?

Sarah Calderini: We have a really exciting spring planned. April brings the music director candidate early for Czajkowski four and a fabulous piece by Carlos Simon, who can’t get enough of them speaking of contemporary composers. And then all the way into May, which is a long, long season for the Ann Arbor symphony typically, is Andreas Delfs and with Beethoven Violin Concerto featuring our own concertmaster, and Dvorak number 6, which will be really fabulous. I don’t I don’t know anybody who doesn’t love Dvorak and a wonderful way to end the season. We’re looking forward to it, and I hope people will join us.

Peter Whorf: Sarah Calderini is Executive Director of the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra. Sarah, best of luck in the music director search and best of luck in your role leading the orchestra through the rest of the season and into next year.

Sarah Calderini: Thank you so much. It’s so exciting, and I hope to see you all at the symphony.


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