The Illinois Symphony starts fresh with a new musical director (Alastair Willis)

Meet the maestro

The Illinois Symphony starts fresh with a new musical director


Alastair Willis, who was born in Massachusetts and raised in Russia and England, lives in Seattle. He starts June 24 as conductor of the Illinois Symphony Orchestra. - PHOTO�COURTESY�ALASTAIR�WILLIS

“The power of music can unite a community,” says Alastair Willis, brand new music director of the Illinois Symphony Orchestra. “That’s what we all need to be striving towards. It’s really about ‘how can we do this together?’”

Willis’s appointment is the culmination of an arduous search which began in July 2010 with the announced departure of longtime ISO conductor Karen Lynne Deal. As a result, attendees of the orchestra’s 2011/2012 season were treated to an eclectic and sometimes dizzying mix of musical approaches as the five finalists (which included Donato Cabrera, Rei Hotoda, Kenneth Raskin and Andrew Sewell in addition to Willis) each took the opportunity to strut their symphonic stuff. Despite the fact that all the potential musical directors were eminently qualified, the decision to choose Willis for the position was not a difficult one.

“Typically one candidate rises clearly to the top,” explains ISO executive director Trevor Orthmann, “and that did happen in this search – one candidate was definitely higher-ranked than the others. We found that [Willis] was definitely the one that people felt was right for the orchestra – the audience could feel it from the energy coming off the stage, the musicians could feel a different energy working with him, it was just one of those things.”

Complete article here.


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