NOISE: Conductor Bake Off

LV Philharmonic to try on some new conductors

Geri Jeter

The search committee wrestled that list down to three finalists. All are Americans, all have extensive backgrounds and all are eager to move west. The final selection process, however, is intensive and public. Each candidate will conduct one of the regular season concerts, choosing selections for the program and leading the orchestra in rehearsals throughout a one-week residency. The first candidate, David Commanday, is already in town and rehearsing the orchestra for the October 14 concert.


A graduate of Harvard University and the Vienna Hochschule für Musik, David Commanday has been music director of the Peoria (Illinois) Symphony Orchestra since 1999. Before that, he was associate conductor of the New Jersey Symphony and the San Diego Symphony Orchestra, the principal conductor of the Richmond Ballet and music director of the Boston Ballet. According to a Peoria Journal Star article in 2002, "Under Commanday’s leadership, the orchestra has become a versatile instrument, able to do the classics as well as the standards, able to soar the heights and have a little fun, too." He also conducted the Greater Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra.

While his training has a solid classical foundation, Commanday is known for his interest in contemporary and 20th-century composers. He is fond of unconventional programming and has been quoted as saying, "New music is a must." Saturday’s concert with the Philharmonic is a combination of the new (the Corigliano Chaconne from The Red Violin) and the traditional (Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony).


A graduate of the Eastman School of Music with bachelors and masters degrees in voice (an unusual emphasis for a conductor), this season David Itkin begins both his 14th season as music director and conductor of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and his second season as conductor of the Abilene Philharmonic Orchestra. Prior to his Arkansas residency, Itkin served as associate conductor of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, music director of the Kingsport Symphony Orchestra, music director of the Birmingham Opera and music director of the Lake Forest Symphony Orchestra. He also has guest-conducted throughout Europe.

Itkin has been nominated twice for a Pulitzer Prize—first for his tone poem for narrator and orchestra, Jonah (2001), and later for his oratorio Exodus (2006). While working on Exodus, he turned the process into an opportunity to engage the community by holding discussion groups with clergy and parishioners concerning the libretto text. He has completed his first film score, for the movie Sugar Creek, which is now in postproduction and scheduled for an early 2007 release. Itkin is committed to making classical music accessible to as many people as possible. To that end, he holds center-stage "box lunches," pre-concert talks, and even speaks to the audience during performances. In addition, he programs a number of pops programs, bringing in guest artists such as Michael Bolton, Al Jarreau and Maya Angelou. Itkin will lead the Philharmonic on November 18 for a performance of works by Berlioz, Barber and Prokofiev.


Berkeley, California, native Peter Rubardt celebrates his 10th anniversary as music director of the Pensacola, Florida, Symphony Orchestra this year. A graduate of Julliard, he also received a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Vienna. Prior to his Pensacola appointment, Rubardt served as associate conductor of the Syracuse Symphony and as resident conductor of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.Rubardt also has guest-conducted orchestras across North America and Asia. Rubardt is credited with significantly raising the Pensacola orchestra’s artistic level, as well as nearly doubling its performance schedule and initiating a Pops series, a chamber orchestra series, a family series and a series of Sunday matinees.

Rubardt will lead the Philharmonic on February 17in a performance of works by Mozart, Prokofiev and Rachmaninoff.

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