Waco Symphony Announces Final Four Conductor Candidates
The Waco Symphony Association, Inc., announced the final four candidates in its search for a new music director/conductor. The new music director will replace Maestro Stephen Heyde, who retired at the end of November after 35 years and who was only the second conductor in the association’s 60-year history.
The candidates include David Itkin, Lawrence Loh, Wesley Schulz and Pablo Urbina. Each of the four finalists will program and conduct a Waco Symphony concert in 2023. Urbina will conduct the January 19 concert, and Schulz will conduct the March 18 concert. Loh and Itkin will conduct the fall 2023 concerts.
In announcing the final four, WSA Executive Director Carolyn Bess said, “The search committee received more than 100 applications from across the country and around the world. We are tremendously excited about the leadership and artistic qualities among these four finalists as we plan the future direction of the symphony.”
Each of the candidates comes with extensive experience.
With nearly one thousand symphonic, opera, ballet and musical theatre performances to his credit, spanning 45 U.S. states and 15 countries in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, the 2023-2024 season will mark David Itkin’s 19th season as Music Director and Conductor of the Abilene Philharmonic and his 16th year serving as Professor of Music and Director of Orchestral Studies at the University of North Texas College of Music. Having previously served as Music Director of the Las Vegas Philharmonic, the Arkansas Symphony, the McCall Summerfest, the Lake Forest Symphony (Chicago), the Birmingham Opera Theatre and the Lucius Woods Music Festival, Itkin is also a conducting pedagogue of note, with two books, Conducting Concerti (2014) and The Conductor’s Craft (2021), receiving national and international attention. Itkin lives in Plano with his wife, Mei, two bonus children, three rescue cats and a goldendoodle. Learn more at music.unt.edu/faculty-and-staff/david-itkin.
Music Director of Symphoria (Syracuse, N.Y.), the successor to the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, Lawrence Loh held major staff conducting positions with the Pittsburgh, Dallas and Colorado Symphonies, and was Music Director of the West Virginia Symphony and the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic. He was also Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Syracuse Opera. His recent guest conducting engagements include appearances with the National (D.C.), Detroit, Sarasota, Phoenix, North Carolina, Florida, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Dallas, San Diego and Atlanta Symphony Orchestras; the Buffalo, Rochester and Calgary Philharmonics; the Grant Park Music Festival and the Charlottesville Opera, as well as the Boston Pops at Tanglewood. Having a keen interest in working with young musicians, Loh served as Music Director of both the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Denver Young Artists Orchestra and has frequently guest conducted at schools and festivals such as Boston University Tanglewood Institute, Kinhaven Music Festival, Carnegie Mellon University and Performing Arts Institute (Pa.). Loh holds degrees from the University of Rochester, Indiana University and Yale University, and received additional training at the Aspen Music Festival. Born in southern California of Korean parentage and raised in Pennsylvania, “Larry” and his wife Jen have a son, Charlie, and a daughter, Hilary. Follow him on Instagram @conductorlarryloh or Twitter @lawrenceloh or visit his website, www.lawrenceloh.com.
Music Director and Conductor of the Auburn Symphony Orchestra (Wash.), Wesley Schulz recently completed four successful seasons as the Associate Conductor of the North Carolina Symphony. In recent years Schulz has appeared with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, North Carolina Symphony, Austin Symphony Orchestra, Britt Festival Orchestra, Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra, Richmond Symphony Orchestra, Bozeman Symphony Orchestra and many others across the United States. During the 2022-2023 season Schulz makes his conducting debut with the Pacific Northwest Ballet in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker.
Schulz is passionate about diversifying classical music and expanding the concert hall to include all listeners. He has collaborated with some of the most dynamic musical artists of our time including Leslie Odom, Jr., John Williams, Philippe Quint, Bella Hristova, Richard Lin, Pink Martini, Randall Goosby, Cirque de la Symphonie, Amos Lee and many more. When not on the podium, Wes enjoys distance running, doing CrossFit, cooking and playing endless fetch with his two dogs, Chewbacca and Han Solo. For more information, visit www.wesleyschulz.com.
A Spanish conductor, semifinalist of the Maestro Solti International Conducting Competition and a Nominee for the Nestlé & Salzburg Young Conductors Award, Pablo Urbina has served since 2019 as the Principal Conductor of London-based Orchestra Vitae. Highlights of the 2022-2023 season include his return with the Spanish National Radio Orchestra, a recording of the music of composer Dani Howard with Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, debut with Orquestra Classical do Sul in Portugal and his return to Opera Tenerife. Urbina has also conducted orchestras including the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong, Castilla y Leon Symphony Orchestra, Tunisian National Symphony, Navarra Symphony Orchestra, Malaga Philharmonic Orchestra and Orquestra Classica de Madeira (Portugal) and others. From 2020 to 2021 he was the Assistant Conductor of the Balearic Symphony Orchestra (Spain), and from 2013 to 2019 he served as the Music Director of the London City Orchestra. Urbina studied French horn at USC Thornton School of Music in Los Angeles with Dr. Kristy Morrell, who is currently Associate Professor of Horn at Baylor University. In 2014 he finished a Master of Music at the Royal College of Music in London.
Urbina is passionate about music outreach and education, wanting to bring music to the center of the community in order to have meaningful impact in society. He is an Ambassador of The Amber Trust UK, an organization that provides music tuition and support to blind and partially sighted children; he has also worked on many outreach projects with organizations including the Royal Opera House Covent Garden and the BBC Proms. Urbina believes in promoting new music creation (and the support of local composers), while preserving the legacy of classical music. For more information, visit www.pablourbina.com.