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Published: Thursday, 6/12/2003

The baton is passed, with hopes of a new era

BY STEVEN CORNELIUS
BLADE MUSIC CRITIC

The internationally acclaimed conductor Stefan Sanderling yesterday was named principal conductor of the Toledo Symphony. Chelsea Tipton II was named resident conductor.

“Stefan Sanderling is a charismatic leader who has achieved an excellent rapport with our wonderful musicians and their audiences. Chelsea Tipton's talent and expertise will build and strengthen the symphony's artistic standing and regional capabilities,” Toledo Symphony board Chairman Joe Magliochetti said.

The appointments fill vacancies in the orchestra's top two artistic leadership posts that have been open since the resignations of Andrew Massey and Andrew Sewell, two and three years ago, respectively.

The 38-year-old Mr. Sanderling, a German, took over as the orchestra's principal guest conductor in September. The new contract begins in September, 2004, and runs through the 2006-07 season.

In an interview from Berlin, Mr. Sanderling said he began making long-range plans for the Toledo orchestra when he received his two-year appointment here.

“We immediately began talking about repertoire, developing the orchestra, reaching out to the community, thinking about how to improve the hall's acoustics. Of course, we are still working on all of this,” he said.

“The most important thing is to convince people to come and listen to the orchestra, to create programs and series that are interesting and engaging. To do that, we have to make a good orchestra even better. I will devote as much time as it takes to accomplish this.”

His duties will include up to six classics series programs, involvement in the Mozart and More series, and various responsibilities related to artistic leadership and community outreach.

Because of commitments elsewhere, Mr. Sanderling declined the orchestra's offer of the title music director. He will be paid $80,000 to $90,000 annually, depending on work load.

Instead, Mr. Sanderling will be here between six and 10 weeks a year. He will have responsibility for all artistic decisions, from repertoire to hiring.

The search for a new principal conductor was unusual by national standards, in that symphony players had a primary voice in his hiring. No guest conductor was invited to appear without the recommendation of the eight-member screening committee. Every guest was evaluated by the full orchestra. Players overwhelmingly recommended Mr. Sanderling.

That choice was sent to the trustees search committee for endorsement.

“At the end of the day, the musicians decided they wanted a world-class leader. The board unanimously agreed that we should settle for nothing less,” said Tom Schmidt, who led the trustees' search.

Players are optimistic that Mr. Sanderling's appointment will usher in a new era for the orchestra.

Mr. Sanderling's appointment “represents a turning point for us. He brings a new level of energy and artistic quality. Musicians are really looking forward to working with him,” bass player William McDevitt said.

As resident conductor, the 38-year-old Mr. Tipton will perform the bulk of the season's conducting, including: all regional and neighborhood concerts, most pops and children's programs, and one classic series program. Mr. Tipton will be paid between $40,000 and $50,000 annually.

Mr. Tipton comes to Toledo from Savannah, Ga., where he served as resident conductor. Next season he also will be a guest conductor for the Atlanta Symphony and the Louisiana Philharmonic.

Speaking from St. Louis, Mr. Tipton said he accepted the position in Toledo because he “had a good feeling from the musicians. They really want to play well, and that is exciting. There is a good chemistry between us.”

Mr. Tipton said he plans to live in Toledo. Mr. Sanderling purchased a home in Perrysburg last year.

Finding the time to devote to the symphony will not be easy for Mr. Sanderling. This summer alone, he conducts in New Zealand, Japan, France, Germany, and California. He also holds music director positions at the Florida Orchestra in Tampa and the Orchestre de Bretagne in Rennes, France.

He has resigned as music director in Rennes, and once his contract ends with that orchestra, he plans to focus on Toledo and Tampa.

Mr. Sanderling's next Toledo duties come in September when he leads the Toledo Symphony's opening gala concert at the Stranahan Theater. He also will conduct the first two classics series weekends in the Peristyle.



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