After a two-year process to find a new music director, the San Juan Symphony got their guy. And from all involved, it’s a slam dunk.
Thomas Heuser becomes the fifth music director for the 30-year-old regional orchestra, replacing Arthur Post, the music director for the previous 13 years.
“It’s unbelievable news. It’s an honor. I’m delighted,” said Heuser, who is looking to relocate from Oakland, California, to the Four Corners region along with his wife, violinist Lauren Avery, and their baby, Theodore. “I was so impressed with the energy in the orchestra and the community. It was a great fit.”
Kathy Myrick, the San Juan Symphony executive director, said Heuser was a unanimous choice of the search committee and the most popular of the finalists among symphony musicians and audiences.
“He was the only candidate that didn’t get any negative remarks from anyone in the orchestra,” Myrick said. From hundred of surveys from audience members, she said the feedback was thrilling. “There were just superlatives: ‘Fantastic.’ ‘He’s the one.’ ‘Hire him now.’ He just made a super impression.”
Forming a search committee in summer 2014, the invitation-only process produced about 40 applicants. From there, the San Juan Symphony narrowed it to three finalists, each who directed the music and conducting for one concert apiece for the season. The two other finalists were Blake Richardson, director of orchestral studies at the University of Alabama; and Geoffrey Robson, associate conductor of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and music director of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra Youth Ensembles.
For Heuser, who is also music director for the Idaho Falls Symphony, a position he plans to continue, the vision he has for the symphony will center on music education and engaging new audiences like families, kids and high school and college-aged students. He said he sees the symphony being “a real catalyst for music education and enriching the region by what we program and what we perform. And really to keep the level of performance excellent and have everybody associate the symphony with a great night on the town (and) excellent art in the community.” With arts and music funding being cut in the schools, Heuser hopes to fill some of those gaps, he said.
Myrick said Heuser’s draw is that he comes with experience as a music director and is very personable and outgoing, not to mention his considerable fundraising experience. She noted that he increased the Idaho Falls audience by around 15 percent.
“He’s a hustler. He was the best fit all the way around,” she said. “It just happened that it all came together in ways that I wouldn’t have predicted. ... it just gelled.”
Heuser said he is excited about the symphony’s bridging the communities of Durango and Farmington, as well as reaching out to audiences in Cortez and Telluride.
“What I cherish about being a music director is having an impact on peoples’ lives, and by having a broader community, you have a greater chance for that impact,” he said. “I think this year was so engaging for those audiences and those communities. We want to continue that momentum.”
firstname.lastname@example.org. David Holub is the Arts & Entertainment editor for The Durango Herald.