Honolulu Symphony Announces New Conductor

The Honolulu Symphony has announced that Andreas Delfs has been appointed as their new principal conductor…

delfs.jpgDelfs most recent appearance with the ensemble was in October, 2006 when he filled in at the last moment for an ailing Christopher Seaman. According to sources inside the ensemble, Delfs will initially serve with the title of principal conductor for two years and assume the position of music director in the final year of his contract.

Beginning in the 2007-2008 season, Delfs will conduct seven subscription concerts with the orchestra and serve an additional four weeks to satisfy related administrative issues. However, Delfs will begin to fulfill all artistic responsibilities related to music director’s role in auditions as stipulated in the Honolulu Symphony’s collective beginning agreement.

UPDATE: 03/06/2007 3:15 PM: Shortly after announcing Delfs, the Honolulu Symphony released the following press release:


The Honolulu Symphony is pleased to announce the appointment of Andreas Delfs as the Orchestra’s Principal Conductor commencing with the 2007-2008 season. Known for innovative programming and initiatives, Mr. Delfs will conduct the orchestra for half of its Halekulani Masterworks Series.

The words “premiere” and “first-ever” pepper the musical resume of Andreas Delfs. Currently in his tenth season as Musical Director of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Mr. Delfs has been a pioneering force in its half-century history. He led the MSO as they became the first American orchestra to enter the universe of the internet via live recordings available through iTunes and other outlets; initiated the innovative MSO’s Classical Connections concert series, inviting audience participation in a less formal concert format; took the MSO to Cuba–the first, and still the only US orchestra to visit the Island.

Mr. Delfs’s energy on and off the podium has made him a model for the next generation of music directors. He concludes his tenure as Music Director of the Milwaukee Symphony in 2009 and becomes conductor laureate thereafter.

In regard to the Honolulu Symphony Mr. Delfs said, “The combination of artistic excellence, enthusiasm and ambition that defines the Honolulu Symphony is a rare commodity these days. And the immediate and tangible chemistry between an orchestra and a conductor does not come along often. It is a privilege and great joy to join this superb American orchestra and help unleash its unlimited potential. I also look forward to contribute to the unique culture of the Hawaiian Islands and join the community in the celebration of the arts.”

Mr. Delfs previously conducted the Honolulu Symphony and pianist Jon Nakamatsu in a Halekulani Masterworks concert in October 2006. With a current contract of three years, he succeeds Samuel Wong who has held the position of Music Director since 1995.

German-born Andreas Delfs began studying music at age 5, and became conductor and composer of the Flensburg Stadttheater at the age of 17. He was trained at the Hamburg Conservatory and the Julliard School of Music. After several years as assistant to Lorin Maazel, Mr. Delfs has held music director positions with the orchestras of Bern, Hannover and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.

In Europe he premiered John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles as well as works by many distinguished European composers and has conducted the Berlin Radio Symphony, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, and London Philharmonic among others.

Mr. Delfs has appeared as guest conductor with many of North America’s major orchestras including the Philadelphia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and symphony orchestras in Cincinnati, Houston, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Minnesota, Washington (National Symphony Orchestra), and Atlanta.

Andreas Delfs’s most recently released recording is a collection of sacred songs with soprano Renée Fleming–who appeared with the Honolulu Symphony in March 2006–and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for the Decca label. Currently Mr. Delfs is working on a complete Beethoven Piano Concerto cycle with soloist John O’ Conor and the London Symphony Orchestra for the Telarc label. Other recent releases include Mozart’s Requiem with the St. Olaf Choir and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (currently featured on a Nike commercial) and the first digital recording of Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel in English with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra on the Avie label.

Founded in 1900, the Honolulu Symphony claims the distinction of being one of the oldest American orchestras west of the Rocky Mountains, at the time one of only twelve known symphony orchestras in the United States. From its first outdoor concerts on Haalelea Lawn to performances in Neil S. Blaisdell Concert Hall, the Symphony has grown into a progressive and exceptional organization in classical music today. Today, the Symphony has established the experience of live symphonic music as a living tradition and continues its mission to bring the best of classical music to Hawaii through its innovative programming and long-standing relationships with international soloists such as Renée Fleming, Sir James Galway, Hilary Hahn, Yo-Yo Ma, Midori, Seiji Ozawa, Deborah Voigt, Andre Watts, and Pinchas Zukerman.

“Andreas Delfs is a groundbreaker in the symphonic world–he balances standard repertoire with innovative programming and we expect his leadership will grow our concert-going base. His experience making music around the globe fits well into the cosmopolitan nature of Honolulu’s music community,” said Jeffrey Minter, chairman of the Symphony board.

The Symphony has established a legacy as one of Hawaii’s great cultural and educational resources and is deeply committed to exploring the challenges and opportunities of cultural diversity in its community. As part of its mission for community service, Symphony education programs bring music into the lives of more than 25,000 children each year. Special Youth Concerts at the Neal S. Blaisdell Concert Hall give Hawaii’s students a taste of the symphony experience and ensembles travel across the Island of Oahu to give musical encounters that are up-close and personal.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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